An homage to the games

Henrique Barone, Rafael Mayani and Conor Whelan team up to delight us with Olympia, “a nice combination of two somewhat random ideas.” 

High-level athletes are well-represented in this stylized yet elegant tribute that is sure to inspire both beginners and experts alike. The following is a brief interview with the team to gain some insight into their recent and inspiring collaboration.

How did the idea for the project come about?

Henrique Olympia is a nice combination of two somewhat random ideas Raf and I had for side projects of our own. Raf wanted to do something with run cycles as an homage to Wes Anderson movies and I had these old celebratory stamps from the 60’s Olympics and wanted to do something with them for a while. As we started talking about doing something together on the side – and the Rio Olympics started to get closer – these two ideas naturally came together.

Rafael Initially we thought about doing five non-related animated loops, but soon we felt the five sports could be connected and it started to look like we could actually do a nice little video. As the piece became more ambitious, we had the brilliant idea of asking Conor if he’d be interested in doing this project with us. Having 2 great character animators on board allowed us to create more dynamic sequences. After a couple of brief meetings to decide which sports we’d select for the piece, we decided to represent some of those included in the classic Olympic Games.

We’d like to know a bit more about the process. How did you guys split up the tasks, pass shots off and so on?

Conor The process was so smooth and really utilised everyone’s strengths (despite what our chaotic GChat group looks like!). Since this was a personal project we established early on that we would let everyone have as much creative liberty as possible. Having worked together at Giant Ant on so many projects, we instinctively knew what our roles would be. Rafael designed up the style frames, which Henrique used as reference for making the storyboard and animatic. Then the various shots were split up, with Henrique animating the first three characters/rings in Flash and me animating the last two in TvPaint. From there they were taken into Photoshop where Raf and Henrique re-painted them, after which I brought them into After Effects for compositing with the end logo and Raf’s hand-drawn titles.

Henrique On the animation side of things, one aspect we spent a lot of time discussing and refining was the connection between the five sports; we wanted them to seamlessly flow from one to the other. We used the movement of the rings to keep the momentum of the action consistent and to help smooth out these transitions.

Rafael We had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with John Black, who made some great music and sound design for the piece. We had previously worked with him on a sort of personal piece at Giant Ant called Tako Faito which had a similar vibe to what we were doing now. Henrique and John met up at FITC in Toronto some months before and John seemed to be up for any new collaborations with us. So when we started working on this project and figured out it would be a proper video and not just loops, we immediately thought of asking John if he’d like to bring the piece to life with his work.

Clip from Olympia: elegance, a strong sense of weight, and a fluid transition exploring the ring as a centerpiece.

Clip from Olympia: Notice the elegance of motion, strong sense of weight, and dynamic transitions employing the ring as the centerpiece of the action.

Could you elaborate on the development of the soundtrack?

John Black As soon as Henrique approached me about Olympia I knew it was something that I was interested in taking on. I didn’t even need to see the rough animatic to know that this would be a fun and challenging project, especially with this incredibly talented team. Since we had a fairly tight schedule, I needed to focus on the style and timing of the musical elements first, leaving room for the sound design/foley when the timing was locked. We had initially discussed the concept of this being based on the original Olympic events and the style was very classic as well. I wanted to keep the music minimal and energetic with a nice crescendo to resolve the piece. We agreed that it shouldn’t be overly ‘epic’ but still be forceful enough to carry the movement and emotion. This was probably the most challenging for me.

Another aspect of designing sound for pieces like this can be finding the tempo of the animation and composing music that resolves well with the movement. I wrote an initial score that was working to a degree but didn’t totally capture what I wanted. I started fresh and went for a more classical, minimal, rhythmic approach that left room for sound design. After finding the right tempo, I kept refining the instrumentation until it felt right. It ended up being a mixture of primarily strings and horns, with percussion and some subtle electronic pulses to give it a kinetic edge. I then worked on giving the characters subtle sounds for footsteps and other gestures ranging from realistic to more exaggerated sounds that complimented the score. The first shot was the last one done, and after trying a few things I recorded myself breathing, and created a heartbeat-like pulse to signify the runner’s anticipation of the starters pistol that kicks everything off, with the muted sound of the crowd in the background.

You all have full-time jobs, and yet you were able to create this on the side. Tell us how did you all make time for this and what’s your view on the importance of personal projects like this.

We are all very passionate about what we do and are easily excited by new projects. When we figured out the theme for this piece it was sort of perfect for everyone since it seemed like we would each have a chance to play around with concepts that we’d been curious about exploring for a while. We watched and studied some Olympic videos after work as reference for the character’s design and animation.

For us, the benefit of personal projects is that you get to explore and play a bit more than you usually would with client work, but really the two go hand in hand; personal work informs client work and vice versa.

We wanted to finish this piece before the Games started and it was nice to have a hard deadline for the project to keep us focused, so we came up with a schedule that would allow us to work on our segments without having to become complete recluses.

We really enjoyed being able to work with the various sports because of the extreme poses and movements these athletes achieve. For us, the benefit of personal projects is that you get to explore and play a bit more than you usually would with client work, but really the two go hand in hand; personal work informs client work and vice versa.

Check out some extras at the Behance page.


Creative Direction: Henrique Barone, Rafael Mayani And Conor Whelan
Art Direction: Rafael Mayani
Storyboard And Animatic: Henrique Barone
Animation And Line Clean-up: Henrique Barone And Conor Whelan
Color Clean-up: Rafael Mayani And Henrique Barone
Compositing: Conor Whelan
Music And Sound Design: John Black