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Creating the Echo State Title Sequence

The end product is a piece that (hopefully) would feel right at home preceding an HBO or Netflix drama that gets peoples’ blood pumping and minds churning.
 

Whenever you see a high-budget TV show these days, more often than not they are preceded by these incredibly elegant title sequences that set the tone for the coming story. I've always been fascinated by these short little films that tell such a small and contained story and knew that at some point I wanted to make one too. In many ways, because of their length and content, they are often little "experiments" in visual storytelling and I couldn't pass up an opportunity to do that!

For the longest time, I knew that I wanted to learn Cinema 4D (a 3d animation program very popular among motion-graphics artists) and recently found some time to begin learning it. This title sequence marks my first animation using the software (holy cow, LOTS of online tutorials to get this far hahah) 

 

The whole project was sparked by hearing a song, ironically. I heard the song "Departure" by Jess Stroup and pictured a surreal and barren landscape interrupted by a delicate line of pure light. I saw it as a path to enlightenment, a journey of metaphorical awakening. After high-fiving myself for being so cool for coming up with this, I realized that I basically just copied Westworld. Regardless, I developed a basic storyline for the show and a paired title sequence story to match.

Original Storyboard out of After Effects

Final Frame out of Cinema 4D

The visual look of the landscape being constructed with arrays of primitives was originally pioneered by an artist named Lee Griggs (https://arnold-rendering.com/2014/06/28/xgen-color/) however I heavily modified the technique of generating the patterns seeing as I was using a completely different piece of software. I ended up using flat landscape images to generate the forms using a hair system. Even though my geometry was complex, it kept my asset count low so that I didn't need to create super heavy cloners and destroy my machine with complexity. For the look of the lighting and texturing, I was inspired by the tone from the artwork of Yuri Shwedoff (http://www.yurishwedoff.gallery/) who creates some really brooding and atmospheric scenes.

The show itself (although I have no intentions of ever making it) explores the concept of machine-learning and consciousness. Roughly the story of the show follows someone on that journey of enlightenment and the struggle of becoming mentally free with its inherent risk of annihilation. Seriously, I was really inspired by Westworld! The end product is a piece that (hopefully) would feel right at home preceding an HBO or Netflix drama that gets peoples' blood pumping and minds churning.

Will Leonard