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The Lockdown

As the world hunkers down during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this piece — originally conceptualized to be a cinemagraph about Bitcoin security — took on a very different meaning. I’d been working on it for a few weeks when the Philippine government instituted a nationwide lockdown, freezing all businesses, transportation, and briefly, even financial establishments, in an effort to curb the growing infection rate. Suddenly, the visualization had taken on a completely different flavor.

As usual, the majority of this piece was rendered using Procreate on an iPad Pro. After completing the initial rough sketches, I immediately started importing the illustration in pieces — the female character, the locks, the mandala — into Adobe Animate, which old-timers like me will know as Macromedia Flash from days long past. My animation skills were pretty rusty so I had to spend a lot of time refamiliarizing myself with where everything was. 

The workflow was straightforward though, and I still remembered the fundamentals from my music-video production days: once I had gotten the basic timing and sequencing sorted out, I could then go back to the main illustration and flesh out all the details knowing that they would all fit into the animation timeline later on when I was done.

Preliminary animation test, just to figure out blocking and sequencing

I spent the first 3 weeks chipping away at the details of the face and the costume, drawing from steampunk sci-fi art produced by everyone from Geoff Darrow to Hayao Miyazaki. I knew that I wanted something techno-Victorian, but honestly I stole from everywhere.

Every time I felt I had made some progress with the illustration, I would export it out of Procreate and then replace the placeholders over in Adobe Animate, so I could render the video to see how it was all coming together. Deciding when to stop with the details was a particularly weird challenge. Typically I just stop adding more details when I run out of space, but in this case, having motion in the image changed the calculus substantially. Having too much detail may end up just confusing the viewer … or at least, that was my working theory. We’ll see if I was able to hit the right balance.

I went back and forth for the next couple weeks, often forgetting about this project for several days before coming back to it on a random weeknight. As the COVID-19 situation got measurably worse in the Philippines, the lock metaphor and the overall vibe of the piece began to take on a more concerned, more serious tone. The spiraling mandala with the hidden lettering was the last part of the cinemagraph that I added.

Here’s the final product:

The full cinemagraph in all its ultra-HD glory is for sale as a 1 of 3 exclusive digital edition at Makersplace, so if you’re an NFT art collector, please check it out and leave a bid.

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