Feature – Maxime Bruneel on Jeez Louise

A new animated music video hit the internet last week that not only caught my attention, but apparently 30,000 other people in the span of 7 days based on it’s Vimeo stats. It’s a colorful, intricate, and psychedelic visual for the song Jeez Louise by the band Secret Skwirl. As I began digging into the credits of the video I found it was created by Maxime Bruneel. I had seen other work from Maxime in the past, and I became curious about how Maxime executes his unique style from start to finish.

Giant Child had the opportunity to ask Maxime some questions about his process on this project, how he works with clients, what tools he uses and more.

Giant Child: First of all, thanks for taking the time for this interview Maxime. Please tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from, what’s your background?

Maxine Bruneel: I am 26, from France, I studied Art Direction at Penninghen, in Paris, and Motion Design at SVA, NYC. After I graduated (2009) from Penninghen, I moved to London for one year working on different projects, mostly music videos, but also few commercials. After that I settled in New York for a while and I now I’m back to Paris!

Continue reading for the rest of the interview.

GC: I want to touch on your workflow first. Most of your work has a really distinct style – hand illustrated but clean, cell animated, stopmotion-esque and rotopscoped. What are the steps you take to create this style? What software do you use primarily?

MB: I use Photoshop to draw and animate everything. The editing and some extra animations are done in After Effects.

GC: Doing this all frame by frame in Photoshop is a lot of work. What sort of frame rate do you use?

MB: It’s a 25 fps animation.

GC: How did this project come about? Did Secret Skwirl contact you directly, or were you put in touch some other way?

MB: Secret Skirl came to me with this song, I was really exited, and had a lot of images coming to my mind so I told them: Yeah !

GC: What was the overall production time for this project from start to finish?

MB: 4 months.

GC: Production time was 4 months? Was that the timeline Secret Skwirl approached you with, or is that just how long it ended up taking? That seems like a lot of time!

MB: They came to me early on the production of their album. They wanted the music coming out at the same time, so the timeline they gave me was 4 Months.

GC: What was the brief like from the artists? Were they looking for your help to develop the ideas?

MB: Secret Skirl were looking for something quite retro, 60’s looking, so I tried to imagine what a graphic designer from the 60’s but living nowadays would do. I made a first proposition that seemed to fit with their expectations, and then they let me “do my thing”. We discussed the meaning of the song, the inspiration of the band, and I was in charge of translating those feeling into images. The relationship was perfectly balanced, it was easy working with them.

GC: Can you talk about how you generally work with a client to develop concepts? Do you write before doing anything else? Or does it start with visuals?

MB: I usually start with visuals, with some notes on the side, but it’s difficult to explain this “random style” with words, so I try to do some catchy images to give the mood to the client.

GC: Much of this video is totally abstract, but there are still a lot of visual cues that match up with the lyrics. Did you storyboard everything, or was it more of an organic process?

MB: I do some key frames, but with a lot of blank spaces, also because i like to improvise. If I would storyboard everything it would be easier in production, but on a 4 months project, you have new ideas/wishes, and it’s cool to keep space for them.

GC: Were there any other visual ideas that didn’t make the cut?

MB: For this project, I used almost every frame that I designed, I’ve only cut one part that was inspired by the work of Saul Bass. It would have be nice though, but I didn’t manage to match this part with the rest.

GC: There are some amazingly detailed illustrations in this piece (One of my favorites is the snake), Do you build a library of art first? On top of that, there is a lot of color, did you do any color planning?

MB: I built a library at first, to have a sort of overview of the elements I will be playing with, and then I animated frame by frame straight with all the details and colors, it’s a one shot process.

GC: Are you doing rough-cuts or animatics? Did you have to go through multiple rounds of revisions or was it pretty smooth?

MB: Secret Skwirl have always been really enthusiastic, so I barely had to make any corrections after that.

GC: There are some elements that are rotoscoped (The mouths, the walking woman), where did that source footage come from? Did you shoot it or was it provided?

MB: Yes the whole idea was to have a smooth mouth singing the song, and transforming it into random drawings to illustrate the lyrics. I wanted to work around a strong element, so I shot those footage. The mouth is the actual singer mouth singing the song, and the woman is my girlfriend.

GC: What were the biggest technical and creative challenges with Jeez Louise?

MB: The main challenge was to do a smooth animation with such an amount of details, and keep the attention of the audience along the 4 min of the song.

GC: Any last notes?

MB: I did this piece all by myself to keep a spontaneous workflow, and I really enjoyed it! But I also got the inconvenience of a one-man-team.

GC: Again, awesome work Maxime. Thanks for taking the time for this interview.