AMOR

INGRATO

My senior thesis.
A music video for the
original song Amor Ingrato.

How it all started

The moment I chose to study motion design in 2016, I had in mind that one day I would incorporate my passion for music in my love for the visual arts.

 

In the Spring Semester of my Junior Year, we started discussing in class what we would do for our final Spring thesis the next year, and I knew right away what I wanted to do. I was going to create an epic visual album.

 

I didn’t know how I would do it or how the music and lyrics would sound, but I knew I wanted to make music. I wanted to end my time at Ringling, working on something I was extremely passionate about. Fortunately, the Motion Design Program allowed for creative freedom (to some extent).

The Motion design program

The Motion Design Program at Ringling College of Art and Design is a four-year program where we do on average of three to four concept, design, and animation projects a semester.

During the first three years, we learn and perfect our skills with rigid project briefs. Students learn different animation techniques, from traditional animation, stop motion, cell animation, vector animation, to 3D modeling and animation in Cinema 4D and Octane, to compositing and VFX in Nuke and AfterEffects.

 

For our senior year, we work on our thesis, and we get to pick what kind of work we want to do and what skills we want to explore.

overview

Thesis Fall Semester

The thesis program is divided into two stages. The first one occurs in the fall, where we have to choose four to five projects that last between two to four weeks each. Students chose each project from a pool of dozens of fictional and real client briefs.

 

Some of the briefs I chose you can see on my website, like the real client project for the Extinction Rebellion movement, or the Animography.net and Google Nest projects.

Thesis Spring Semester

The second phase of the senior thesis takes place in the Spring. In this stage, the students have to establish a conceptual direction on their own.  

There are two possible structures students can follow when creating their briefs for this stage:

Structure A

3 Unique separate 5-week projects. 

 

Structure B

One themed 10-week project with 3 unique or related deliverables

My Thesis Structure

For this project, Amor Ingrato, I followed structure B, which as mentioned before it has 3 unique related deliverables.

01 - Explore

An exploration of a new technique. Find a new method or tool that is new to you. Define what elements and software you will be using and what you hope to create or learn.

 

02 - Evoke

Create an emotional target. What idea or story would you like to tell? What emotion would you like to evoke in the audience?

03 - Educate

Create an in-depth case study of your thesis, explaining important findings through the creation of a micro-site with descriptions and videos.

The

Project

Dev.

Introduction

Creating this music video started with me planning a full album, way before I ever knew the structure requirements of the senior thesis. I had the reference of previous seniors and their thesis projects so I started planning it based on their thesis briefs. However, this structure for the Spring was new and introduced to my class only by the end of the Fall Semester in 2019. 

In this web page, I will guide you through my creative and thought processes since the initial ideation for the album in late 2018 to the concept development, music production, and final deliverables of the first song's music video.

Inspiration

When creating the concept for the visual-album – a collection of songs that are tied together by a single visual narrative – I looked at work like Beyoncé’s Lemonade, or Florence and the Machine’s Odyssey, and Tierra Whack's Whack World. among many others.

I did extensive research on why the visual-albums above mentioned were so successful, and mimicked what I learned in my research to create the visual album's story.

Story Ideation

The first ingredient was a personal story. A good one.
So I gathered my thoughts and memories. My own traumas and happy moments, and right there and then
I knew what I wanted to write about – a personal journey
of growth, anger, disappointment, rejection, self-discovery, cultural identity, love, and friendship.
 

A story inspired by events like my parents' divorce, depression, moving abroad away from home, that
starts with conflict and ends with some sort of
peaceful resolution.

Cultural References

The second and most important ingredient was creating visual references to culture and identity. Something Beyoncé excelled at in Lemonade.

 

I needed to identify and collect the cultural iconography from my home country (Portugal) that I considered part of my own identity. But I also wanted to reference universal symbolic elements that anyone could relate to.

These items include language, visual arts and crafts, landscapes, architecture, music genres, clothing and jewelry, literature, and even food.

Concept Development

I continued my research to enrich my story and the concepts for each song. I wanted everything to be perfect and every artistic decision (even musically) to be conscious and relevant to the story.

