Studio Profile: Patrick Clair

Published:  June 24, 2011
Studio Profile: Patrick Clair

Watching the ABC’s topical-news-program-cum-skit-comedy show Hungry Beast a while ago, I was simply amazed at the animated content. One particular segment that caught my eye used quotes from that week’s news cycle and presented them as graphic collages. So intrigued, I made a note to hunt down whoever was responsible for these graphics and interview them for desktop. Alas, as the busy week ahead caught up with me, the note ended up somewhere on my never-ending ‘to do’ list.

By pure coincidence, however, I received an email a few days later from a chap named Patrick Clair asking me to check out his online portfolio. I took a quick look, and guess who it was? Yes, that’s right – the same guy who created the motion graphics for Hungry Beast. Sometimes, timing is everything. I then proceeded to spend the next half an hour or so in awe of (and completely jealous of) the beautiful intelligence of Clair’s work, and his creative approach to displaying what is often complex information in a graphical style that just makes sense.

Clair grew up in Brisbane during the 90s, long before the huge creative industry that we take for granted today had emerged – back when you had to fight for a placement that actually paid you to do something creative. “I think this was really good for all of us aspiring designers, photographers and directors, because it put the pressure on us to work hard, and we always really appreciated it whenever someone got a break into the industry,” says Clair.

Google “Trying not to be evil” from Patrick Clair on Vimeo.

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First gaining experience in the creative industry by donating his time as a runner on film shoots in Brisbane, over time Clair gravitated toward the post-production side of things and started working as a designer, editor, writer – and taking whatever work he could find really. After a few stints working for production companies, Clair headed south to Sydney to study motion design at AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School), an experience that formed the basis for the many great things to come. “Australia is really fortunate to have that film school,” says Clair. “It has an amazing array of resources at its disposal – full-size studios, experienced staff etc. The two years I spent there really allowed me to take the next step and establish myself. Plus, I made a network of mates and professional contacts that I still work with today.”

After graduating from AFTRS, Clair scored a job with MTV Australia, where he was encouraged to push himself to make work that was creative and original. Here Clair, who professes to have zero musical talent, was chuffed to be working alongside a whole bunch of talented composers and producers, commissioning music and witnessing the process of creating a score from scratch.

Yet Clair was first drawn into design when he started making live-action shorts that were very focused on aesthetics and design, though they were still basically ‘filmmaking’ more than ‘animation’. At about that time desktop computers were just getting good enough to produce really high-end motion graphics, and the field was starting to explode. “I thought, ‘This is where the really exciting innovations are taking place’,” recalls Clair.

Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus from Patrick Clair on Vimeo.

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Specifically, it’s information graphics that Clair really enjoys and excels in – design that makes people think, and, regardless of whether it’s a documentary or news story, he finds it most satisfying to work on pieces that are about sharing information and telling a story. “Motion design can be a great medium to have fun with. The technology is changing so fast that new techniques become possible all the time. You can use motion design to mash together pretty much any other medium, and I’m really passionate about innovation and finding new ways to create visuals. Motion design lets you do that.”

It wasn’t long before Clair started working for the ABC’s The Chaser, which he describes as a ‘wild ride’. Being a satirical current affairs style program, the jokes had to be up-to-theminute, which meant that most of the graphics for the show were made the day the program went to air. “It can be really exciting starting a sequence from scratch when you know it’s going to be in people’s living rooms in just a few hours,” says Clair. “At first it just scared the hell out of me, but now I find it kind of addictive, working through the panic of it all.”

Designing graphics for comedy is always going to be a challenge for any designer – it’s not just about making something look good, but making it funny as well. Clair also explains that one thing you can count on in this type of environment is that the bits that always take the longest to make will be the ones that fall flat or get cut from the show.

HungryBeast Titles 2011 from Patrick Clair on Vimeo.

On the flipside Hungry Beast is a program that is all about finding new ways to share interesting information. Clair explains that the big teams, enthusiasm and different approaches used on the show often lead to some of the most arresting work he has ever done. And this also creates a bumpy, but compelling ride for the audience. “It was definitely the hardest I’ve ever worked, with only three designers making up to eight minutes of animated TV from scratch every week,” he says. “Everyone was expected to contribute stories, which made you work across lots of different disciplines. I was a designer, but also sometimes an editor, researcher, director and even pseudojournalist. I think these kinds of roles, where one person is the main content creator from the start of the idea right through until the finished product, are going to become a much bigger part of the industry in the future. Certainly, most motion designers these days are expected to have basic editing skills and some knowledge of camera and sound issues.”

What I find is probably the most exciting thing about Hungry Beast is that Clair and his team weren’t just using graphics to brand the show, but also to create whole stories within it. Traditionally, many people regard animation as being too time-consuming and expensive to make big chunks of content. But now, Clair explains, with the right approach you can use motion graphics to create segments that are longer and more substantial.

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“Desktop technology means that design can be a quick and affordable alternative to a ‘talking head’. Typography and animation can share information with an audience in engaging and compelling ways. I think that’s a really exciting development, and one that producers will want to harness more and more as time goes on. Also, as more content moves into the crowded online market, producers are looking for more visually interesting ways of covering news and current affairs, and I think graphic sequences are one solution that will be used more and more.”

Looking to the future, Clair has some upcoming TV projects on the cards that he’s pretty excited about, though of course generally he’d like to balance that with doing some more work in advertising and music videos, as well as helping brands to make more use of motion design in creating online content. “There is a great opportunity for this,” says Clair. “Graphics can be a quick and direct way to engage your audience, and can be used to create whole pieces of content. In the next few years, I’d like to see more Australian brands starting to move in this direction.”

From desktop magazine.

7 Responses

  1. Elise

    I am the biggest Hungry Beast fan- all because of these motion graphics segments. I’ve been a graphic designer for 16 years and if I could learn new tricks like this I would in a heart beat. Fantastic work. Keep it up. Elise from Brisbane

  2. Analiese

    I am rarely moved to send a “congratulations” email (in fact not since the days of the old SBS news graphics, which are – sadly – no more) but was in awe of the Hungry Beast’s graphics throughout the series. Patrick Clair and his team did an awesome job.

  3. Steve Fletcher

    I too watch Hungry Beast with a dropped jaw!

  4. ditto Clinton. like like.

  5. Adolfo

    The guy is a genius, it does remind me a bit of the magic from Kyle Cooper

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