Blog, business, graphic design, portfolio

How we get from point A to point B, or, how a CD package design comes into being

Well, I’m finishing up another CD this week, but the T-Lou CD is out and people liked the art, so I’m going to talk through how we came to the final art. Oh, and by the way, if you want to buy the album on iTunes, you can do it here. Unsure when the CD is going to show up on Amazon…

Initial Design Brief

First, we’ll talk about what the client brought to the table. They wanted something that said “party” and “Zydeco” and “fun” with the artist front and center, since it’s been a really long time since his last record. We needed to position the talent front and center. The producer sent me a few dozen images as reference, which included:

Essentially, focus on bright colors that conjure a Louisiana feel and the outsized personality of T-Lou.

Photography

My first recommendation was to schedule a photo shoot with T-Lou. The images from the studio (taken with a good camera by the producer) were still not good enough to make beautiful key art, so we needed new photography. Fortunately, I’ve been doing quite a bit of work with my new Canon 7D, so we scheduled the shoot and went to work. Several hundred shots later, here are some of the highlights:

So we now have great key art: the artist and the producer were both really happy with the proofs from the shoot.

First Design Presentation

Now it was my turn to interpret what feel they were looking for. Let’s look at some of the different concept pieces that I presented to the artist and the producer at our first design presentation:

Interestingly, the first proof is the one that is closest to the final. I went for a big and bold typeface, an image of T-Lou loving’ life and playin’ music, and some “dancing” crabs to tie into the album’s title. I was unsure about the crabs, because they kinda looked like the tripod aliens from Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” but this was first proof territory, so everything is fair game.

Now I got even bolder and funkier. There were these pictures where T-Lou just looks badass, so I married that up with some distressed type and some pretty heavy color correction (lots of desaturation, but adding contrast), and we get this beautiful bold look. But then why can’t I take it one step further?…

I think this might be my favorite design from the first round. I made the T-Lou art bigger and happier, and pulled all the color out of his photo. All of a sudden he pops off the CD cover. Still using distressed type on the artist name, but really clean on the album title. Simple and bold…perfect.

But my concern with the previous art was that it was getting way too non-traditional for a genre that has lots of tradition in it. So I tried a few looks that sit more comfortably within the established “look” of Zydeco artists. This first one has some issues, because T-Lou feels a little too low, and the ratio/balance between him, his name, and the album title just seems off. But still a good exercise, and if the client had liked it, we could have worked all of those issues out…

And then I went completely traditional. We added a sepia look to a non-retouched photo, did the “type on a curve” thing that lots of oldies/traditional albums do, and still added a crab — more now as just a graphic element — to keep it fun and tied-in with the album title.

Still loving the “badass T-Lou” look, I couldn’t resist doing something completely different. This keeps my mind fresh, and shows the client that there are options out there. If they don’t like something here, we can go a completely different direction. I had downloaded the curly background art from iStockphoto a few weeks previous for another project (that didn’t end up getting made) — it was originally blue — repurposed it for this proof by making it gold/brown and framing the artist. The type glows; the whole thing says “me and my accordion are not to be messed with.” Cool.

So wait, I had pretty much ignored the “let’s make it colorful” request from the client, so I did one with everything but the kitchen sink. The mardi gras feathers, some New Orleans brick in the background, a wood sign from a beach somewhere — making it bold and messy and colorful.

You will notice that I didn’t just present the artwork in a square on a piece of paper. I snagged a CD I had photographed from another project, and superimposed the T-Lou artwork onto that photograph. I believe that one extra step — making the art look like the final packaging — gives the client a much better idea of what his CD will look like once everything is done and shipping.

Client Reactions + Second Round of Proofs

Well, the clients flipped — they loved that first round of proofs. The energy, the photography, even lots of the typefaces chosen, were really making T-Lou excited.

They loved the crabs, but didn’t think they were “fun” enough, so I suggested maybe adding some cartoon eyes that I had found but discarded while working on the first set of design ideas. They liked that. So we decided to work on revising the first proof to everyone’s liking.

T-Lou comes from Louisiana, and really wanted the Louisiana coast to play a large role in the art. While almost all of the backgrounds are of Gulf Coast beaches, I had bleached out the colors of the backgrounds to focus attention on the artist. T-Lou said no, we want to see the blue of the ocean and the sky; adding back more colors would get us to that “make it colorful” initial request, too.

T-Lou also doesn’t like sans serif typefaces that much; he likes the refinement and formality of serif type better. So I needed to give him some options with different typefaces, since that first proof had the really big, thick, sans serif type for the “T-LOU” at the top.

So here is what we delivered for a second round:

Blue ocean, crabs with cartoon eyes, curved serif type across the top. Nice.

Maybe using the beach/weathered wood signpost plus the cartoon-y crabs? And we have a really bold typeface for “T-LOU,” but it still has serifs on it. Tricky, aren’t I?

Now here I have used the same design as above, but changed the colors up to see what happens. The light green allows the crabs to move to the forefront (the yellow was pretty strong), but I’m still not sure if the balance is right.

Ah, so the honkin’ big type was the problem. Pull that out, and replace it with a very refined slab serif, and the balance between all of the elements on the cover works out. So what did we accomplish? A few things:

  • lots of color,
  • T-Lou looking awesome and havin’ a great time,
  • a proper balance between his name, his photo, the crabs, and the album title,
  • a Louisiana coastal feel
  • the crabs with the cartoon eyes ensure that you know this album isn’t taking itself too seriously; in fact, you know that this guy likes to have fun.

The finished product! If I get around to it, I’ll take pictures of the traycard and CD face, which look awesome too. But for now, we see how I got from the client’s initial design brief to the final product. Everyone is very pleased with the outcome.

