The LED facade which greets visitors and passers-by at the Rotterdam Ahoy convention center is an impressive thing to see. It being June, the North Sea Jazz festival, held every year at the arena in July, was right around the corner. During an elective, we were tasked with creating an animation for this LED screen which would be played during the festival as a means to captivate people outside the stadium. With 4 days to deliver the final animation, I started off by visiting the arena to get a sense of the space.
What was interesting about the screen was how variable the legibility was. Coming up close, the display started to dissolve as viewers could make out the individual LED strips which formed it. On the other hand, looking at it from afar reenforced the perception of a continuous screen, though also of course reducing its size in the eye.
Overall, the main area of the display had a resolution of 451 by 173 pixels. So what can we do with these pixels?
I used the first day to test some ideas and storyboard the animation. The concept revolved around a Pandora’s box of jazz. I went with this concept because it allows for a non-linear viewing. This was critical, as the animation had to be understandable to passers-by who didn’t have the time to stand and look at the screen for a minute.
I decided to use a 3D cell-shaded aesthetic for the animation. Aside from the benefits it provided in terms of time-savings, the binary shading allowed for me to utilise colour-blocking techniques in order to improve legibility. This means I could take one primary colour (say yellow), and one secondary color (say pink), without having to deal with how gradients would be perceived in the final screen.
I also used solid-color backgrounds in order to keep the silhouettes of objects legible. People may miss the details on the surface of the saxophone, but the silhouette had to be clear enough that they could tell what instrument it was regardless.
I used the last day to add a layer of hand-drawn flair to the animation, which helped counteract the sterile nature of 3D animation. It was also a good learning experience, as I had limited experience with frame-by-frame animation.