Animating passions: From Matisse cutouts to podcast clip

Animating passions: From Matisse cutouts to podcast clip


Hero Studios


#Graphic Design


#Visual Design

About the project

Musical Hallucinations is a tribute short film dedicated to Leo Rangell and his interview on a Radiolab podcast. In this episode, he discusses his extraordinary condition that enabled him to experience hallucinations while listening to music.

What sparked this project?

I've been collaborating with Hero Studios for a while, so when they approached me to work on a portfolio piece, I didn't hesitate. Working on narrative-driven content and creating short films are passions of mine. Initially, we started small, aiming to animate just a few phrases from the podcast. However, as we went deeper into the project, we realized the great potential and impact of the story. This led us to expand the script and create a more compelling visual journey for this story. Having 100% creative freedom sometimes can be challenging as an artist, since you have endless possibilities. But focusing on the story and the tools we had to tell it, helped to define the production process of the piece.

Who was on the team for the project?

This project began as an idea inside Hero Studios. We love Radiolab, and we wanted to tell their amazing story with animation. We were so happy when the Radiolab team shared our short film on their social media.

  • Produced by: Hero Studios

  • Directed by: Patrick Scerri, Germán Di Ciccio, Alejandro Norman

  • Visuals and Design: Germán Di Ciccio

  • Animation: Adrián Doménech

  • Art Concepts: Matheus Castro

  • Sound: Wes Latta

Do you have some project metrics to share?

We really took our time to work on this, considering it was self-initiated and something we worked on during our downtime. Having no strict deadline allowed us to prioritize quality over speed. I believe my initial sketches are from around mid-January, and the film was released in August, so around 8 months of work from start to finish.

What is your approach to working on a project like this? Do you follow a specific process or framework?

Our process began with defining which sections of the podcast we were going to work with. This way, we were able to define a script, create a story arc, define the story peaks, and also set a rough time for the video. After that, I started working on sketches and thumbnails, trying to find interesting compositions and ways to connect the story through visual storytelling. These sketches placed on a timeline gave us a rough animatic we used to start to get a sense of the animation pacing. This also gave us the possibility to think of interesting transitions that could help reinforce the story. With the scenes defined, I started to work on the visual development of the piece, defining the art direction and illustration style, the character design, the color palette, and shape language. My own work is deeply inspired by the cutout works from Henri Matisse and cubist artwork from Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris, these are huge influences on my work. We also looked into some album cover references and easter eggs we could introduce in the film. This was also great fun for me since I'm a huge music geek. After having all styleframes completed, I packed everything up and prepped the files for Adrián, the lead animator on this project. He took on the next phase of the production, which was bringing all of this crazy artwork to life. He did a wonderful job, and the few feedback sessions we did together with the studio were just to enjoy looking at this progress all together. In tandem with animation, Wes Latta helped us mix the episode's audio with music sound effects.

What did the early versions of this project look like? What did you learn from this v1?

The early versions of this project helped us realize that the story was much bigger than what we initially aimed for. We ended up expanding the initial script by around 30-40%.

'From the rhythm of sketches to the pulse of animation, every frame tells a story. Even a single shot, like Leo's walk to freedom, demands creativity's patient revision.'

What was the biggest challenge? Did any part of the project make you step out of your comfort zone?

This project had a lot of exciting yet complex challenges for me. Starting with defining the style and designing an entire shortfilm, being able to manage the production of this together with some other client projects, and maintaining my output consistent despite the extended production timeline, were some weeks I'll maybe be working full-time on other projects with different visual styles.

How did you overcome this challenge?

We'd set up weekly catch-ups where we'd discuss progress and look at things together. Some weeks we'd look at just 1 sketch, and other weeks at an entire set of new styleframes. Keeping contact consistent was a key element in the development of this project.

What and/or who inspired you during the creation of this project?

The entire team loves music, across many genres and styles, so we all were very much motivated to work with this theme. In my case, my influences range from 20th avant-garde artists like Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and Henri Matisse to more modern collage illustrations based on cutouts and unusual shapes. The visual universe from Tame Impala is also a big influence on this project.

What was your biggest learning or take-away from creating this project?

Consistency and communication are vital aspects of self-initiated projects like these. I strongly believe that investing time in personal projects is essential for commercial artists. However, sometimes these projects can be left aside for various reasons, such as a lack of time, motivation, or just by being busy living life! Staying in touch with people who can positively hold you accountable adds the beneficial pressure of needing to share *some* progress.

Can you point out a detail in the project that might go unnoticed but you’re particularly proud of?

I personally really loved the album covers shot, I spent countless hours listening to all those bands and musicians, so it's great to link that big passion of mine with a project like this. Maybe a good album recommendation, and probably not so known for people outside of Argentina, is the first album on the left side, which is a hand over a piano. This album is Filosofía Barata & Zapatos de Goma by the father of Argentian rock music, and arguably the most important musician from my country, Charly García.

'In the dance between imagination and technique, challenges arise. But with every redesign, we don't just craft animations – we breathe life into stories.'

Which part of this project consumed the most time or energy?

A very challenging shot to make was the scene where we see a medical sheet of Leo, who is about to leave the hospital. The idea was to have the sheet lead to the hospital view and have Leo walk out of the hospital towards his freedom. We initially thought of this as a single shot, so I had to re-design this shot several times in order to be functional to what we wanted to achieve in this section.

What was the result of this project?

As of today, the film has been online for approximately one month, and I'm truly touched by all the kind words and congratulations coming from friends, colleagues, and even strangers! We've also had the privilege of being featured on some fantastic websites, including Motionographer, Behance, Stash, and now here! I'm immensely thankful for the appreciation that Musical Hallucinations is receiving and hopefully I can work on more projects like this in the future.

Where was the project created? What do you enjoy about working there?

I have my office at home, in our cozy apartment in Barcelona. I enjoy working here because it allows me to spend time with my partner and our dog whenever we like.

If this project had a soundtrack, which one would it be?

Which tools did you use to create this project?

Photoshop, Procreate, Illustrator and After Effects, and a lot of pencils and notebooks.

What are you currently working on, and what's next?

I've recently wrapped up "Postales del Sur," another short film I've been working on for the past few months. Currently, I'm back to my regular client projects, and I've been fortunate to work on some great ones this year that I'll be sharing soon. So, stay tuned!

Who or what are you inspired by lately? Any current influences that you find are seeping into your work

I find a lot of inspiration in Barcelona, the city where I live. This place breathes art everywhere you look, from modernist architecture to city parks, the beach, coffee shops, museums, the countryside, mountain landscapes, castles, medieval towns, everything has its own beauty and I constantly keep myself inspired by this.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice about navigating the design world, what would it be?

Always have a personal project to work on, something that you are super interested in and perhaps is not possible to develop for a real-life client. Having personal projects allows you to experiment without thinking about what other people will think. If you mess up, you can keep it to yourself, and if you create something you're really proud of, you can share it with the world. If you do that, and with a bit of luck, someone will pay you to do that for them.

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