Oliver Lo studied architecture in college and spent nearly a decade as a teacher in an economically underserved public school in Los Angeles. He was looking for a creative outlet outside of teaching and took up graphic design classes being offered by the public programs at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. After five years of taking design classes “for fun,” Oliver finally enrolled as a full-time student.
Do you live in LA?
I normally reside in Pasadena but am currently taking a semester off to intern at Michael Osborne Design in San Francisco. It has been an extremely positive experience. There’s a lot of work at the studio and I am sort of just getting thrown into the projects. It’s great. It’s the best way to learn and I'm having so much fun while I’m at it.
How did this concept come about?
I completed this as the final project for one of the design classes I was taking. The assignment was to create a short motion graphic piece using Cinema4D. Although the parameters were pretty wide open, I decided to take on the challenge of doing a piece with live footage for which I had no previous experience. I only had one day to shoot all the footage. This meant a lot of careful planning so that I could get all the shots I needed in one go. I completed the animation in the span of a week, squeezing in time between final projects for other classes.
Mood and inspiration board for “Perfect Pie”. Title sequences of “Dexter” directed by Eric Anderson. “Stranger Than Fiction” produced by MK12. Photographs from Martha Stewart Living.
Since my background has mostly been in print design, this project stretched me to communicate visually through a dynamic medium. I learned a great deal about storyboarding. Getting my friends involved was another great aspect of this project. A friend kindly agreed to do the voice and acting. On the day of the shoot, a classmate helped with lighting, while another friend helped me with camera work. It was definitely a team effort.
What was your overall inspiration for the project?
Sinister influences. This project was influenced by my loves of baking, mystery novels and TV crime shows. At the beginning of the project, the instructor asked us to brainstorm a list of words and to use a combination of words from the list to come up with a concept. My words were “forensic science” and “cooking show.“ The opening credits to the hit show “Dexter” instantly came to mind. It’s brilliant how vignettes of ordinary, mundane things could imply something as sinister as murder. It got me thinking about how I could tell the story of a murder through the seemingly innocuous act of a woman baking a pie. Isn’t that how it often is—that the greatest ideas come from combining two very disparate, unrelated subjects?
I also referenced a lot of Martha Stewart Living magazines. I observed that in many of the photographs everything is so carefully and meticulously arranged that they feel sterile. Even though everything looks perfect on the surface, you can almost imagine something eerie, stifling and unsettling happening underneath. I tried to capture the same quality by desaturating the footage and utilizing a color palette that was inspired by some of the magazine’s photography.
For the typography, I was inspired by the treatment of the opening title for the movie “Stranger Than Fiction.” If you’ve seen it, you know it’s an impossibly tough act to follow. I wanted to weave the animated typography as naturally into the live footage as possible like they did. This meant a lot of rotoscoping in Cinema4D to make the type seem as if it was interacting with and inhabiting the same space as the actor, props and environment. The typography takes up a supporting role, hopefully adding interest without interfering with the main narrative. I tried to have the type animate in different ways in each scene. Trade Gothic was an ideal typeface because I felt it helped communicate the idea of forensic science. The condensed sans serif typeface has an unfeeling, precise and scientific feel to it.