Then as if the world knew what I needed, I come upon Rosalía's second album El Mal Querer, a conceptual album inspired by the anonymous 13th-century Occitan novel Flamenca. A story with a female protagonist revolving around her toxic relationship with her abusive husband. Her album brought me the answer I was looking for. I needed a book that had cultural significance to me and told the story of a powerful woman who overcomes adversity.

 

Then, as if I wasn't lucky enough, I bumped into Fátima Pais, a librarian at the Municipal Library of Tábua, Portugal. Pais happened to be writing her master thesis on Sarah Beirão, a woman. The latter wrote a lot of best-selling novels in the 1940s featuring strong, complex female characters from different facets of the Portuguese society as protagonists.

Fátima Pais suggested me reading Sarah Beirão’s “A Luta.” – The Struggle. That book was perfect. So much that I decided to call my album “A Luta.” 

 

This story tells the lives of a grandmother, a mother, and a granddaughter in parallel. These three women have had very different life experiences at very different times in history. They loved different men, and they had different goals in life. However, there is a universal truth that connects them – the struggle to live freely to be whom they are in a world built for the success and happiness of men.

Album Structure

Another excellent ingredient wast dividing the album into chapters. After I wrote the overall story inspired by the book "A Luta" and personal testimonies of women in my life. I split the album into 6 chapters. Each chapter has one song that tells of the journey of these women in parallel, having a "granddaughter" as the central figure. From the first chapter, Amor Ingrato, being the introduction of the characters and of a conflict, to the last chapter, Chave d’Ouro, being a resolution. 

By the time I had finished writing the story and made initial sketches of each song and their visual development I decided it would be best to focus on just the first song and music video for my thesis. That was the one song that was completely finished by the end of the fall semester and therefore was easier to sell to my professors and supervisors.

Amor Ingrato

A chapter about loss, treason, and disappointment, and the failure of faith in love. Amor Ingrato is about two people who, after years of loving each other and building a life together, get separated.

 

The song speaks of their angst and regret. And how their separation has shifted their view on love and devotion to other people and humanity. Thus making constant analogies to religion and the commitment to God.

Musical Mood

Inspired by Portuguese Fado and Folk music. 

 

These music genres were not chosen by chance. I wanted to start the story with references to traditions that speak to the established preconceived notions of how the world works and how people relate to each other. The rest of the album would be a journey of breaking away from those preconceived notions. So musically, I wanted to reinforce that idea.
Thus traditional folk music and Fado. Fado itself is a very nostalgic music genre too, that speaks of love once lost and the longing for a past that no longer exists. Ideas that pair well with the lyrics of the song (which I had written with no melody in mind). I wrote the tune by trying to mimic famous fado songs while speaking the words of the verses. Thankfully,
I barely had to adjust the lyrics to the melody!

Lyrics

Debaixo dos meus pés fugiu-me o chão

É grande o sopro do coração

Jóias não pagam lealdade

Nem fazem esquecer a crueldade

Under my feet the floor escaped

It is big the heart murmur

Jewels don't pay for loyalty

Nor do they make forget cruelty

O nosso amor era um rochedo

Que o mar erodiu sem medo

Se eu soubesse de tal ironia

No teu encanto eu nunca cairía

Our love was a boulder

the ocean eroded fearlessly

If I had known of such irony

In your enchantment, I wouldn't have fallen

Se os céus alguma vez falaram,
Para nós sempre calaram

If the Heavens ever spoke

For us, they were always silent.

Ó como numa pintura Barroca

Homens pintam-na como louca

Ó como numa pintura Barroca

Somo os anjos com sangue na boca

Oh like in a Baroque painting

Men paint her insane

Oh like in a Baroque painting

We are angels with blood in our mouths

De joelhos em vidro partido
Não me encontras pois não estou perdido
Viraste a minha pele do avesso
Tenho o meu coração em gesso

Kneeling on broken glass

You won't find me for I'm not lost

You turn my skin upside down

My heart is covered in plaster

O nosso amor ficou azedo

De viver com calos nos dedos

Se a razão te trouxer alguma paz

Seja que esta vida não me satisfaz

Our love turned bitter

from living with calluses in our fingers

If reason brings you some peace

be it that this life doesn't satisfy me

Se os céus alguma vez falaram,
Para nós sempre calaram

If the Heavens ever spoke

For us, they were always silent.

