Midnight Quarters

Midnight Quarters (2013) is a musical animation originally designed to be projected onto a large-scale clock frame in a live event setting; the cut posted above is the stand-alone film version. Midnight Quarters is an Adobe First Frame 2014 selection. In April of 2017, an updated performance and installation was displayed at the Rhythms and Visions / Expanded + Live 3 event in Los Angeles.

In putting this piece together, I went back and forth between the visuals and music. After devising the basic structural progression of the piece, I began by drawing and modeling different concepts for the clock until I had an overall look that I liked. I then switched my attentions to the music.

The concept for the piece set some interesting constraints for my composition. First, the meter should be 5/4, so that a single measure would take the second hand from one hour marking to the next. Second, the chord progression(s) should be three measures long, so that a single chord progression would take place while the second hand passed over a quarter of the clock face.

Once I completed the composition of the music, I set about animating the piece. From my music production environment, Reason, I exported both a rendered audio file and a MIDI file containing the note information for every instrumental layer. I imported the MIDI file into Unity and used the timing information from each track to drive the motions of every element of the final animation.

Rendering a high-quality CG animation from Unity turned out being a fun little project of its own. For each frame of animation, I exported 8 screen captures that were offset in musical time from the start of the frame to create a motion blur. The camera moved slightly for each sample so that by the start of the next frame, it would have made a complete, tiny circle, adding some really nice anti-aliasing. I then was able to bring in 8 separate image sequences into Adobe Premiere, where I composited the final video.