What do you get when you put a songwriter, an animator, an urgent message, and a handful of KB3D kits together?
Read on and you’ll find out!
The following is an introduction to Emmy Award winner and The Third Floor Visualization Supervisor Pätrick Gehlen, whose work over the past decade has included shows like Game of Thrones, Terminator: Dark Fate, The Mandalorian, and more. His most recent project used KitBash3D to create an animated music video, Astronaut Spaceman (Jared Kotler & George Vitray), whose core message is all about fighting climate change.
While some of you may recognize Astronaut Spaceman from Game Day teasers, the music video made its world-wide release this week!
KitBash3D: Pätrick, what stars had to align for this project to be possible?
Gehlen: My friend, Jared Kotler, whom I’ve known since college, sent me the song, saying how he thought it would make a great animated music video. So I listened to it many, many times and my interpretation of it grew into a story of a small band of brave scientists and determined little girl fighting to restore a spark of life to a dying Earth.
KitBash3D: What was the timeline for this project and did you have a crew to help you along the way?
Gehlen: I worked on this project part time for a month last year, before coming back to it after I finished my first short film, “Requiem for a Crab”. After I finished my film, I was ecstatic to let Jared know I was available to lend a hand in bringing Astronaut Spaceman to life. The global pandemic has slowed down many industries, including mine. My work, The Third Floor, was willing to let me take a leave of absence to work on this project with Jared.
Gehlen: I re-joined the rest of the team in the beginning of June. I had an asset team of five, one layout artist, and my friend, Danny Clark, who animated the run and walk cycle for all the main characters. And myself, of course… I did all the rest, finishing the project at the end of August.
KitBash3D: What were some challenges you feel comfortable sharing… knowing that they’ll live on the Internet until the end of time.
Gehlen: The most challenging thing was to come up with a unique, and memorable look that could be accomplished in a timely manner, and on a tight budget. I wanted to go for a faux, stop-motion kind of feel with fun, cute characters that would read as sawdust, stuffed dolls, without the need for complex cloth sims.
Gehlen: I also knew I didn’t have the time or money to model a sprawling cityscape, so that’s where KitBash3D came in handy. It just so happens that Banks Boutté, one of your co-founders, is the brother of a good friend of mine! He graciously gave me all the world kits I needed.
So after I had the kits and the model of our little girl character called Maddy, I did my first tests with Arnold and I felt that I could indeed create something cool from the comfort of my home office.
KitBash3D: What kits did you use from our library?
KitBash3D: Can you elaborate on your artistic experience with the kits?
Gehlen: I knew that with my timeframe and budget I could never afford to build the sprawling city that the little girl wanders through from scratch. And luckily, I totally did not have to! My layout artist, Kelly Nakasone, would just use cubes to represent buildings in the first pass, and then after I did a final animation pass, I would just bring in my lego-like set of KitBash3D buildings and swap them out as needed.
Gehlen: The scale and placement was dictated by achieving a nice composition per shot, so I wasn't shy about shrinking or scaling building as needed for the greatest result. Then I could adjust the lighting and fog in Arnold. It was one of my favorite parts of the process....seeing the world come to life around the action in each shot.
KitBash3D: When it comes to creating art that is not just deeply personal, but spreads a message you whole-heartedly (and sometimes desperately) believe in, how is that experience different from client work?
Gehlen: Good question. When my friend, Jared Kotler, who did the music (he and his team did a fantastic job), approached me about coming up with a story to go along with his song, I felt that this was really something that could be important to me.
Gehlen: My wife and I have five nieces between us, and we would like them to have a livable planet to grow up in. I feel very passionately about taking action to fight climate change, so I was able to siphon off some of that energy whenever the days seemed particularly long. But even with long days, it never really felt like work. I've worked on some big name projects that I'm very proud to have been on, but there is definitely something special about being able to focus on something from your own heart.
KitBash3D: Last question, what's your advice to younger artists who may feel that they either don't have a voice or it may be futile to put out hopeful/inspiring/thought-provoking art in a sea of Internet chaos in 2020?
Gehlen: I would just say...make stuff! A lot of people have a lot of ideas, but there are far fewer that follow through and complete something. It may not be perfect, and there is absolutely no way to guarantee it will be the next “dude drinking cranberry juice on a skateboard lip-syncing Fleetwood Mac”, but it's still important to create. And that is especially true if it's about something dear to your heart.
I mean, I am doing as much as I can realistically do to get Astronaut Spaceman out in front of people, because it's a message I believe in...but ultimately I've learned that at some point you need to be able to step back and stay out of the results. It's also important to remember that whether or not something goes viral isn't a real indication of it's worth.
Having said that, I'd love it if everyone reading this that enjoys Astronaut Spaceman would share it with everyone they know ;)
About Pätrick Gehlen:
Pätrick Gehlen is a multiple Emmy Award winner and Visualization Supervisor at The Third Floor whose work over the past decade has included shows like Game of Thrones, Terminator: Dark Fate, and The Mandalorian.
His recent project, Astronaut Spaceman, used KB3D to create an animated music video about combatting climate change. KB3D previously featured the project on Game Day and are proud to promote the project's recent world wide release this week.