Life In Graphic Motion. Frederik Wiedel
If you ever wondered how it is to meet a person through Tinder, look no further. First things first — we all know how the app works. You meet up, you meet up and appear on it’s horror stories, you don’t meet up at all… And then you get an interview.
There he is — Frederik Wiedel, a Swedish guy, having lived in Amsterdam when I was staying there, too. Our meeting was difficult enough, since we never got a chance to see each other back at that time. And now, me constantly living in Prague, and him being back in Sweden, some kind of faith brought us together. I was planning to visit Amsterdam for the biggest reason I’d visit any city abroad — concerts — and was lucky to catch up with Frederik, who was supposed to come the day I should have left, but because of this changed his flight to an earlier one. How awesome was that?
We agree to meet in “Coffee and Coconuts”, one of those spacious and loud places in the city, which can still make you feel cozy and comfortable choosing between chairs and bean bags. I was never good at planning my time once I’m on a bike in a city, where some places are still in different locations than I expected them to be in the first place. Luckily, I’m only five minutes late to meet Frederik and step into the restaurant all warmed up after the ride.
Coming back to the point — Frederik Wiedel is a motion designer and animator from the most southern part of Sweden — Trelleborg, now having been waiting for me inside the restaurant straight from the airport with all of his belongings. He has studied in “Hyper Island”, same as Johannes, another animator and illustrator from Sweden I talked to last summer. Before Hyper Island he had studied Media in High School but didn’t find it valuable, since, according to him, “it was kinda low standard”. Frederik agrees that those studies, however useless they might have seemed, pushed him a bit towards design. He has always been interested in it, just not the motion one.
Frederik grew up in a house by the sea. “It’s not close to the city at all, and I’ve been living there for 20 years. I mean, you have to be creative when you live alone, I guess, and when you don’t have so many people around you. So that kinda sculpted me in a way. I don’t think I was thinking THAT much of design back then (stresses out significantly). I’ve always been, like, skating since I was a kid and making videos with friends and stuff. So I always had that kind of interest but I didn’t really know what to do with it.” It was kept like a lingering spark somewhere for him at that time.
I’ve seen a couple of skate videos you’ve made, and they seemed quite old compared to the ones you do now… Yeah, I think I was around 16 years old or even younger, I don’t know… Was just doing some stuff with my friends.
So I guess you started video editing from filming those skate videos of yours? Yeah, that’s right. And shooting home videos with friends without any story behind. And you’d be the one shooting all the time, wouldn’t you? Ah no (answers carelessly and shakes his head backwards), not necessarily. We’d switch between, I would even involve my parents in doing it.”
Do you think that making videos as those pushed you in a way towards creating a professional animation? “I’ve actually made my first animation in paint just frame by frame and it was also a skate video. It was just a stop motion thing and is super funny to watch now (quite fun to see him saying this, as Frederik seems to be a little ashamed). But it was a long time ago.”
ACCIDENTAL DECISION AND IMPACT ON FUTURE LIFE
I myself tend to occasionally take risks in life, which sometimes lead to unexpected results and affect my future. Further talk with Frederik revealed that he’s also in a way familiar with such lifestyle.
Let me ask you about Hyper Island. As you previously said you had studied Media, and it didn’t provide enough knowledge in design… “(Interrupts me suddenly) No, but I wasn’t really planning to go to Hyper Island. Because a year before that I was in North of Sweden for a ski season, and when it was going to an end my brother sent me this link to the school saying maybe I should check it out, as it seemed cool. I was like “Yeah, sure, I don’t know what to do anyway”. I didn’t have a job, I was ending my ski season there and so I decided to apply. But then I realized I was one day late, so wasn’t actually able to do that anymore.”
Being one day later than the deadline was, lead Frederik to communicating with the people from Hyper Island and a chance to get in there through Facebook. Having received a positive reply within a week, he then had a group interview and an assignment to solve together with others just via Skype. “I remember seeing them all in those tiny windows on screen and feeling terrified, as I wasn’t used to speaking in English at all. It was terrible (stops for a moment), but it worked out. (laughs shortly).” What kind of assignment was it though? “It’s all about working with people and how you get along with them. I can’t remember the task now, but you basically have to communicate with them all at once.” So you finished that task… “Mhm, and then received an email that I got in. Even though I’ve been late, I wasn’t alone.”
