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Love Cycle

Around this time last year my friend Stephen and I were celebrating a successful and challenging bike ride over a couple of (well deserved) beers and examining our progress on a ride tracker app called Strava. As we poured over the map I thought of Clare, who has always had an endearing love for maps and cityscapes. With our first ‘long distance Valentine’s Day’ fast approaching I came up with an idea to make her smile: I would complete a ride around San Francisco in the shape of a heart and track it using the app!

I used Google Maps and painstakingly mapped out my route. On my ride, I found myself in completely unfamiliar parts of the city, going up and down steep hills and at times confusing traffic in order to stay on track.
After biking 27 miles I made it back to the intersection of Haight St & Central Ave, the cleavage of the heart, where I initially started. I hit stop, uploaded the ride and was ecstatic when I saw that it had actually worked!

On my way back home, I ran into Jefferson McCarley, GM of the Mission Bicycle Company, where I bought my bike. I couldn’t help but give him a sneak peak of the map. Jefferson loved it and asked me if the company could write up a short but sweet blog post about my idea as a Valentine’s Day feature.

On Valentine’s Day, I shared the map with Clare on her wall and she loved it. I was thrilled that I was able to make her day even though I couldn’t be with her in Toronto. Then, unexpectedly, the Mission Bicycle blog post blog post went viral. Websites all across the country picked up on the story and I very nearly ended up becoming a human-interest story on the 6 o’clock news!

Almost a year later, I got a call from an advertising agency in New York. They loved the blog post and had designed a national ad campaign around my idea and Clare and my ’story’. They pitched the idea to Verizon, and, to make a long story short, they wanted me to star in the commercial.

It was one of the most incredible days of my life.

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The shoot started off at the Embarcadero, where I pressed start on my GPS tracking app.

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From there we headed up to North Beach, climbing up the Peter Macchiarini steps on my bike and shooting up and down Fresno alley.

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Got a little action around the trolley cars Russian Hill, rode through the chaos in Chinatown, and ended up at Haight & Central to make the cleavage for the heart.

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The most exhilarating take involved the police shutting down Stockton street so I could fly down the street at 50 mph with an arm car driving a camera only inches from my wheels.

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And for anyone who is wondering, the actress in the end is not Clare. It was Monica Barbaro. That would have been too perfect! Monica was great to work with and everyone on set was asking about Clare back in Toronto and the secret to long distance.

I had the pleasure of working with some true pros, like Tom Carney and Greg Baldi. This monster, operated by Greg and his team, is typically used to shoot action movies and car commercials.

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Due to time constraints, there wasn’t enough time to get all the shots done in one day with one person. We needed to shoot two cyclists simultaneously. Enter my body-double Ranbir Sanghera. Ranbir and I were dressed exactly alike. They even made him a wig to match my long hair!

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I showed this to my friend Greg and his response was “Wow Payam, you’re right up there with Catherine Zeta Jones!” I’ll take it.

What do I have planned for this Valentines Day you ask? I’m thinking chocolate and flowers.


If you were cool in school…

If you were cool in high school you didn’t ask too many questions. You could tell who’d been to last night’s big metal concert by the new t-shirts in the hallways. You didn’t have to ask and that’s what cool was: the ability to deduce, to know without asking. And the pressures to stimulate coolness means not asking when you didn’t know, which is why kids grow ever more stupid.

A yearbook’s endpages, filled with promises to stay in touch, stand as proof of the uselessness of a teenager’s promise. Not like I’m dying for a letter from the class stoner ten years on, but…

Do you remember the way girls would call out “Love you!” conveniently leaving out the “I” as if they didn’t want to commit to their own declaration?

I agree that the “I” is a pretty heavy concept and hope you didn’t get uncomfortable if I should go into some deeper stuff here.

My friend Willem is travelling around the world and documenting all the cool stuff he sees. This was something he saw written on a white board on his trip from Alberta to B.C.

Sir Ken Robinson discusses the negative effects of school on children’s creativity. Are we just educating children to become professors? Professors who feel their body is just a tool to carry their brain around?

In the end, what is all of this for? Does it make us happy?


