ATypI’08 | Typophile Film Fest 4

Last September 19th – at ATypI’08 – The Old and The New in Saint Petersburg – the fourth instalment of the Typophile Film Fest was presented. A selection of short typographic films was shown, hailing from Portugal, the Netherlands, Austria, Canada, and the US. Those films created a visual mash-up of motion design, typographic animation and short stories. It included  broadcast motion design and typographic eye candy from Trollbäck + Company, Strange Attractors, Heebok Lee, Nick Shinn, Juan Leguizamón as well as exclusive interviews and cuts from the acclaimed documentary film Helvetica.

Just to give those who couldn’t attend a general idea – and hopefully to convince some of you to submit your typographic shorts for the fifth edition –, here’s the full program. I linked to movies whenever they are available online and added the odd comment.

Typophile Film Fest 4: Opening Sequence
Brent Barson, Eric Gillett and BYU students | USA
Titles (3:29)

The One Show Silver Pencil winning opening titles to the fourth Typophile Film Fest are gorgeous and very touching – they literally have moved viewers to tears. I conducted an interview with its creators over at Unzipped.

Marcos Ceravolo, Ryan Uhrich | Canada
Student film (1:47)
Vancouver Film School

Typographics – an informative motion graphics piece on typography – is a student project done by Boca (aka Marcos Ceravolo) and Ryan Uhrich for the Motion Design Class in the Digital Design Program at the Vancouver Film School. I discussed it on Unzipped.

Helvetica Extra: Michael Bierut “On Helvetica and Branding”
Gary Huswit | USA
Documentary film extra (2:11)

The Helvetica outtakes offer additional insights into the documentary. Although it’s understandable that they were left out for brevity and to improve the flow of the movie, having the opportunity to see them was great.

MetLife IF
Trollbäck + Company | USA
Broadcast advertisement (1:03)

For this entirely graphic 60-second MetLife commercial Trollbäck + Company created a narrative following the word “if” through many incarnations, including handwritten chicken scratch, sweeping cursive characters, and a bleeding inkblot. The film features lettering only; no type except some characters that were redrawn. Although I do like the commercial I always find it bizarre when hand drawn graphics suddenly morph into three-dimensional graphics, like the balloon and the “i” that lifts off like a space rocket. I have nothing against the technique in itself, but somehow it disrupts my suspension of disbelief.

PopJam Interstitials
Strange Attractors | The Netherlands
Broadcast video (0:55)

The interstitials for W+K Tokyo Lab / NHK PopJam Deluxe look very restless, very electric and very Strange Attractors. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. ;)

Let’s see you laugh at my… Arms of Helvetica! …in extra bold!

Enter The Serif
Johann Pascual | USA
Student film (1:54)
California College of the Arts

Enter The Serif combines typography with fragments from the classic Drunken Master – a mix of martial arts and slapstick comedy from 1978 which propelled Jackie Chan to mainstream success. The short film pits Univers Chang of the Sans Serif Clan against Sabon Huang of the Serif Clan. Excerpts of Drunken Master are alternated with dialogue screens that are inspired by the work of Jan Tschichold: his classic, centered serif period and his assymetrical neue Typographie period. Some bits are laugh-out-loud funny.

Helvetica Extra: Hoefler and Frere-Jones “Font Stories”
Gary Huswit | USA
Documentary film extra (1:58)

This outtake from Helvetica left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand it was comforting to see that, yes, there are other people that are just as enamoured with type and obsess over it as I do. Yet on the other hand it made me realise how non-type people must look at us when we get started. We can be such geeks. :P

Moonlight in Glory
Trollbäck + Company | USA
Short film (2:38)

A visual experiment where the graphics become the creator of the sounds rather than a reactive afterthought. Set to “Moonlight in Glory” from My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, the groundbreaking, sample-driven collaboration between David Byrne and Brian Eno. Beguiling and utterly fascinating; one of the better applications of all caps ITC Avant Garde Gothic.

I Can’t Wait for Spring
Arthur Layzer | USA
Short film (2:39)

Helvetica Extra: Bruno Steinert “On Helvetica and the Macintosh”
Gary Huswit | USA
Documentary film extra (3:27)


Nick Shinn, Breck Campbell, Eric Shinn | Canada
Type promo (0:48)

The type promo for Softmachine is a very nice little conceptual piece. Words slide in and out of the screen, replacing each other and creating word associations over a background of continuously shifting ice cream colours. The delicate repetitive music which accompanies this gentle, almost hypnotising movement is by Nick Shinn’s son Eric, and is generated directly from the text. I think this is a perfect visualisation for this specific kind of type design. You can view the type promo on Breck Campbell’s website (the “S” in the square second column from the right, six rows down).