Why you decided on choosing motion design? “Yeah… Good question (Frederik slightly raises his voice, giggles shortly and stops for a moment to think). I don’t know… Yes… My brother just texted me about this school and I didn’t really know what to do else. And motion design… It was mostly related to me, as I like videos, filming, editing stuff. Wasn’t really thinking about animation back then, though. I was doing some After Effects stuff but not much.”
Frederik could’ve chosen any other field from digital media, mobile design, other things related to group work or program managing. For him it was easy to pick animation, because back then it seemed as the most relevant one and short enough. How long did you stay then? “9 months in total. 6 months in Karlskrona and 3 months for internship. So it’s super short but intense. Hyper Island is so liberate. I guess you might have already heard that but there are no teachers, we only have lectures and a program manager, who facilitates and guides us. So he arranges lectures for us and different modules. One was “Exploring animation”, which we started out with.”
According to Frederik, in each module they would get a prepared presentation and be told what they would have to do. Having received a brief, they all would be guided by a lecturer and have roughly two weeks deadline.
How would you then divide the work between group members? “Yeah, like, it’s so much about the group dynamics at school. It’s important to set them in the beginning. So you have a program manager, who leads the group, art director, illustrator, then you can have a main animator — dependently on the brief and size of the group. I was pretty safe with my role — would always be animating, designing or doing other stuff that I’m good at. During the last project I was a leader, but it was a strange position for me, because I’m not the one in the centre. Felt pretty uncomfortable being there. However, that’s what I would like to aim for — to be an art director, to lead other people to do great stuff. But I think it’s scary.” It is. I mean, you need to take responsibility for everybody. “Yeah. You have to have an answer to everything, as well. And you can’t lead if you don’t sometimes know what to do.”
It actually feels so natural to talk to Frederik about all these things that designers from various fields need to face each time gaining experience. Even though I am not an animator myself, I can feel in his shoes, being responsible for various visuals daily and trying to come up with solutions for appearing problems.
What was the biggest project at Hyper Island you launched live? I’ve seen something about “Nordic Game Awards”, could you mention anything else apart that? “Uhm, I did a freelance work with my friend at Hyper Island, because we got this email from one guy.” Did you even have enough time for that? “Well, we… made time for it (it‘s funny, how Frederik answers to my questions hesitating with pauses and gives a mischievous smile — I then get a feeling they would sometimes sacrifice their sleeping hours for good). We were trying to put it into the school, say like “yeah, we’ve just fixed our own project, can we do it instead of this other one?” (points randomly to air). We were told that we couldn’t, however, could quit instead if we wanted to do another one. Then I was like “Yeah, then we have to do two, I guess.” So we did them both — assignment and a freelance work. It was a two-day case animation for a new drinking app called “Clink”.
You were just two of you for the visuals. Did you find it hard back then? “Yeah, I mean, everything was new for me. Robin had done some freelance work before, but for me it was the first time and felt really cool to have your own project, real money, real client.” Did you feel much pressure? “Na-ah, I think I didn’t feel that much pressure because that’s the stuff I like, and if you like doing it, you don’t really see it as a work. That’s a great thing, a fun stuff. And I think we both were pretty well organized.”
Speaking of Nordic Game Awards, so how did that start? “I think it was one of the last projects we had. Everyone got the same brief — to do five animations for different categories for Nordic Games. The client would then pick one of those to use. It went really well. I thought that the animation was pretty cool with a nice outcome. They used everything, which was pretty shitty in my opinion, because it was still a competition and everyone wanted to win, when in the end just everything was used. I can’t remember which category I was in, but it was with a caveman, burning the stick.” I think it’s innovation related. “Best innovation award, yeah! So me and another guy were assigned to that one. We were told the theme and should have followed the style.”
After Hyper Island’s school Frederik went to London for an internship, where he worked in a now called “DBLG” studio. He previously had sent emails both to their Stockholm and London offices, however, as far as I’ve already discovered from several other Swedes, Frederik was also not very keen on staying back in Sweden. “I had never been to any studio before, so the strange thing with the place I went to was not really having any work to be done there. Sometimes in a studio you just don’t have it I guess, so I was doing personal work.” But officially you were an intern… “Yeah, but doing my own stuff (interrupts me to quickly mention that)” …but doing your own stuff (I reflexively finish my sentence despite having the identical end as Frederik’s). “Yeah, cause they were about to rebrand, when I was there, to DBLG, so I was told to do the animation for every letter. For example, I was doing a “D” letter animation as for “dreaming”. I got, like, a 3 seconds time frame to do an animation, do whatever within that theme, because they were supposed to use that in their website later on. Then for “B” was for “babies”. I had a deadline of one week for every letter animation, so that was basically all I did there, except the animation for myself.
