(5 min read)
Animation has become a booming focal point of design. Musicians, film directors, and even bloggers have come to use animation as a way to relay their messages. Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila has used it to their advantage too, especially in their most recent concert that took place at the Byblos Music Festival in Lebanon this August.
We, at Caustik Studios, helped the band bring their animated vision to life. We spoke with Rend Shamma, who was the lead creative force behind creating breakout Lebanese band, Mashrou’ Leila’s 80 minute concert in a way that stayed true to their eclectic narrative. Rend told us about her experience creating Leila’s videos, and how 80 minutes of concert visuals were created in a mere 30 days.
How did your career at Caustik begin?
I was living in New York, and felt it was time to bring my talent to the Middle East. Many people leave to study abroad and never come back, and I did not want to join the ‘brain drain’club. Instead, I decided to bring my education back to my roots and make a name for myself in my father’s hometown. After a few searches for animation studios in the region, I knew immediately there was only one company that I wanted to work for, Caustik Studios. I got in touch with them, and now two years later I continue to work here.
How were you able to complete such a large and in depth task in such a short amount of time?
Passion, excitement, determination, very long nights, and a bit of fear.
Mashrou’ Leila is known to be an out-of-the-box Lebanese pop culture icon, was it difficult for you to adapt to their style?
In the beginning it was, having had only 30 days to create the visuals I think I was paralyzed for the first week having no clue where or how to begin. Finally I just went for it with one song, and after that never looked back.
Tell us a bit about how you synchronized your designs to the beat of each song?
That was a rather interesting part of this project, there are obvious beats to each song that need to be mirrored in the visuals. However there are also a lot that go unnoticed to the untrained ear (mine included). Mashrou’ Leila shared their ‘click tracks’ with me. These are a series of audio cues that enable the band members to stay in sync with one another. In turn this allowed for the visuals to be in exact synchronization with the bands performance. Towards the last week of production Carl Gerges, the drummer, would sit by my side to fine tune each and every visual to make sure not a single beat was off.
A video posted by Caustik Studios (@caustikstudios) on
The visuals included Arabic illustrations in the form of pop cultural speech bubbles, people dancing at Mashrou’ Leila concert in the past, neon signs, footage of BO18 and more. Can you explain where the content of these edited visuals came from?
That is one of the most important aspects of this project. The videos were made up of motion graphics, 2D character animation, 3D animation, and heavily edited and stylized footage. The graphics and animations were created here at Caustik. One of the coolest parts of this project was that the footage came from a mash-up of local talent. For their concert at the UK Barbican Center last November, Mashrou’ Leila had an open call to fans as well as local artists inviting them to send videos to be displayed at the concert.
While the videos were all great in their own way, they wanted a more cohesive story to be told. So those videos became the base content for the Ibn El Leil tour visuals.
Was Mashrou’ Leila involved in the process of creating these videos?
Extremely involved.We initially sat down together and went through their set list, they told us a bit about the meaning behind each song and what content should be used for what song. After the initial brief we would have weekly meetings to show the progress of each song and get their feedback. By the last week of production they were coming in daily and fine tuning down to the smallest detail. It was truly impressive to see how dedicated they are to their work and message.
How did this project affect your sense of community and belonging in Lebanon?
It was truly inspiring to see what a sense of community and desire Leila have. They did not merely perform a concert that shows their amazing talent, but also found a way to exhibit and enhance visibility to the Lebanese art community, which is something I truly respect. Not only did they employ Caustik, a Lebanese company, instead of internationally outsourcing the work, they were open to fan contribution on the visuals as well.
What is your favorite video from the set list?
I really don’t think I can select just one. The simplicity of Aoede, the opening song, I thought had a great emotional element to it and was a subtle and beautiful way to open the show. In stark contrast, at the climax of the show, were the loud visuals with explosions of colors for Maghawir and Raasuk, which I also loved and am so very proud of.
How does it feel to know that a crowd of thousands of people have been influenced by your hard work?
Truly unbelievable. This by far is the grandest project I have been lucky to be a part of. The thought that so many thousands of people have been exposed to it has been the biggest reward of any project I’ve ever done.
Do you feel like the animation plays as big of a role in influencing the crowd at a concert as the music itself?
I really do, whether the crowd knows it or not it turns the performance into a more wholesome experience. The music itself is a powerful thing, and having visuals, specifically ones synced in totality to the songs helps to support the bands message and further express their emotions.
Do you hope to continue animating for events like this in the future?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Well, none of this would have been possible without the contributions of so many artists, to name a few:
Areej Mahmoud, Bernard Khoury, Chadi Younes, D-arkroom, Fouad Mezher, Hady Saad, Jadd Tank, Jared McCormick, John Regalado, Lana Daher, Mollie Wolf, Phillipe Ghabayen, Rhea Chedid, Tarek Moukaddem, Steve Miles, and the many other contributors who made this project happen. If we forgot to mention you, please let us know so we can add you to the list of credits.
This is just the start. In the coming weeks we will be compiling more behind the scenes footage, pictures, and work in progress. So keep checking for new posts.
Alternatively, just like our facebook page and follow us on twitter and instagram.