Blog, business, graphic design, portfolio

What Hearken Creative did this summer, part 4

T-Lou Zydeco makes some crazy-cool Zydeco music. See for yourself:

This guy knows how to make a party hop. And I got to create a cool look for his new CD.

The client is really happy (“Thanks, Loren; it was a pleasure working with you…job well done. Good job!”), the producer is happy, and we have another winner. Just listen to this wonderful music:

[audio:http://www.hearkencreative.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/06-Zydeco-LA-LA.mp3|titles=06 Zydeco LA LA]

Tomorrow, I think I might upload some of the original proofs that were presented to the client, so that you can see some of the thought that went into creating this cover.

But overall, this was a wonderfully successful project. I have another CD design that is going to press this week, so I’ll post that one in a few weeks when it comes off press.

Forgot to mention: I did the photoshoot for the artist, in the studio while they were mixing the album down. This is another benefit of hiring Hearken Creative — we work across disciplines to make the best possible product for the client. It also is a benefit of purchasing the new Canon EOS 7D a few months ago.

Blog, business, post production for film and video, sound

What Hearken Creative did (is doing) this summer, Part 3

Well, I can’t say “did” for this one, since we’re still in production. I’m associate producer on a quirky little film called “Not That Funny” starring Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Chuck, and a bunch of other stuff). Here’s a breakdown of what I am working on during this film:

  • Recorded all production sound for the first week of shooting (before our wonderful sound guy showed up)
  • Managing/devising digital workflow for the production and post-production
  • Assisting with social media and web presence for the film
  • Renting Hearken equipment to the production (KinoFlo Diva Lights, Canon 7D, microphones, batteries, cards, hard drives, etc.)
  • Assisting in whatever way I can on a small shoot, sometimes as a production assistant, sometimes as a driver, sometimes schlepping crafts service, sometimes…?

The cast and crew of this tiny pic are wonderful, and I’m honored to be working with them all. I can’t wait to show you some of the production stills, and get this film finished so everyone can see it.

Blog, business, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound

Now shooting in HD for your next project

Finally!

Hearken Creative now is shooting in HD on a Canon 7d camera. We have several lenses and filters, and can make your next project shine, whether for the big screen, the small screen, or even a web screen.

Additionally, not only can we do full-blown ProTools audio for location sound, but we now have a small Zoom H4N 4-channel audio recorder for interviews, small cast shoots, and field recording. Put the two pieces together, and you have a wonderfully small setup for mobile filming!

Call us to discuss your next video/film project.

Blog, business, post production for film and video

Great day learning about the 5d

Yesterday I attended a half-day session arranged by The Association on the Canon DSLR cameras. Snehal Patel led the workshop of twelve people. I think I was the only one who wasn’t working in Hollywood, and we had quite a few veteran members of the ASC there as well. The industry is changing significantly. From the tech and post side of it, I think I have an incredible grasp on the realities of shooting with these new DSLRs. Now I want to get better on the production side as well.

One interesting thing about the day was a discussion by the DPs in the room concerning the disappointing performance of the RED One camera in real-world situations. Specifically, the cost of the camera, with all of the bells and whistles, is much higher than everyone expects (still much lower than traditional cameras, but the hype doesn’t match with reality). Secondly, the processor is just not robust enough to handle low light well; in fact, during shoots, the RED consistently requires more lighting (which equals more time and more money spent) than traditional cameras — DPs were complaining that you had to stick light everywhere, even in shadows, to make sure something showed up in the footage. So I’m leaning much less towards the RED right now, and seriously getting closer to either the 5D or the 7D, which excels in low-light situations. (I’m interested to see how the new RED cameras fare, but I’m not interested in purchasing any of them, either.)

Another illuminating conversation was how the major studios are attempting to cut down on technical staff (DITs, digital managers) in an attempt to save money on set. It’s going to backfire, but I’ll talk about that in a later post.

Blog, business, post production for film and video

Canon DSLRs get a channel to Final Cut Pro

Canon has taken the pain (or most of it, anyways) out of bringing footage into Final Cut Pro from their DSLR cameras with a new FCP plugin. The new plugin allows us to ingest footage directly into Apple’s ProRes 422 code, and adds timecode based on the camera’s date and time stamp (a workaround to actually having real timecode, but it’ll work for now).

This, along with the firmware update that was released recently, brings us closer to truly being able to use the Canon DSLRs in a professional environment, which is what I want to do. I’m considering skipping the 7D entirely and simply saving up for a 5D — which will fit my business much better than the 7D anyways.

Blog, business, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound, Uncategorized

Panasonic P2 cards to come down in price

StudioDaily reports today that Panasonic is releasing a new, cheaper line of P2 memory cards for their video cameras. The P2 is a card, kinda like an SD or CompactFlash, but bigger. It does away with tapes in the production workflow, and, more importantly, can completely eliminate the “capture” process (where you have to play the tape back off of a deck to ingest the footage into the computer) — instead, you just dump the video files over from the P2 card onto the computer!

P2 cards originally were as expensive or more expensive than the cameras, making them prohibitively expensive. But with this new announcement, it looks like Panasonic is truly trying to carve out a niche for this technology. One of the cameras I am interested in is an HVX200, and the price-cut in P2 cards makes this option even more lucrative.

I wonder what will happen with Panasonic and Sony and Canon when Red releases its incredible Red Scarlet camera? It completely bypasses tapes or cards, and works direct to hard drive (I believe), and has a higher resolution than most of the current offerings.

So maybe there is a silver lining to not being able to buy a new camera just yet: there will be several new offerings by the time we are ready to acquire some new equipment…