Having wondered what kind of projects of his own he was working on, Frederik mentioned the first one back in Hyper Island, calling it as a “one frame each day stuff”. “A lot of people were doing something every day, some artwork or photos. But then I got to London and asked the guys in the agency like “Yeah, I’m doing this project, is it cool for you if I publish the stuff I’m working on?”. And they said, na-ah, I can’t do that, so then I stopped working on it, since I wasn’t allowed to publish what I was doing there.
I didn’t get hired (sniggers shortly), because I wasn’t really doing for them anything, only this small animation.” Were you expecting to get hired, though? “Nah… I was pretty happy to be an intern back then, because it was really well payed. So my plan after that was just to stay an intern everywhere (got to mention, this idea made me laugh to the microphone, though Frederik sincerely kept on explaining his argument), because I got 1000 Pounds each month, which would basically mean pretty much. I could have my rent paid and get food. So I thought that was great, and my idea was to do internship around for three months in different cities, be well paid and just travel. And then I got a fixed interview with “Onesize”.
First things first, Frederik wasn’t really thinking of any other countries, as he was mostly interested at specific companies. He just had a list of ones he wanted to go to, and Onesize, as well as “Tendril” and a couple of other different ones were on it. Onesize replied to Frederik’s email. Having had an interview, he was offered an internship. Simply as that, y’all.
Was that easy? “(Giggles modestly) During the Skype interview they said “Yeah, basically, if you get an interview with us, you get an internship.” That was it — “Yeah! OK, cool!” — I was super stoked, as it’s a great company, and I got in there. During the interview, when I was still staying in London and being on my first internship, I was already searching for a next one. It felt pretty shitty about it, though, but I mean, they didn’t want to hire me, so…”
Once Frederik was offered a position at Onesize, he didn’t really find it difficult to move from London to Amsterdam, as many of his friends were already staying and working there. “I think I started freelancing in Onesize for half a year or just like a try out-ish. That was basically a full time position. So I did that till 1st of December, then got back to Sweden for, like, a month of Christmas kind of vacation.” That’s when you did a Christmas animation, right? “Yeah exactly, that one, in my hometown. After that I started my truly first work having a motion designer’s position.”
There aren’t many people in Onesize (around 7 of them back then, when he was there, according to Frederik). How would you pull the work off having a brief? Would all of you work on one project? “Depends on the brief, how big it was, then how much work we had at that moment. I didn’t take any lead in the beginning at all, didn’t feel comfortable doing that. But I was designing a lot and doing animations. In such a small company you’re kind of doing everything, and that’s what I really like. However, how can you be good at something, when you’re doing everything? That’s kind of a good and bad side of that.” What would be the hardest part in your work? “Uhm… Teamwork and communication. Yeah… There was no a really good communication in the office. Maybe I didn’t feel so tight to the team, we wouldn’t hang out after work, because everyone was living outside, having families and kids. They weren’t my age but were welcoming in terms of the team, though.” What about the tasks then? “Hm, I was trying to push myself more into 3D, yeah, cause that’s what I wanted to do. I knew they were really good at it, while that was my biggest struggle.”
During his stay in Onesize, Frederik was also able to participate in working on a project for the “OFFF” festival. I’m still pretty amazed, how so far all of my interviewees were somehow related to each other even without knowing it, as my previously interviewed artist, Robert Bartholot, had also participated in it, but as a speaker.
I saw you uploaded the making-off video of the whole process. “Yeah, I was doing “behind the scenes” film. I also did one visual for the book.” Oh right! The image with hands, right? “Yeah, exactly. Cause first we got mail from the organizer of the event asking if we were able to do something for the book for the 15 years of anniversary. I think we got something like a word “believe” and we were allowed to do with it whatever we wanted.”