Ó como numa pintura Barroca

Homens pintam-na como louca

Ó como numa pintura Barroca

Somo os anjos com sangue na boca

Oh like in a Baroque painting

Men paint her insane

Oh like in a Baroque painting

We are angels with blood in our mouths

Se não arde na pele é milagre

É amor com tempero a vinagre

Vai-te ó Deus omnipresente

Só admiro quem já não é crente

If it doesn’t burn in the skin it’s a miracle
It’s love seasoned with vinegar
Go, oh omnipresent God
I only admire the unbelieving

Ó como numa pintura Barroca

Homens pintam-na como louca

Ó como numa pintura Barroca

Somo os anjos com sangue na boca

Oh like in a Baroque painting

Men paint her insane

Oh like in a Baroque painting

We are angels with blood in our mouths

Recording the music

I recorded the first song with the help of Rohini Maiti and her chord progression and guitar skills. We recorded at the RCAD Motion Design audio suit, ran by Kelly Warner, who is a genius in music production sound design himself. Without them, this project wouldn’t have happened.

Music Video Concept

For this project, I wanted to explore manipulating live footage with digital compositing and visual effects. I wanted to evoke a sense of nostalgia, mystery, and tension and reinforce the imagery brought by the lyrics by reproducing and referencing baroque paintings.

Music Video Pre-Pro

I started by storyboarding and creating mood boards for what I wanted, so I could communicate with my team of cinematographers and camera assistants.

Pre-Pro
Production Design

I then contacted Sheryl Haler from the Production Design office of the Ringling College of Art and Design Film Department. She was very generous and let me use their clothes and props.

 

The quality of the PD was imperative for the success of this piece.

Production
Filming 

Stage 3 was filming. Me and my camera crew filmed for almost 3 weeks. I was lucky to have a great team of filmmakers to help. Jada Poon
was the lead cinematographer and camera operator, and Danne Lacance, Luna Križan,
Nela Khalfieva were the camera assistants in the most complex shoots.
 

Once again this project wouldn't have
happened without them.

Editing

I then had to go into editor mode and comb through the hours of footage and chose the best shots and stitched them together.

Compositing

Part of the compositing work was to key out
the greenscreen from some of the shots and composite different backgrounds in a seamless manner. I also masked objects in and out and placed objects in the composition that weren't there before.

 

My intention was not to make my scenes look 100% real but I wanted to create a believable surreal environment. 

Color Correction

Then I went into aftereffects for color correction. I initially used Colorista.TV in all of my shots and I was done with color correction. But then COVID-19 happened and students (like everyone else) were forced to work from home, but with very computational resources. This brought many technical difficulties. Working off my small laptop, I had lost access to plugins like Colorista.TV, and so I had lost all my color correction information. I had to redo all the color correction with alternative free in-app plugins like Lumetri Color.

Despite that, I believe the project was a success because art always prevails. I other things like painted in the light and color using masks and different adjustment layers in each shot. So the light and colors were consistent and so all the shots would look like Baroque painting scenes, or Baroque inspired.

Rendering

Something I learned the worst way is that when working with 4K footage and compositing, you
will want to render proxies. I wish I had started doing that earlier in the game. Once I started using proxies my workflow sped up immensely.

Another great workflow tip I learned is that once
a shot is finished I render it as a proxy with the best settings. This allows not only for the computer to preview it faster without having to waste memory calculating that shot every time, but it also allows us to speed up the final render time.

Conclusion

After a lot of sweat and tears, I finished a project
I can be proud of. I cannot thank enough my teachers and supervisors, and my friends and fellow creatives, who trusted my creative direction and gave their precious time to make some art with me. I am so excited to continue working on this album for the next year and I hope that even though I am graduating we get to work on the following songs together again.

THE
END.

CREDITS

Creative Direction:

Beatriz Correia Lima

Music & Lyrics:

Beatriz Correia Lima

Guitarist:

Rohini Maiti

Music Production & Sound Design:

Kelly Warner

Production Coordinator:

Iana Praheeva

Cinematography:

Jada Poon

Camera Assistance:

Danne Lacance

Luna Križan

Nela Khalfieva

Production Design:
Beatriz Correia Lima

with the help of Sheryl Haler

Hand Model:

Aiham Kara Hawa

Software used

Adobe Premiere

Adobe After Effects

Adobe Photoshop

Logic Pro

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