Tread Softly
Heebok Lee | USA
Short film (2:26)

Tread Softly sees Heebok Lee visualising the William Butler Yeates poem He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven on music by Hajime Mizoguchi and Yoko Kanno from the Escaflowne movie soundtrack. The movie uses Zuzana Licko’s Mrs Eaves and Le Vengeur Agaçant by Jean Jacques Tachdjian, with calligraphy by Xin Xiangyan. Letters and words disintegrate into gossamer filaments, two female models stand in dream-like environments while the camera effortlessly shifts from macro to micro photography and back again. A sophisticated and lush movie which verges on the bombastic.

Thèse Sur La Typographie
Julien Vallée | Canada
Short film (2:01)

While he was studying graphic design at UQÀM Julien Vallée produced the Thèse Sur La Typographie short film at ÉSAG Penninghen de Paris. Based on Kurt SchwittersThesis on Typography, this stop-motion and motion-graphic typography piece melds influences pouring in from the Dada movement. It examines the underlying idea that the overabundance of graphical elements in a typographical piece may cause the content to become unreadable. Intricate, seemingly random patterns of strips of type and text peel themselves free and delicately rearrange themselves on micro-bleep music by experimental electronic artist Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai). For all its degraded, rough imagery and grainy image quality this is a surprisingly poetic and mesmerizing film. FF DIN caps and constructed techno display type are used throughout.

Helvetica Extra: Massimo Vignelli “Post-Modernism and the Flower Children”
Gary Huswit | USA
Documentary film extra (2:32)

I don’t know, Massimo Vignelli may be a living legend and design giant and bona fide celebrity and all, but when he talks about typography I trust his advice as much as I would my general practitioner when it comes to brain surgery. There, I said it.

a font
JP Kelly | USA
Student film (1:14)
California College of the Arts

Rui Abreu | Portugal
Type promo (1:21)

The type promo for Rui Abreu’s is surprisingly sophisticated. A number of seemingly random white bars lying on a desk start moving and mutate into characters, making a thousand images on a wall disappear. Completely created in CGI, it is directed and animated by Rui Abreu himself, and features scenic design by Catarina Vaz and sound design by Nuno Martino.

Ian Mitchel | UK
Type promo (1:30)

The type promo for Ian Mitchel’s monospaced tech face Predict cleverly plays with letters to shift from one word to another.

Helvetica Extra: Stefan Sagmeister “One Typeface Is Not Enough” and “On Designing for an Audience”
Gary Huswit | USA
Documentary film extra (2:24)

This Type of World
Juan Leguizamon | USA
Student film (9:53)
California College of the Arts

Juan Leguizamon proves that all it takes is some good to great ideas, some half-decent acting and a crew of very enthusiastic co-students to deliver a delightful short. Archetypical typefaces are thrust into the “real world” and a number of type-related concepts are explained through metaphors ranging from cute to outright hilarious. It starts a bit slow – fortunately the beginning part was edited in the version we saw in Saint Petersburg – but once it catches steam it provides guffaws galore, like the fragment with the self-help group where Myriad complains about being the default font, and Arial about constantly being mistaken for Helvetica.

Strange Attractors | The Netherlands
Broadcast video (1:25)

TokyoChat looks wildly imaginative, deliciously eclectic and very Strange Attractors. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. ;)

Helvetica Extra: Erik Spiekermann “Typomaniac” and “His Approach to Design”
Gary Huswit | USA
Documentary film extra (2:24)

Joris Bacquet, Bastien Dubois, Simon Moreau | France
Short film (7:23)

Although it was originally scheduled I don’t remember seeing the dreamy surreal CGI short by Joris Bacquet, Bastien Dubois and Simon Moreau in Saint Petersburg. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t doze off. :P Anyhow, it can also be viewed here.

Le Grand Content
Clemens Kogler | Austria
Short film (3:58)

I’d never have expected to crack up from watching animated graphs, but I did.

Le Grand Content examines the omnipresent Powerpoint-culture in search for its philosophical potential. Intersections and diagrams are assembled to form a grand “association-chain-massacre” which challenges itself to answer all questions of the universe and some more. Of course, it totally fails this assignment, but in its failure it still manages to produce some magical nuance and shades between the great topics death, cable tv, emotions and hamsters.

This one is genuinely funny and had most of the audience in stitches. Using diagrams inspired by the site created by Jessica Hagy, the film plays a game of marabout d’ficelle, stringing together barely related topics to create hilarious juxtapositions. And another very nice use of ITC Avant Garde Gothic I must add.

Wait, did I just approve the use of ITC Avant Garde Gothic? For the second time in one single post!? I must be hallucinating! Who’d have thought…

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  1. just quick, the helvetica extras, are they the same of available on the dvd? cause i have the dvd…

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jan. 7, 2009
  2. I wouldn’t know – I haven’t got the DVD myself. I suppose so.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jan. 8, 2009
  3. wow, i´m check all the links and watch all the videos wonderfull, coming soon to Mexico with the Festival

    Posted by el norberto on Jan. 8, 2009

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