How did you come up with the idea of hands? “I don’t know. I guess I was just doing a lot of frames on my own back then, when I came up with a hand, reaching for something. Some technology hand. I was just trying and having fun, I guess.” So you did that completely alone? “Yes, alone. Just sitting at nights and having fun with. It was a super cool thing to do and having it printed as well, just feeling and seeing it in a book. It’s such a nice book. You’ve seen it, right?” — Frederik asks me. Oh yes, I did. “So I was super happy with that thing, that project. I was super alone, though.”
Having asked about the best project while working at Onesize, Frederik points out the “Qlimax” work. “It was just me and two other guys doing it. I took the lead in that project, and it was the last one I did at Onesize. We really wanted to do something super nice and also personal at the same time, as well as for the client, of course. Even though the client didn’t really expect something like that. “Qlimax” is a q-dance event in Holland, and they wanted to have a trailer for. The theme was “Eqilibrium”, which is something like “going into balance”. We pulled off a story and told the client, what we had in mind. It was cool to put a lot of time into it and do a nice thing you could be proud yourself, too.”
Could you tell me more about the process of it? “So me and a producer went to the client in the start and just talked to them, asking what they wanted to have. It’s always that kind of mysterious style and they wanted this epic, cinematic feeling to it to look huge and dark. Then me and the producer headed back to the office and talked within the team. 3 of us started working on a little treatment for them, as we were going to present something to the client again two days later. It was a small designing stuff and a story board with small drawings, style framing with how the video may look like in the end product. And they really liked the idea — were overwhelmed, as they haven’t really worked with the motion studio before and so also didn’t really know, how the process should be like.
Later we started working on animatic — small animation, like a storyboard. Once the client approved the animatic, we then started producing the real thing.” How much time was left before the real work? “Week and a half? (Frederik slightly raises his voice trying to remember).” And how much was it filmed in real? “The characters with suits were filmed in the studio, together with the stylist coming in, and me acting as well. He dressed me up with all those robes. So in the end we just did everything in-house.
TOO MUCH COMFORT LEADS TO QUITTING
As Frederik mentioned the video for “Qlimax” as the last project he worked on during his stay at Onesize, I couldn’t help but just ask him why he decided to leave. “Why I left? Well… Yeah, like, my previous plan was to be an intern and travel around, so I always wanted to do that and not to be stuck in place. And now it happened to be that I was staying in Amsterdam for 2 years, which was not really my plan in the beginning. I was just feeling that I was done with the studio and the city. I mean, I was too comfortable here. I knew what was going to happen during the weekends. I have so many friends here, it’s super nice, of course, but at the same time I wasn’t really doing my own stuff.” But you could have freelanced here instead. “Yeah, but I also want to see a new city, cause, yeah, why not? I don’t want to be in that position right now, to be in one place forever, you know.”
Yes, Frederik, that’s a very familiar feeling, — I thought.
“Now, being back in Sweden, I’m freelancing again, reaching out to people, companies and trying to get jobs. I’m networking now. It’s not special, but rather unique to be a motion designer, because when I get back to my hometown, no one really understands what I do and what I’m working with. Everyone thinks you’re just chilling and playing around with the computer. But being here in Amsterdam with friends, who do the same stuff, it’s different. It’s more like: “Ahh, you’re a designer? OK, good. Another one”. Maybe it’s just the city, where there are more of these kind of people compared to my hometown.”
STRICT DEADLINES FOR LEISURE
Let’s talk about your personal work. I’d like to know more about your weekly projects. How did you come up with them? “So before that I was doing a one frame every day. I was thinking of doing still frames, but I couldn’t really use them in my work later on. Then I decided on making an animation every week instead. That should’ve been a crazy lot of work, especially if you’re a full-time designer as well. So I started doing it this year.“ Do you do them to learn new things? “Well yeah, it’s mainly to pump up my showreel. And also to be creative. In the beginning it’s really hard to come up with the idea and start doing it, cause you’re afraid it’s not gonna be good. But after a while you tend to lose that and just do it, cause you need to upload the work on Monday at 12pm before lunch (Frederik had set to himself a strict deadline to publish his works on Mondays). I kinda need such deadline, because otherwise it doesn’t sound as a part of work.”
Another thing Frederik has set to himself is to travel somewhere once a month and make a video, so that it would go on weekly project, too. In his words, he made it in a way, that he would be going to meet friends, but at the same time travel around. “So that I would just have an excuse to come (smiles shortly).”
