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It’s All About The Gif

An evening with Parallel Teeth

We’re always keen to learn from inspirational creatives, so last week we were delighted to welcome the talented, Rob Wallace (aka Parallel Teeth) into our studio. Having recently released “I’m Easy”, a music video (pictured) with New Zealand musician Merk, we were captured by Rob’s work and his cheeky animation style. Inspired by paper cut-outs, the lastest video shows the lead singer surrounded by playful, hand-drawn animated characters with a lo-fi and nostalgic feel. Inspired to recreate these and master the art of 2D animation ourselves, we invited Rob to teach us how to make our very own gif animations!

merk gif parallel teeth

As with most studio culture, no all-staff email would be complete without the customary gif. Whatever the occasion, there’s a gif for everything! And tonight, we could let our imaginations run wild and design our very own gif in our DIY gif workshop.

After finishing up for the day, we grabbed a beer and gathered around one big table piled high with books, comics and other inspiration. Rob kicked off the session by taking us through his work, dissecting his process and explaining exactly how each project was achieved as well us telling us a bit about himself.

Rob wallace parallel teeth workshopNew Zealand born, Rob studied Graphic Design at University with plans to make it in the music industry, but whilst in his final year he did a paper on AfterEffects and was instantly hooked!

Lucky enough to be picked up by multidisciplinary studio, Special Problems, Rob began a career in the design industry. His portfolio ranges from murals, to vinyl record sleeves, but he has really made a name for himself in the world of music videos. “I grew up heavily consuming music videos as a kid,” and although he didn’t play any instruments himself, he says that, “animating let me visually explore with the rhythm.” In New Zealand, music videos receive government funding, which is great news for up and coming bands and artists alike.

One thing we were all keen to know was where Rob gets his inspiration from. He explained that a lot of his ideas come from simply putting pen to paper and doodling. Over the years he has very much become known for his love of geometric shapes and crazy character designs. He admits that he loves the theme of the Occult and plays with this theme frequently, featuring witches, ouija boards and other rituals in his storytelling.

When asked about his dream project or client he said: “I’ve always wanted to make a music video for the J-pop artist Kyary Pamyu Pamyu or the noise rock duo Lightning Bolt. Though musically very different, they both have a real playfulness to their sounds. Other than that I’d love to make some more narrative focused short tales, similar to my recent work for MTV.”

The homepage of his website and online portfolio, is bursting with moving characters from each of his projects (pictured above) from running skeletons to spinning cats, which we used to inform our brief for the evening session.

The task was simple – we each had to create an illustration and bring it to life with a small and simple movement, telling a short, but sweet story.

gif workshopWith this in mind and buzzing with different ideas, we all set to with our pens, pencils and markers, scribbling our creations onto paper. Scanning around the room we had all kind of characters being crafted, from crying watermelons to fortune tellers.

design agency inspiration workshop       gif workshopOnce these were scanned in, we were then able to get our creations on screen, ready to bring them to life! Rob took us through a step-by-step process showing us how to create simple movement in different elements of our designs.

parallel teeth group workshopThere was a real variation of styles from clean vector-based cartoons, to more sketchy style, stop motion effect creations. We all worked on Photoshop from the motion workspace, adding video layers to animate our designs. The possibilities to this process are endless and can increase in complexity by adding in frames, sketching directly onto each layer using digital animator’s brushes.


Above: Lauren created a sneezing tree, frame by frame.

animated egg gifAbove: Beth designed this adorable little egg!

animation workshop Above: Ben brought a Sausage Dog to life, strolling across his screen.

crying watermelon gifAbove: Nina was pleased with the outcome of her crying watermelon!

scull jack in a box gifAbove: Trudy’s Day of the Dead jack-in-a-Box.

We were all thrilled with the end results and it was surprising just how much we could achieve in those few hours. It was a great opportunity to step outside of our comfort zones and focus on a quick self-initiated brief. Letting your mind run free with pencil and paper is definitely good for the soul!

Not only was it great fun, but we all came away with a new skill. I feel great for adding a new string to my bow and definitely plan on taking it forward as a passion project and developing it further in my spare time. It was a pleasure to finally meet Rob and we’ll be sure to keep our eyes peeled for write ups about him in the design press, with him being ‘one to watch’ in the creative industry. Thanks so much for inspiring us Rob!

Blog written by Holly.