Artists Use Technology to Tell Stories, Enhance Artistic Vision
Anti-Bullying in 3D: Okiemute Inweh ’06
Olu is an alligator who goes on adventures with his friends,
and together they send a 3-dimensional message of love and tolerance.
Olu and Friends is the brainchild of Okiemute “Okie” Inweh ’06 and Sean Brissett, co-founders and partners at Inway Studios, a content development studio with offices in New York City, Atlanta and Miami. Okie moved to New York City from Nigeria as a child and headed to art school in Miami, Fla., following his time in Oswego. Today, he independently produces 3D animated shows for children for television and online delivery—and operates 3D animation summer camps sponsored by the Miami Heat professional basketball team at Miami-Dade College in Florida and the city of North Miami Beach.
“The 3D animation camps show children the beginning stages of how favorite video games and animated movies are created,” said Okie, who graduated from Oswego with a bachelor’s in studio art. “Students learn the ins and outs of creative development from concept to execution.”
Okie mostly uses Autodesk Maya in his own work, but he’s also rooted in the traditional: sculpting and painting by hand. Starting out as a traditional artist laid the groundwork for the introduction of technology to his artistic vision, said Okie, who decided to attend Oswego after a visit to Tyler Hall, where he saw art on display.
“It’s euphoric,” Okie said. “Working with digital software has enabled me to create what I couldn’t with my hands, and I can take it to the next level artistically, giving me the freedom to create whatever my imagination can fathom.”
One of those projects is the 3D animated series for kids called Olu and Friends, inspired by the reptile common to Okie’s new hometown. The pilot is set to release in 2019. The project merges his artistic vision with a strong anti-bullying message for children.
“The future of technology in art is everything and everywhere,” said Okie.
See online exclusive content for links to Okie’s work at https://www.inwaystudios.com/
In Full Color: Jenn Lee ’12
Color. It can be the ingredient that changes the drab and boring into the brilliant and extraordinary. For Jenn Lee ’12, it’s where art and technology merge to tell a vibrant story.
Jenn is a colorist for ECG Productions in Atlanta, where she uses technology to colorfully enhance digital film. From music videos to commercials for such clients as Mercedes and Delta, Jenn artfully applies the hues that make a visual become vivid.
Jenn landed in the niche field of digital colorists after former SUNY Oswego Associate Professor of Broadcast Production Jane Winslow encouraged her to learn some of the tools of this highly technical trade. Today, Jenn uses software called Davinci Resolve together with a specialized control surface called Tangent Element Control Surface.
“My desk looks a little like a spaceship,” Jenn said of the intricate console panels of buttons, knobs, balls and wheels that serve as the artist’s tools.
Jenn, who was accepted as a member of the Colorist Society International in 2018, has a goal of taking scenes and building “subtle emphasis” on certain aspects: shadows on skin, the liquid in a glass, a kerchief lying on the pavement—anything that enhances the story.
“I try to guide the viewer through the scene and show them what to focus on, hopefully without them noticing what I’m doing,” Jenn said. “I’m a huge fan of really dramatic skies or big clouds that give you that feeling of being small, or that you are in some sort of magical world.”
What are Jenn’s favorite colors?
“I really like deep teals, blues and grey.”
Jenn has never colorized a famous Oswego sunset, but her appreciation for photography was sharpened at her alma mater.
“I take a lot of inspiration from my time at Oswego, and its beautiful sunsets,” she said. “I really loved wandering around the Rice Creek Field Station trails alone with a camera in the fall and winter when it was quiet, and still. Being in the darkroom was probably almost as fun as taking the pictures, it’s probably where I started getting into manipulating images. Without spending so much time developing real film, I don’t think I would have had the hard-won understanding of how cameras actually worked.”
Jenn hopes that as technology becomes exponentially more complex, colorists gain more recognition.
“It would be really nice not to be mistaken for a hair colorist every time someone asks what I do,” she said. “Currently, there is not an academy award for colorists. I’d like for colorists to one day be counted among those that have a significant technical contribution to a film and can get recognition for that.
