How long have you been using Procreate?
In Spring 2019, I was at my sons’ track meet and a friend had her iPad Pro with her. At the time I had a pretty old iPad and my friend showed off how well the stylus worked, and how helpful it was to her work. She had Procreate, which I tried out. I was totally blown away. I can’t remember if I drove directly to the Apple Store after the meet, or maybe it was the next day? Apple had Procreate loaded up onto all the iPads. I was totally sold, because I could see how many possibilities it offered. Procreate on an iPad Pro was like a digital version of that sketchbook I always loved, but much, much more.
What inspired you to use Procreate for the titles in Birds of Prey?
During the summer of 2019 we got a phone call from Josh Levinson, my former client on a film called Gattaca. He was working with Sue Kroll and Cathy Yan on Birds of Prey over at Warner Bros. Cathy said she liked our work on La La Land and invited Shine to pitch ideas for Birds of Prey.
After Bob Swensen, the executive producer at Shine, and I screened the movie Cathy told us she wanted an end title sequence that spoke to the wild, punk rock energy of Harley Quinn. At the end of the movie, there’s a big finale-battle scene at a fun house. Cathy thought maybe we could take some thematic and conceptual queues from those visuals. So she asked us to create some storyboards that spoke to Harley Quinn’s wild character.
My first thought for inspiration was Cy Twombly’s work. Cy Twombly’s paintings and drawings are spontaneous, wild and reckless. It’s drawing with total abandon. I remember the first time I saw them at the RISD Museum — I didn’t know how to react. They we so brilliant, wild and without regard for what anyone thought. We didn’t end up doing anything that looked like a Cy Twombly, but I did try to channel his wild spirit.
Storyboards are the first step in designing a main title. So I went back to the studio and started sketching ideas. So, okay… this is where Procreate literally took over my life in the best way. Summer 2019 was all Procreate, all the time. It was so much fun. I tried to draw fun-house inspired visuals that looked the way I thought Harley Quinn might draw them. I tried to scribble as many drawings as I could that incorporated the film’s fun-house production design, yet with the visual tone of Harley’s voice. Without Procreate, I never could have done this project. I was a beginner, but Procreate is so intuitive that I was able to launch right into the design.
We presented three concepts in storyboard form to director Cathy Yan, and the producers, Margot Robbie, Sue Kroll, and Bryan Unkless. They responded to the hand-drawn storyboard designed in Procreate because they felt it best represented Harley Quinn.
The animation process was so much fun. Between me, Penelope Nederlander, Amanda Gotera, Young Kim, Myke Chapman, Aaron Bjork, and Bob Swensen… our various areas of expertise were outside of Procreate. But that didn’t matter. Procreate is so intuitive that you can start using it in production without much experience at all. We had an amazing time learning as we worked. I think that speaks volumes about how powerful Procreate is.
How was Procreate used on the Dickinson main title design?
On Dickinson, each episode has a unique main title. We just delivered season two, so we’ve now done twenty unique main title animations for Dickinson. Procreate was central to every one of these animations.
The main title design of Dickinson, a series about the life of poet Emily Dickinson, was inspired by the art of the Victorian photo collage. The show creator, Alena Smith, introduced us to these works. We used the genre as visual inspiration for the spirit of the Dickinson main title design. Artists in the Victorian era, many of them women, would create imaginative photo collages using images clipped from posters, advertisements, newspapers and other printed media. The result was striking and often surreal collages of characters in wildly imaginative ways.
The etchings used in Dickinson were not drawn in Procreate, although all the elements were collaged together using Procreate. Procreate is an amazing tool for collage, assemblage and montage. And it was an invaluable tool for this project. The ability to work interactively to create illustrated collages using layers, different types of layer masks, and brushes was intuitive and fun. The many brushes offered were key to modifying and customizing the etchings we put together.
You’re in production on the Perry Mason main title design. How are you currently using Procreate on this project?
Procreate has again been such an important tool on the Perry Mason main title design. Like Dickinson, this series has a different main title treatment on each episode. In the initial conceptual phase, I used Procreate to come up with ideas. We presented several end title sequence concepts for each episode. Because there are eight unique end title sequences, one for each episode — they had to be simple, and with a strong graphic idea. Procreate was an incredible tool starting with the storyboard concept phase through the delivery. It may not be apparent in the final product, but Procreate was used in many aspects of this project, from the initial conceptual sketches through the creation of graphic assets that were used in the final animation. As I write this, episodes one and two have aired, and we’re still working on five through eight.
How did you find the process compared to how you’ve work previously?
I find using Procreate to be totally liberating. I feel like a kid drawing in Procreate, because… it’s fun.
Do you have any advice for people starting out in the motion graphics industry?
Design with all your might and good things will come to you!
What’s your favorite Procreate feature, and what do you enjoy about using it?
In terms of specific software features, Procreate rates at the highest level in every category. It integrates seamlessly into other softwares like Adobe Creative Cloud, Cinema 4D, and many others. But the main reason I love using Procreate is that it makes drawing more fun than ever. It’s all about the feeling of freedom you have when you’re drawing in Procreate. The possibilities are only limited to your imagination.
If you could add one feature to Procreate what would it be?
An alarm that says stop drawing, it’s really late already!!
Discover more about Shine and Michael’s incredible motion graphic and main title design work at shinestudio.com