June: Life Is Better When You Share the RideWilliam Gadea 12.29.2016
Last week we shared the Lyft Origin Story with you. At least in terms of commissioning animation, however, Lyft has been a very busy ride-sharing company! Here is an even more ambitious effort: a 7-minute film by Academy Award winner John Kahrs called June: Life Is Better When You Share the Ride. You can read an interview with Kahrs and his collaborator, Kevin Dart, here.
June is a dense narrative with a lot of back story. (I had to see it twice to really catch everything.) Rather than spend a lot of time on the story, which is in my opinion quite affecting, I’d like to point out some things that might not be immediately obvious to people that are not animation professionals.
Most obviously, this film has been created in 3d, but the creators have tried to make it seem more like traditional animation.
First, the rendering of the images is flat, meaning the volume of shapes is not defined by gradations of light and dark. Rather, sharp-edged shadows and highlight areas are placed over shapes to help define their shape and interaction with light. In CGI, this is sometimes called toon-shading. It is more like the traditional shadow layers that the Disney studio pioneered back in the day.
Another interesting addition is that blurs are placed over the highlight sometimes. This gives the video a gauzy look that is quite appealing. (This is less Disney, and more anime.) The reflections also add a lot of richness to the imagery.
The animation has been designed to imitate 2d as well. Usually we associate CGI with high articulation, meaning the movement is frame-to-frame smooth. Here, the animators have purposefully reduced the articulation, introducing full holds (where the subject is frozen for a number of frames) rather than moving holds (where the subject is still, but drifting slightly.) A lot of the movement also seems to be on 2s rather than 1s, meaning a single frame is kept onscreen for two frames rather than just one.
Kudos to Lyft for investing in such a project! As marketing strategy, this video plumbs the sharpest differentiator between Lyft and Uber, which you can hear even in the names of the companies. (One is upLyfting, the other sounds Nitzchean.) June is commercial art… truly commercial, and truly art.
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