Influencers: How Trends And Creativity Become Contagious

Incredible and inspiring movie about the power of Influencers in our culture. My favourite quote: “When you get to a certain place - if someone has helped you get to where you are - you must help identify younger talent and be the mentor for somebody else” —Sky Gellatly

See the full website.


CRC Photo shoot

CRC Photos
Some photos from a recent shoot with the Canadian Research Chairs at York University.


Yale: Off the Wall

This past weekend I took a 10 hour bus ride to New York City, followed by a two-hour train to New Haven to check out the Yale Graphic Design Graduate Show: Off the Wall. I have been an avid follower of the school’s work for the past year and thought it was finally time to see it in person.

The show runs from May 15-22, but I wanted to be among the first to see it. I arrived at the exhibit just 2 hours after it had officially opened, but to my surprise, the students were still setting up! At first I was slightly disappointed that my long journey was rewarded by a half finished show. Fortunately, most of the work was there to be viewed as the pieces were still in the process of being arranged. The majority of the students were present, working hard to complete their show. It was actually quite a laid-back environment and many students were kind enough to walk me through the show and explain their ideas about the exhibit - an opportunity I may not have experience had I visited during the reception.

Off the Wall is a unique kind of exhibit where, as the name would imply, all of the work is off of the wall - it’s on the floor instead. This model distributes student work randomly throughout the gallery, thereby flattening any hierarchy that may occur in a traditional gallery setting. The idea behind this approach is that design is not art; it does not need to be place on a pedestal (maybe just two-inch thick foam platforms). It also encourages the idea that design needs to be presented in its true form and that is has to be accessible to the viewer.

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One technical drawback to this set-up was that due to the overhead lighting, all of the pieces printed on glossy paper was difficult to view straight on - some things just don’t become apparent until they’ve finally been executed.
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In a traditional gallery setting where work is hung on a wall, there is a predetermined orientation from which the work should be viewed, but since having the work on the floors allows viewers to walk around the work, the orientation of the work is left to the viewer’s interpretation.
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Thesis books produced by each of the students of the graduating class.
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Gallery window display, using Replica.
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I should mention that screen work will also be presented on digital screens, laying flat on the ground, just like the print work. Unfortunately that portion was not fully complete by the time I had to catch my train back to NYC. You can view all the pieces on the Off the Wall website.

You can watch the full interview I did with Daniel Koppich, who was part of the space planning group for the show.

A warm thank you and congratulations goes out to all of the graduating students who welcomed me into the setting up process that day. Your hospitality and passion for the show made it an afternoon I will not soon forget. I wish you all the best.


Workshops: BASICS, FACES, PLACES, THINGS

Jared and I are running a series of workshops every Friday this month.
Basics, Faces, Places & Things
40″ x 60″ promotional poster, designed by Jonathon Yule

March 5th, Basics: A general overview of photography equipment to help you understand the functions of a camera and overcome any technical challenges. Bring your camera!

March 12th, Faces: Focusing on portrait photography and studio lighting. Also covering the RAW workflow for editing your portrait photos.

March 19th, Places: Focusing on landscape photography, street photography and event photography. Also covering the RAW workflow for editing your landscape photos.

March 26th, Things: Focusing on product photography, studio lighting and how to shoot your design work.

The workshops are open to everyone, so please feel free to join us, even if you’re not a YSDN student. Every Friday in March from 2-6PM at the TEL building, YSDN Lab 4, York University. Check out the Facebook event for more details.


The Loop (continued)

Here are more examples of loops, as part of research for my upcoming project.




















And here are some more music videos:


OFFF 2009 Main Titles - Prologue

Every few years, I come across a body of work that really moves me. Sam Javanrouh’s work did that for me over 4 years ago; it made me see photography in a whole new light, and since then I have lived and breathed it to the point that it has almost become my career. If it was not for Sam, I would have never realized my love for visuals and creating imagery. It was through Sam and Shahin that I discovered YSDN - otherwise I might have been doing something horrible with my life… like studying business!