“Right now, not many people who work in Film or TV know that my job even exists. It’s not uncommon for me to be at a film mixer or industry party and meet people who don’t know what a colorist is. The Colorist Society International is doing a lot to increase visibility for colorists, which is great.”
An ECG Productions team that included Jenn went to work with Atlanta, Ga.,-based band The Hearsay to craft an awesome music video.
“It was really cool because with it being a film noir we talked about the color grade very early in production. I was given a lot of freedom with this one and it was really great to just have fun and do some weird stuff.” Check it out here: www.ecgprod.com/the-hearsay-warning-signs/
Want links to more of Jenn’s work? There’s more great things to see!
This reel shows off the value of a flawless color grade: https://www.ecgprod.com/ecg-productions-color-reel-2018/
Jenn’s blog page at ECG Productions: https://www.ecgprod.com/author/jennifer-lee/
Jenn’s instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jennimlee
Translating to Digital Art: Asli Kinsizer M’19
OSWEGO Alumni Magazine features cover art by international student and master’s degree candidate, Asli Kinsizer M’19. With its rich palette and intricate designs, the cover reflects both SUNY Oswego students and alumni, Asli shared.
“Portrayed on the top layer is a hard-working, goal-setting silhouette. The background is a world formed by coding. When you start your college education, you dream of completing your classes with success and finding a job where you can advance more in your field. I believe that students here at SUNY Oswego are different, unique and work hard to achieve goals. There are many students from many different countries, and one of them is me. If you want to succeed further in your career after your graduation, you have to keep up with the current time and all that it provides to you with technology.” – Asli Kinsizer
Asli joined the SUNY Oswego community by chance: She traveled to Oswego in 2015 as part of the international Genius Olympiad, coordinated by Dr. Fehmi Damkaci of the Chemistry Department. A native of Turkey, she brought her Turkish high school students with her to compete in the annual project fair that draws hundreds of participants from more than 50 countries each year to compete in science, art, creative writing and architectural design.
“I fell in love with the campus, the environment and the art department here in Oswego and decided to continue and advance in my career, and with that, my family moved from Turkey to Oswego. In Turkey, I was an AP Studio Art and an Art Portfolio teacher at a private high school. I have been teaching for more than 20 years. Along with teaching, I completed my first master’s degree in graphic design in Turkey.” – Asli Kinsizer
Before arriving at SUNY Oswego, Asli only worked in traditional methods as an artist. It was at Oswego that she introduced Adobe Programs to her toolset, as well as screen printing.
“I love to use screen printing to turn my digital works into traditional prints. At the end of the day, I rely on technology to share my artwork with peers and others or even create my online portfolio for exhibitions.” – Asli Kinsizer
Asli, who works as a graduate assistant in the Oswego art department, enjoys the cyclical nature of art and design, including creating new versions of old classics.
“Everything’s built like a cycle, especially in advertising. It seems to many young artists that art strays away from the traditional, then it returns even better than before. Something that I have noticed is how brands modify their advertisement to create similarities to prior ones. The ‘rainbow or the colorful’ version of the early Apple logo returned, or the classic Adidas Stan Smith shoes came back and gave the ‘tbt-vibe’ to the current time we live in.” – Asli Kinsizer
Inner Voices: Jon Lipow ’94
The voice of Jon Lipow ’94.
Jon is a voice actor for dozens of commercial projects requiring the sounds that make story characters, places and objects come alive. From motion pictures to video games like Overwatch to the animated series Star Wars: Resistance, which debuted this fall with Lucas Film Animation, Jon vocalizes the human and non-human sounds that enthrall audiences.
It’s an art form that complements Jon’s work as a comedian and composer of music—and one that remains in high demand both in conjunction with technology, and despite technology.
On any given day, Jon can be found in his Los Angeles studio, editing voiceover projects and auditions using Pro Tools software: cutting out breaths or plosives, clicks and pops, with ease and speed. Voice actors also use Source Connect software to send audio feeds anywhere using the Internet, providing a high-quality audio signal that is better than broadcast quality.
