Online Exclusive Rap Show: Digital Artist Barton Damer Uses C4D for tobyMac Concert Visuals


Barton Damer already had a lot of experience creating digital artwork for musicians like L’il Wayne, Owl City, and Wolfmother when he was asked to design concert visuals for tobyMac’s Winter Wonder Slam tour last fall. For Damer, who Computer Arts magazine named Digital Artist of the Year in 2009, the opportunity to work with tobyMac had been a long time coming. Years earlier, the two had met through a church in Washington, DC, and had talked about working together, but nothing panned out.

So when Damer heard tobyMac (known off stage as Toby McKeehan) was in Dallas, Texas, for a concert, where Damer now lives, he called the Christian rapper’s old cell phone number. McKeehan answered and invited him to the show. “Once he realized I’d done work for other hip-hop artists, I got to show him my reel on my iPhone,” Damer recalls. “He pulled me right in to start work.”

Damer used MAXON’s Cinema 4D to create visuals for two songs from tobyMac’s latest album, Tonight, that were part of the show. Because the Grammy-winning rapper was busy recording final songs for Tonight, he gave Damer complete creative freedom to come up with visuals that would complement what was happening on stage. After reviewing about eight different songs, Damer chose “Showstopper” and “Boomin.’” The visuals he came up with were combined with other footage and video of live action on stage to create the full show package.

Check out the footage:

LIVE CONCERT VISUALS - TOBY MAC from Barton Damer on Vimeo.

For “Showstopper,” which has been used by the NFL for Thursday Night Football promotion, Damer, who has been using C4D for about two years, wanted to do something that had a “retro-futuristic” look. “The triangles are reminiscent of rock ‘n’ roll Pink Floyd, while the shiny materials and bright colors bring a touch of hip-hop to the visuals, much like Toby’s music,” Damer explains. To give the triangles distinctive, individualized looks Damer first made one that was black and shiny and another that was completely shiny like a mirror.

“Then I used the black shiny triangle as a frame around the mirror-like one, and I dropped that into a MoGraph Cloner and used plain, random, and delay effectors to get the motion I wanted,” he says. After creating several random animations in Adobe After Effects, he applied the CC Ball Action filter to make them look as if they were LED lights. The random patterns were rendered out of After Effects as a movie file and textured on a plane inside C4D, so it is the actual movie clip viewers see reflected in all of the triangles on screen.

Damer added more of a design element to the triangle composition by creating white rectangles in C4D and applying a material that included transparency, reflection, and refraction to them before placing them at a 45-degree. The rectangles cross back and forth, moving over the triangles and interacting with them to create interest.

Inspired by “Boomin’s” lyrics, “Cause we’re boomin’ out the stereo system,” Damer decided to do something much more literal for that song. Using C4D’s MoGraph module he created “urban” speakers that appear to be fused together in a futuristic globe shape. Small black bits shown flying out of the speakers were created with Thinking Particles. “I wanted it to look like the speakers were breaking apart a little bit,” he explains.

To make it look as if the speakers were falling and crashing around to the beat Damer taught himself how to use MAXON’s MoDynamics. “All I had to do was open up Nick Campbell’s tutorial on MoDynamics, and within five minutes, I knew what I was doing,” he recalls.

To animate the visuals so they would move in time to the music, Damer worked with a musician friend who created a click track using Ableton Live. Once the track was finished, Damer edited and animated all of the motion work. “I made it so flashes on screen happened right with the beat of the music, and when the drummer hit the drums, the speaker would pulsate,” he says, adding that tobyMac’s band easily kept pace with the click track because the click could be heard in their left ear pieces while the full mix could be heard in their right.

From start to finish, the entire project took Damer about 100 hours to complete. “That’s the beauty of C4D R11.5,” he says. “I literally got the 11.5 version and started this project the same week. I couldn’t believe how fast things rendered.” With such a tight deadline, Damer says he welcomed the ability to quickly render out movie clips in C4D before doing final compositing and adding lens flares and depth of field in After Effects.

Eye-catching transitions between C4D renders were achieved using Andrew Kramer’s Twitch After Effects plug-in. “There are a lot of parts where it looks like the camera is shaking during intense parts of a song but it wasn’t the camera,” he says. “I didn’t want to put the render engine through that, so I just did it with Twitch.”

Damer, who plans to continue working with tobyMac in 2010, is just put the finishing touches on concert visuals for the new feature film Love Don’t Let Me Down, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw, in which Paltrow plays a fallen country singer on a comeback tour. “I’m looking forward to working with more artists in the future, and I hope to get the opportunity to create more visuals for live productions,” Damer adds.

Check out MAXON’s YouTube site for more footage.

Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Contact her at her Web site:

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