I recently came across the work of Kyle Cooper while browsing on Motionographer. His work on the OFFF 2009 Main Titles absolutely blew me away. The harmony between skillful typography, graphic forms and beautiful cinematography create a hybrid that makes me drool!

Cooper earned a M.F.A. in Graphic Design from the Yale School of Art (what I currently consider to be the best place in the world to study design, and a place I wish to study at one day), where he studied independently with Paul Rand. He is responsible for starting Imaginary Forces in 1996, and Prologue in 2003, and has since been credited with almost single-handedly revitalizing the main title sequence as an art form.

I had the great pleasure of attending Cooper’s keynote presentation at Design Thinkers 2009, and had a chance to hear his stories from his days back in Yale, as well as his views about his career. Perhaps the most inspiring thing I took away from the keynote was this: Cooper used to feel like a frustrated director, wishing he could be a filmmaker, but feeling like he had not fully achieved his dreams since he was only doing open title sequences for movies. However he now feels the open title sequences are essential to setting the tone and the mood for a film, and therefore he has devoted his career to producing a ‘Prologue’ for some of the best films made today.

I had been getting quite tired and bored with conventional print graphic design, and was considering just becoming a photographer after I graduate this year. But after experiencing Cooper’s work, I have once again seen the light; maybe there is a way to do both design and photography. I want to take my love for photography (light/composition/cinematography) and output it as a time based medium - video. I want to combine this with what I have learned about typography and graphic design, to create the ultimate medium of story telling. I don’t necessarily want to create open title sequences, but over the next few years I would like to experiment with different ways of telling a story through time-based media. I have almost undoubtedly decided to pursue a career in this field, rather that print.

Thank you Kyle Cooper; I hope to have the privilege of working with you one day.


The Loop

The next project in time-based is focus on creating the idea of a loop. Here are some of the Loops that I am looking at for inspiration, more to come.


W/RP

For project 2, we were given the challenge of creating an academy leader. I had been wanting to experiment with geometric perspective-localized paintings of typography on three-dimensional spaces, using projector-stencil techniques. This was inspired by artists such as George Rousse and Felice Varini, whose works I studied years ago. My goal was to create a motion sequence, utilizing this technique over a period of time, to create an optical illusion, ultimately blurring the line between 2D and 3D. By moving the camera away from its optimal perspective, I was able to warp the numbers and create a unique series of forms.

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I had to choose a space with simple forms to act as a neutral canvas, but one that would offer numerous geometric shapes and angle variations to create an interesting opportunity for this technique. The Ross Building at York University came to mind. I started going there to make photographs when I was in high school and I have been in love with this concrete jungle ever since. If you’re around the York campus, take a walk through the area and see the drawings for yourself.

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I spent a full weekend projecting numbers onto my chosen surfaces and tracing them with chalk, then filled them in - thank you, Cheryl, Jared and Shane for the help!

This was a very rough first test run. I simply filmed the path I wanted to travel in and chopped in up in Final Cut to create equal 1-second intervals between numbers.


This was my second approach, in which I only focused on forming one number at a time, instead of trying consecutively move from one number to the next. This option allots more frames for a smoother transition, but is arguably less interesting that the previous take.


This was shot at night with a burst of flash for each shot. I still moved the camera around, but the light created more contrast between the light and its surroundings, isolating it from any other factors. Although I felt that this was effective, it did not convey the true essence of what the wall drawings were about.


In this final experiment, the camera was actually placed in a consistent position, and instead the position of the light was changed to show the effect of the drawing of a 3D surface. However, again, I did not feel it did the drawings justice.

This was one of the most ambitious projects I have taken on since I have been in YSDN, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great to be spending a lot of time outdoors and using my hands to create something, rather than being on the computer from start to finish.


Festival Visionsonic Open Titles

I was really inspired by the treatment of type in this video. I have always considered video or photography as flat, two-dimensional images, but as this sequence clearly shows, they can be interpreted as three-dimensional spaces. All it takes it some imagination. They have the images and drawn imaginary angles that extend from objects, and use those lines as the foundation for text. I also admire the close relationship between type and image. Type has been treated as an element in the atmosphere, therefore if, for example, the view is obstructed by a pillar, the type is as well. I do, however, feel that the choice of typography could have been better.


