How AI Inspired Elevation to Create the 2023 Promax Awards Opening Sequence
This week, the 2023 Promax North & Latin America Awards celebrated innovation, creativity, and achievement in the region’s entertainment marketing industry. This event is one of the five ceremonies that Promax will host this year around the globe. The graphics packages for all of these awards shows, including the 90-second animated intro, was designed and produced by our team at Elevation. Creating this piece celebrating our peers around the world - a group that we know has high expectations - was equally exciting and daunting.
Part of that mix of emotions had to do with our long-standing relationship with Promax. Our team attended our first PromaxBDA conference many years ago, and we instantly knew it was an organization we wanted to be involved with. Promax provided an opportunity to connect with the community, meet up with clients, and be part of the design environment of peers. Our Artistic Director Dianne Frisbee recalls the excitement from her first conference, “It was such a thrilling experience to be able to see amazing work and hear directly from the creators. We quickly decided it was a community we wanted to be part of and to support.”
Promax has meant a lot to our team, so when they approached us with the opportunity to collaborate with them on the design for their 2023 awards shows, we were both extremely eager and a bit trepidatious. We are a small tight-knit team, and the chance to both celebrate great design and creative thought in our field as well as showcase our work on to a worldwide audience of designers was extremely exciting. However, that audience is composed of our incredibly discerning peers. We’d be lying if we said that didn’t get our nerves going.
But from the outset of this project, Elevation founder and CEO Stephen Cocks set a directive that freed us from that pressure: we would create something for us. In an email to the team kicking off the project, Stephen said “We cannot do this if it is not authentic. It needs to be done for us and not for an audience. It needs to be personal, and it needs to reflect our desire and growth as creatives.”
Our goal was to create something we were proud of, something beautiful and inspiring to watch, and something that spoke to being a creative in 2023.
The Theme: AI & the state of the art
Our field has been dominated by a massive story over the past year: AI. Mind-boggling advancements in AI-generated art and writing continue to flood the headlines. As a bunch of nerds, we’ve always been fascinated with the intersection of technology and creativity. Nothing quite captures that area of our curiosity right now like AI. It’s equally cutting-edge and controversial. Big questions began swirling around our industry and our team, from the practical (What does this mean for our workflows?) to the philosophical (Is art defined by the creator or the end result?). This topic was flooding our minds and our Slack channels.
So it felt natural to create a piece inspired by these AI debates and share our point of view: that art is an experience.
The current debate about AI-art reminded Stephen of a conversation he had with a teacher at Atlanta College of Art, who was both excited and fearful of a technological tool that might kill creativity. This teacher worried that the computer would take over and remove the need for any human creative inspiration. That tool? Deluxe Paint II on the original Macintosh in 1986.
Of course, we know that personal computers have had the opposite effect. Technology has allowed for more people to become artists, unleashing unimaginable amounts of creativity. We believe that’s because art is less about the tools and more about the experience.
Our initial mood boards included this quote from Elbert Hubbard, “Art is not a thing, it is a way.” While the public gets to see the polished final version of a piece, we know the long journey that took to get there. Art starts with a catalyst: a creative brief, a conversation with a colleague, another piece of art. An artist is prompted or nudged to see something anew. We use different tools and mediums to explore the possibilities. Everything an artist has experienced along their journey contributes to the piece’s final result.
There is a constant tension between input and output in the art world. All art is influenced by what came before it, and new creations will influence what comes after. This push and pull is at the heart of great collaboration and what the Promax Awards celebrates.
We set out to create visuals that celebrated the exhilarating joy and inescapable tension of this artistic cycle.
The Visuals: Eyes on the Prize
Translating all of these thematic elements into a visual piece was no easy task. We developed six core elements that could be combined to tell a story about the artistic journey, from idea to iteration to the iconic Promax Muse. We reinforced these concepts through different effects, such as distortion to convey iterative metamorphosis, fluid transparent glass to convey the overlap and spread of inspiration, and echoing layers to show how creative ideas can be like a game of telephone: sometimes duplicated, but altered as they are dispersed into the artistic ether.
One of this project’s unique challenges was that we were not creating a design for one awards show, but five: Each part needed to feel distinct, but part of a cohesive whole. One of the core design elements for this project is light. When white light passes through a prism, we see glimpses of individual colors. So we gave each region its own color scheme, with the Global Excellence awards being represented by bright white light: the combination of all of the diversity among the regional awards.
Throughout this exploration, our imagination was drawn to kinetic sculptures. They are set in motion by a catalyst that may be as small as a tiny push. There is no final form: just constant, beautiful motion, propelled by balance and thoughtful design. That perfectly encapsulates the experience of being an artist, and so these sculptures became the central visual motif for the opening sequences for the awards.
The Process: Creating the kinetic 2023 Promax Awards opening animations
We had a team of four artists, including Creative Director David Hendrix and Senior Designer Sean Kiley, working on the awards show packages. Each of the five awards shows features its own custom opening animation. These sequences required a combination of tools: Cinema4D, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Xparticles, and Redshift. Our artists utilized a wide variety of advanced techniques, such as highly-detailed macro shots and fluid dynamics. One particularly challenging element was a mass of growing splines, found in the opening for the Promax North America Awards. “These were particularly difficult to direct. There was no way to directly control each individual spline,” Sean recalls. “By running several simulations and looking for the best camera angles, I was able to get some cool looking shots in the end.”
While we love figuring out these technical details, the piece ultimately came together through thoughtful composition, lighting, and design to convey the story.
Our goal was to create a sequence that was cinematic, epic, and inspiring. So nailing the editorial was crucial. “We start with a mysterious opening, leading to an intriguing build,” David said. “The pacing and energy increases as the story unfolds, ringing out with a big crescendo as the final logo and statue are revealed.”
For the music, David searched through many libraries and custom options, exhausting all possibilities to get the timing and mood just right. Ultimately, our team ended up customizing two different tracks, editing them together and adjusting the BPM to create a seamless soundtrack.
The result is a series of openings for the 2023 Promax Awards that celebrates the artistic experience, while acting as a companion pieces to each other.
And the winner is…
Creating the graphics and openings for this year’s Promax Awards has been a creatively rewarding journey. It’s always a thrill to see static images and thematic concepts start to take life as they come into motion. The team at Promax has been a truly lovely and positive team of professionals to collaborate with, and we thank them for the opportunity to share some of our most personal work yet.
Congrats to all the nominees and winners!
For more, check our our full 2023 Promax Awards design case study.