In Love: Super Dope encourages women to 'shoot their shot' in pioneering new animation
Portland-based creative studio Super Dope has brought to life how it feels to pluck up your courage and make a romantic move in its latest animated project, In Love.
We've all been there. You're eyeing someone from across the party. You're debating whether to go over and make a move, but you're frozen in terror. What if they say no? What if you make a fool of yourself? But what if everything goes well, and you have a first kiss that feels like you're falling through the sky?
It's this euphoric feeling that Super Dope has explored with In Love, the studio's latest animated short, which saw the team push themselves both creatively and technically. "Even after years of experience as professional artists, we still consider ourselves students and are constantly looking for new ways to learn and grow," Super Dope co-founder Christine Kim tells Creative Boom.
"We set out to challenge ourselves by experimenting with new ways to combine 2D and 3D animation while having them coexist harmoniously in one piece. We started with some tests that incorporated 3D camera moves in a 2D world, adding that extra dimension of depth to our 2D pieces.
"From there, our curiosity was sparked, and we were eager to see how far we could take those initial experiments. With each new idea we explored, we became more and more invested in the project, until it blossomed into the captivating moment of falling 'In Love..'"
Technical exploration wasn't the only source of inspiration, though. In fact, the animation borrows heavily from a real-life experience from eight years ago, where Super Dope co-founder Damien had his first kiss with Christine, who is now his wife. (All together now: awe!)
"Admittedly, the roles were reversed, as it was actually me who was left stunned when Damien retreated, thinking he had been too forward," Christine hastens to add. "But what can I say? I was head over heels for his boldness, and I made sure he knew it. That experience was the seed that grew into this cute moment we told in 'In Love.'
"However, we also wanted to use this piece to empower women and normalise the idea of us ladies shooting our shot. It was important to us to showcase a female character who was confident in expressing her feelings and taking the initiative while not letting her fears and anxiety hold her back. We hope that message resonates with audiences as much as the visuals."
Created purely for fun, In Love represents how Super Dope prioritises making original content to develop its brand and voice. "It's obviously difficult to balance with client work, but it's where we get the most fulfilment and projects like these end up inspiring where we take our client work," Christine explains.
"We're hoping that by putting it out there, we can attract work that's craving the same energy, tone, and quality we brought to this project."
The energy and tone found in In Love take their inspiration from the world around the studio, as well as other artists and animations. "If we had to name one major influence for the look of In Love, it would have to be anime," Christine reveals. "We love the sophisticated buttery-smooth camera moves often used in anime. We tried to incorporate some of that style into our animation experiments that eventually became the short film."
As these experiments suggest, In Love was something of a creative journey, and the team learned a lot along the way, specifically on the technical side. "One of the most challenging moves we pulled off was circling the characters as they kiss while free-falling through the sky," says Christine. "It required a complex 3D camera rig that allowed us to move and rotate on multiple axes at high speed.
"To achieve this, we rigged the camera to a circle spline, which let us rotate smoothly around a specific point. Damien also paired a target object with the camera, which allowed it to follow the characters while rotating around them, resulting in a seamless and precise motion. It was a real feat, but the result was worth it!"
Besides technical innovations, the other priority for Super Dope is arguably the most important: having fun. In fact, it's something that the studio is very deliberate about. "Our hope is for people to know a piece of animation was created by us not because of how it looks, but because of how it made them feel," Christine concludes.
"During a production, we constantly ask ourselves if an animation is 'us' enough. Sometimes that means getting people to smile or laugh; other times, we just want to leave them with a warm fuzzy feeling, but it should always be a good time.
"We're not sure if there's a formulaic approach to ensuring fun, but if we all collectively feel something – we know our shenanigans have the potential to bring joy to others."