The theme for this year’s Summit was “The Power of Participation.” The entire process of creating the intro video took that theme and brought it to life. Not only did the animation showcase the power of participation, but the video and animation teams worked extremely collaboratively—showcasing everyone’s individual strengths to create a stronger whole.
We built our main concept around the anthropomorphising of a cube, his struggle to build something on his own, and his realization that it couldn’t be done without the help of others.
We knew that we wanted to avoid any voice-over or on-screen text to tell the story. Our goal was to rely solely on the actions of our cube character to drive the story and form an emotional bond with the viewers. Because of that, music was an extremely critical part of the animation. We used Fantasia in our initial pitch as our inspiration, and hoped that the music would tie-in as directly as possible to the actions on screen. It was thrown out that it might be cool to have an actual orchestra play the piece live at Summit—“what better way to show participation, than to have an orchestra scoring the video live?”
Megan Kennedy used her network of contacts to find orchestras that could pull this off. UC Berkeley led us to the San Francisco Symphony (yes… THE San Francisco Symphony). Despite our hopes and dreams, the San Francisco Symphony was a bit out of our budget league. But, the director of the San Francisco Symphony recommended Magik*Magik to us, and they ended up being our orchestra in shining armor.
Our initial conversation with Minna, the founder of Magik*Magik, assured us that we had chosen the right group; neither our timeline nor the unusual event space restrictions phased her—she even mentioned their recent and similar performance for a TED talk. Since Minna was the composer and our main contact, we provided her with both an animatic (a roughly animated first draft of our piece) and our inspiration tracks, including Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Joseph Haydn’s “Horn Signal.” We felt that these showed a lot of personality and expression and would pair well to our animation and goals.
Over time our story for the intro changed not once but twice—which did not seem to phase Minna. Even as the deadline loomed closer, she still didn’t have any concerns about completing the composition on time despite these new challenges like a change in major plot points. Her professionalism and confidence helped put us at ease as our stress levels began to rise.
Jess Kiernan and Megan used their musical backgrounds to make sure that we were providing good feedback and direction. But Minna also gave us feedback—insightful thoughts about the story apart from just the musical elements. Her insights as an outsider helped us to see things we were unable to see after working on it for so long. Taking her feedback helped us actually see the theme of collaboration in action as our own creative process unfolded.
When we finally had our first rehearsal with Magik*Magik (only the day before the event), we knew the final performance was going to be amazing. They handled the complexity of the piece with ease despite the fact that none of the performers had previously seen or played this composition together. The next day, as people began filling the main hall and seeing that an orchestra was tuning up, we felt tangible excitement in the air. When the first note rang out, the entire room quieted. The audience sat entranced as the orchestra absolutely filled the huge room with sound, and when the finale thundered out, everyone erupted in applause. To see the music line up so perfectly with the visuals was incredible, and the orchestra truly brought our animation to life!
Not only was working with a live orchestra—especially one as professional as Magik*Magik—an amazing experience, but it brought the theme of Summit into the actual creative process. It really took all of our hard work to come together to create an impact at the Summit, and without our joint efforts and all of our collaboration, our piece could have been just a mere showcase piece. Instead it stands as a true example of the power of participation. We’re all excited for next year and we’re already looking to see how we can make next year’s Summit just as amazing!