How you come up with the ideas for your animations? I’ve seen many of them containing mostly geometric shapes, however, the last one I’ve seen with the horse, was slightly different. “Well, the one with the horse was for a competition on “99 frames”. Me and my friend Sebastian did that together and it was such a random project. There was no brief at all, just a personal stuff. I just found this model of a 3D horse, and the camera was pulled back. Then I just placed that horse to be shot from a tank. I often do shapes myself, but this time we were very short in time and just feeling a bit lazy.”
What software do you mostly use for your work? “I use Cinema 4D, After Effects for compositions and 2D animation, Photoshop, Illustrator as well. For my personal projects I just try to do everything 3D, cause that’s what I want to develop and work with.”
Speaking of the sound in your videos… “Yeah, I collaborate with some sound designers (Frederik shortly interrupts me), but it’s such a short deadline, only a week, so it’s hard to plan something with them. Basically, I just sometimes take a song that I think could fit.” But how would you find some sound designers to collaborate with? Or would they find you? “In the start when I released my first video, which was more of an introduction to my one-week project, I wrote in the description that I would like to collaborate with other people, motion designers, illustrators, sound designers. When I would find someone, I’d send the video to the guy , and he’d put a sound on top.” Would you be happy with any kind of output? “In the end I’m happy that they’re helping me (laughs). But coming back to ideas for weekly videos, so I just collect inspiration from Pinterest to lead myself to some kind of direction. It’s sometimes hard for me to know what’s gonna be in the end, especially with such a short deadline. Most of the stuff in videos is abstract, which I think is interesting.”
When I ask Frederik, what he finds hard in his personal projects, undeniably it’s deadlines. He also faces a lot of pressure from himself as well, as he pushes the outcome to look as good as possible or at least better than the previously made video. How can you make it better, if the style of the next video is different? “Nah, well, but maybe I just want it to be somehow better developed. I definitely leveled up my speed, though.“
You used “Black Block” track from Modeselektor in one of your videos. Does the selection of music somehow affect your decision on the visuals or vice versa? “I like when it’s really dark, same as when it’s really bright with nice colors, having kind of a funny contrast. I guess all the dark parts in animations started when I came to Onesize, cause they have a rather sinister style or black and white pattern. I got into that as well. But I also like cute, warm colors.
Speaking of animation with the Modeselektor, everything started with the song, I wanted to do something with it. I took it into After Effects and made shapes. When I was then doing an animation for it, I took those shapes into 3D environment and projected them on the back of the wall. It ended up being kind of like a light show in a tunnel.”
One of the most complex works I’ve seen is called “Experiment”. Can you tell me more about it? “Ah, well that was cheating (Frederik laughs and adds, that the video is nearly 1 minute long and was a freelance work). There was an architecture company in Stockholm that contacted me. They were redesigning a new building and for the opening they wanted to have some visuals by the entry of the building. So there was, like, a big projector on the wall, which would project abstract shapes.” Let’s be honest — how long this project took? “Around a month. I also had a full time job, but I think that one was my first real freelance work that I did on my own.”
Having asked Frederik the last questions about other design fields he’d be interested in despite motion design, he hesitates for a moment, but then sticks to a web design as probably the most likely one. According to him, it could be “a general design”.
Does it mean you wouldn’t also mind going non-digital? “Well, I’m not planning to, but I think I wouldn’t mind, as well. I guess, it’s quite of a coincidence that I got into motion animation — I didn’t know about it before that much. I was only doing videos and taking photos by that time.
I’ve always been drawing since I was a kid and I said to my grandpa that I’d be an illustrator. He believed in me and would be like “Yeah yeah, sure, you can do that”. So, I mean, it’s always been there somewhere, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. So I think it’s kinda funny that I’m doing motion, as I feel I could also do something else in a creative field. I mean, I don’t necessarily do this for the rest of my life, I’m still young. But for sure there would still be something related to creative side.”
This sounds rather a generic answer to get, but feels like a fair one seeing Frederik sitting here in front in his floral shirt and with a camera in his hands, taking several snaps of me in the middle of the interview. Besides, who would mainly come to Amsterdam for a festival of digital arts? Only an artist, whose works could also be easily added to the line up. Take a look at more of his projects below and give a shout-out to him for any wanted collaboration:
Freelance Motion Designer. Former Hyper Island student. Contact: email@example.com www.frederikwiedel.comvimeo.com
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