“It’s remarkable,” said the broadcasting major, who remembers a project from his college days that involved seamlessly cutting, editing and physically splicing together a ¼-inch audio tape.
“To imagine what the editors and producers had to do with physical tape media before digital recording and editing makes one really appreciate the advancements of technology,” Jon said. In Jon’s audio world, the advancements have replaced all of the expensive analog and digital hardware previously used to improve the sound of a recording, like equalizers, compressors and preamps. Now, they are often available as plug-ins or software equivalents, often at a fraction of the cost.
While robotic voices like Siri and Alexa continue to become more and more lifelike, they remain nowhere near human enough to replace voice actors for many projects. Jon, whose resume encompasses Robot Chicken, The Incredible Hulk (2008), Monster High, Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman Arkham Knight, God of War and many others, believes that technology augments creative abilities and originality, rather than replacing it. Robot voices just aren’t ready for prime time.
“The hard part is the inspiration, the creative process,” said Jon, who grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y. Tech has become more intertwined with art than ever before, simply making the process of creating it easier, he said.
In addition to his voice acting, the Sigma Chi brother composes music. When he graduated from SUNY Oswego, his mom gave him the gift of an 88-key, weighted-action keyboard. It had several sounds and the ability to record multiple tracks and save them to a memory card.
Today, Jon, who was an on-campus production assistant at WNYO and board operator at WRVO, can use that same keyboard as a MIDI controller: Meaning he plugs it into his computer to access recording software like Logic Pro.
“I now have access to thousands of sounds and instrument libraries of such high caliber, it can sound almost like an orchestra recorded it,” said Jon, who has created musical scores for short films
and projects for clients like Turner Sports.
“The digital canvas I have at my disposal
It’s a canvas that has grown and allowed him to adapt his career from a childhood love of music, comedy and voices—all with the support of his friends and extensive family, he said.
“I was born to do this,” he said. “My family has always been totally on board.”
And Jon’s favorite voice? A diabolical villain named Lord Blackthorne.
“The bad guys really allow me to let loose,” he said. “But I love being the good guys, too.”
Hear Jon’s favorite voice online. You can also read his thoughts on stand-up comedy and see the full interview below in our Web Exclusive content.
An extended interview with Jon Lipow
Tell us about the voices.
The first voices I perfected were not voices at all. I would recreate the sound effects of things you hear all the time. A Volkswagen Beetle starting and shifting, then driving away. A European ambulance siren approaching and leaving (with doppler effect) An old Victrola or old AM radio broadcast. Classic video arcade games like Donkey Kong that I would play on people’s hands using their thumb as the joystick. There are many others, but you get the point.
What’s your personal favorite?
I have so many character voices that I enjoy performing. One that stands out to me is an evil arrogant villain called Lord Blackthorne. He is diabolical and so much fun to do. I love being the good guys too, but the bad guys really allow me to let loose.
Can you provide a few examples of voice projects that you’ve worked on over the years?
I have worked on several projects so far. Some examples are Robot Chicken, The Incredible Hulk (2008), Monster High, Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman Arkham Knight, God of War, Overwatch, and many others.
Has technology impacted your voice acting work?
Technology has had an enormous impact on my voice acting work. I remember back in my days at SUNY Oswego, as a broadcasting major, I had to take an audio recording of an interview that was on ¼” audio tape and replace the interviewer’s voice with my own. The end result was to make it sound as though I conducted an interview with this person (who was at that point deceased) seamlessly cut, and edited, physically spliced together and played back for the class to listen to and judge.
That experience has given me an even greater appreciation for the digital editing and producing technology of today. On any given day, I am at home in my studio, editing voice over projects and auditions using Pro Tools software. Cutting out breaths or plosives, clicks and pops, etc. With utmost ease and speed. To imagine what the editors and producers had to do with physical tape media before digital recording and editing was so accessible to the masses make one really appreciate the advancements of technology. Also, replacing all of the expensive analog and digital hardware which can improve the sound of a recording, i.e. equalizers, compressors, preamps, etc. are now often available as plug-ins or software equivalents of the hardware they are replacing, often at a fraction of the cost.
