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Motion Graphics from the Future

By Erica Gorochow

With razor-thin lines, luminous geometry, and a touch of distortion, Nicolas Lopardo’s graphics are precise and confident. Seeing them is like peering into the future. 

However, for the artist behind the designs, the road to this sci-fi polish was long and twisted. He explains, “At certain points I found myself living in run-down hotels trying to be a screenwriter, on stage as a stand-up comedian, and at strip clubs playing guitar. I gave myself a unique education in what I call the ‘Attempted Arts.’”

Lopardo calls these graphic explorations MT-EOS (left), LIIFT R+D: 10M (middle), and LIIFT R+D: KUI (right).

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN

Lopardo spent a year at a liberal arts university before dropping out to forge his own path in the entertainment industry. That was unsuccessful, so he returned to school several years later, this time for a broadcast degree. He then cycled between intense periods of commercial and personal work, sometimes living on savings to make time for his own design explorations. He admits, “It was difficult to output stuff I didn’t feel great about, but I knew it was all part of becoming better and driving toward my goal of working in film.”

Click to watch the motion graphic exercise "LIIFT R+D: 3 Vector." 

Lopardo cites Ash Thorp, Jayse, Alan Torres, and Beeple as important artistic influencers, and he holds a special place in his heart for Andrew Kramer. Lopardo says that Kramer’s Video Copilot training site “set me off in the direction that gave me the ability to see through my dreams.”

CREATIVE EXPLORATION THROUGH BOUNDARIES

Lopardo is a fan of creativity through limitations. Instead of relying on a raft of plug-ins, he says, “I like the stripped-down nature of doing things without a bigger buy-in. I think that came from when I started doing graphics on my three-year-old laptop with no graphics card.”

Lopardo’s main tools for execution are Adobe Illustrator CC, Adobe After Effects CC, and Maxon Cinema 4D. All of the design and animation of his pattern-driven piece FS-II (see below) was in After Effects. “The basic setup,” says Lopardo, “was Fractal Noise and increase contrast, animate the evolution with a Time*Value expression, and add CC Ball Action, CC Kaleida, and Camera Lens Blur.”

Click to watch Lopardo's FS-II.

Beyond the technical, the restraint Lopardo most readily embraces is limited time, even for his personal projects. (For more examples, check out his website’s R&D section.) “There’s a huge value in seeing what you can accomplish in a day’s time, and it’s that level of endurance and trial and error that has allowed me to have some decent work,” the designer explains. “I’ve sort of found my voice and style as an artist, but I’m really in my infancy.” How does he know when a personal piece is finished? Usually when he forces himself to go to sleep.

THE STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER

Lopardo’s aspirations reach beyond film and TV motion graphics. Much of his film work involves fictional interfaces, and the designer is interested in applying his style to real-world UX design. Lopardo has also taken the first steps to sharing his skillset through his upcoming training service, called LIIFT LEARN. He plans to base its curriculum on the questions he gets from aspiring designers.

I asked Lopardo for the key to finding your niche as an artist. “Your voice comes from allowing yourself to explore and be curious,” he says. “You just have to open yourself up and allow your curiosity to never be gated or managed by the expectations of others.”

To keep up with Lopardo’s continued evolution, follow him on Behance