Light, Duration, Form and Sound Project

These are my results for the first project I completed for my time-based communication course.


For the first exercise, we got into groups and were assigned the task of capturing 60 images to create a time-lapse sequence. My group and I interpreted this as an opportunity to play with stop motion photography, so we photographed Kyle jumping at a consistent distance from the camera, on every 6-degree interval, 360 degrees around the camera.


In this exercise, that criteria was to create a sequence of similarly shaped objects to play with transitions between forms. My partner Kyle and I filmed the faces of different people sitting in a consistent location in the frame, and I played with the editing to create a transiting between their faces.


For the next part of the assignment, we were supposed to create a 1-minute sound sequence which would convey a certain mood or emotion, to create an auditory experience. I wanted to create the feeling of space travel and suspense. I got great help from my friend Anas, who is a DJ/electronic music producer, to create this original soundtrack on Ableton Live.


The last part of the challenge was to produce a 1-minute visual sequence that would strengthen the mood that the audio was trying to create. My initial ideas were very literal, and quite boring, but one night while enjoying an afternoon snack of baguette bread with an olive oil and vinegar dip, I noticed the beautiful forms that appeared in the olive oil and vinegar mix. When mixed, it appeared like a microcosm of the cosmos. Its simplicity leave a lot for the imagination, but the solid forms create emphasis of the sounds and build of suspense.

These are frames from some other textures that were filmed, but did not make it into the final piece. Although many are more complex and interesting than the ones that were chosen, I felt the simplicity of shapes in the final movie were more fitting to the soundtrack.
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Some of the videos where altered in Color, a very interesting application in Final Cut Studio which I am starting to learn. However none of those altered videos were using in the final video.

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I produced the visuals by mixing various ingredients (such as olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, cream, alka seltzer, food colouring, etc) on a plane, and filmed them using a Canon 7D with the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.


Nocturne


See it at 1080p

Vincent Laforet’s sequal to Reverie, called Nocturne is a short film shot with the new Canon 1D Mark IV. Taking advantage of an insane ISO capability (reaching up to 102,400), the project was filmed during the night in LA with only available/ambient light.

Due to the nature of video, the shutter speed needs to remain at least equal to the frame rate. And until now, ISO capabilities restricted film makers with what they could and couldn’t shoot, based on availability of light. But with rise of HDDSLRs such as the 5D MKII and 7D, filmmakers are on their way to being liberated from the constraints of lighting. I am inspired by the rise of such cameras, as it will allow anyone to shoot and produce films by just using available light. Complex lighting set-ups will no longer be required to mimic reality. And, perhaps, in the near future, the look of cinematography in films will transform from what we see today.


Tripod Solution

This what I do when I’m stuck without a tripod, or a proper base at least, and I need to get in the picture with my family or friends…

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Photoblog, continued…

Although I have stopped posting photos on my photoblog of 4 years, colourblind.ca, I would still like to have a place where I can post random images I create, even if they are not part of a larger project. Here’s one I took of myself as a test shot before doing a shoot. And yes, I did actually shave my head, it’s not Photoshop!

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Going Steady

I am getting more and more interested in working with time-based media, and I think with my background and still photography, video is the perfect next step for my visual explorations; and the 5D MK II is the perfect tool for it. However I did find camera shake to be a huge issue. I want to be able to have fluent motion in my video like cinematic films. I found this demo video and tutorial by a guy named Jean-Michel Gueugnot from France.

Luckily, the device is very easy and affordable to build yourself, so I’m going to give it a shot very soon:


Welcome!

I’ve been working pretty hard in the past little while alongside Veronica, Jonathon, Cheryl & Willem to create a central website that gathers all my Graphic Design and Photography work, as well as my blog all in one place.

As I phase out colourblind and XD, I hope to make this the place where I will post my various explorations. In the next year I hope to experiment with video as well as motion graphics, in combination with information design and 3D animation.

Thanks for visiting, I hope you’ll check back often.

Best,

Payam.