There is another technology that is very important and has changed the game for many voice actors and studios out there called Source Connect. This software allows a person to record at a studio, home studios too, and, in real time, have their audio be recorded remotely on the recipients end, similar to an ISDN line, but using the faster internet and without the expense of ISDN equipment and the subsequent high cost of that dedicated phone line. The recipient simply needs to have the Source Connect software on their end, and the audio feed will travel the internet, across the globe if need be, and they’ll be receiving a high-quality audio signal that is better than broadcast quality. I think it’s quite remarkable.
You are also a musician – can you share a little about what you do as far as process, and how technology is part of that process for you?
I love to compose music. I have scored some short films for friends of mine and written songs based on whatever creative impulses inspire me at the time. Technology once again rears it’s glorious face. When I graduated from SUNY Oswego, my mom bought me an 88 key weighted action keyboard. It had several sounds on board and the ability to record multiple tracks. This allowed me to compose songs on the keyboard and save them to a memory card. Today, I can use that same keyboard as a MIDI controller, which means, I plug it in to my computer which has recording software like Logic Pro. I now have access to thousands of sounds and instrument libraries of such high caliber, it can sound like an orchestra recorded it (almost). The digital canvas I have at my disposal is unbelievable. How far technology has come cannot be overstated.
You’re also a stand-up comedian. Has that changed because of technology?
In my opinion, technology has not changed stand up that much, but it has changed the accessibility of comedy. One can simply post a video of their standup on many of the widely viewed internet platforms and have access to a forum of viewers that, in the past, would only be possible by TV, film, or radio. One would have to cross through many checkpoints to get their stand up seen by many viewers, many who may not get very far depending on their performance. Now, the internet can be the judge. You put it out there, and if the fans love it, they can give it millions of views, or retweet it, etc. The channels by which one would have to cross in the past have changed dramatically thanks to technology.
As an artist, do you feel technology augments human creative abilities….and can it ever hurt the authenticity of a project?
I absolutely believe that technology augments creative abilities. It gives greater access to creativity because the canvas by which to “paint” your music, or voice is so simple to apply. Simply turn on your computer, your mic and or instrument, open the software, create a new session file, choose your instruments and play away. The hard part is the inspiration, the creative process, that is the human element that may not always be in sync with the task at hand. Getting the technology to be ready to go when you are however, is a piece of cake. This facilitates the creative process immensely, because instead of spending time prepping the recording environment, potentially losing the thought or inspiring moment, you can be ready to go in about a minute.
Who would you prefer to have a rap battle with: Siri or Alexa?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. They both have their advantages and disadvantages and may not be ready for prime time when it comes to rapping. I guess I’d pick Siri, because she can actually be kind of sassy at times, and that’s important in a rap battle.
When you were a student at Oswego, what were you active in?
I was in the Sigma Chi fraternity and met many wonderful friends. I worked at the WNYO college radio station and WRVO the NPR radio station on campus. I enjoyed being a production assistant at WNYO and board operator at WRVO. I got to read the top stories and weather at the top of the hour on WRVO FM 90. That was a pretty cool gig.
I enjoyed my broadcasting classes and remember recording a radio drama for one of them and the teacher and students agreed that I should be doing voice overs professionally. That was inspiring feedback to say the least.
Did you get to use your voice skills much back then?
I enjoyed being a production assistant at WNYO and board operator at WRVO. I got to read the top stories and weather at the top of the hour on WRVO FM 90. That was a pretty cool gig.
Any current projects you’d care you share/what’s next for you?
I recently booked the new hero Wrecking Ball in the game Overwatch. Also coming this fall, I’ll be playing several characters in the new animated series Star Wars: Resistance. I can’t say much more until projects are actually released, but there is more to come!
What do you see for the future of art and technology?
I see the continued refinement of the relationship of art and technology. One day I hope we can compose music by allowing a direct link of our brain and the recording medium, maybe a pneumonic connection of sorts. Ideas often sound so amazing in your head, but by the time you find the right instrument or voice for a particular part, some of the creativity may be lost. That would be a very interesting development.