06 May 2007

Interview: YIBI(aka E.B.)

I recently stumbled upon Yibi's work at the CG Society forum where he posted a haunting short called Palingenesia about the cyclical relationship between humanity and technology. Looking into his background, he has an eclectic body of work both personal and professional ranging from the whimsical to the experimental.

Born and educated in Shanghai, Yibi worked for the large broadcasting station Motion Magic Digital Studios from 2000 to 2003. He later went on to gain a Masters degree in Screen Design from Kingston University in the UK creating short films during his study which have played at numerous festivals. Yibi is now working at Red Bee Media in London.

How did you get into graphic arts and what in particular drew you to this field?
I was once into 3D character animation very much but spent too much time on crafting. Motion graphics techniques however provided a reletively quicker way for me to speak in my own language. That is another reason that I started my career as a graphic designer.

What/who are your influences? And how did growing up in Shanghai shape your work(if at all)? Many people are my sources of inspiration… from Saul Bass to Kyle Cooper…But I would say any great work could influence me in one way or another.
Shanghai is a very delicate city. The local culture did help me growing up, giving me a pair of fine eyes.

"...I will do some detailed artwork first to see the potential in stills..."
From idea to finalisation of an animation, what kind of workflow do you employ now and how has your workflow changed/improved over the years?
From the moment I first started doing animation work, I have always been trying to improve my workflow, not only for my own projects but also commercial jobs. I can’t remember how many steps I took to shape my current flow, but it’s certainly been a long way.

Now, if I pick up on an idea, I will do some detailed artwork first to see the potential in stills, then sketch down some fairly complete storyboards. Normally I will start to create things based on all my artworks, or more directly take photos or find the right materials. Once I have most of my elements ready, I will begin to craft my piece.

Would you tell us about the production of your short A Friend I Know?
That was actually my first time directing a live action piece, although I covered the actor’s face with a cgi head. Why live action? …because I never tried it before. Anyway, that’s also an experiment of telling a story in a different way. Live action is certainly much more friendly to the audience. The challenge was… hey… I have to speak to people but not the machine, certainly much more fun.
"...there is always a new way to tell the same story."

What skill would you say is most important to your work and why?
Drawing ability is a great gift and I am quite lucky to have it. As for the reason… well, if I draw everything, the whole world can understand my story. Nonetheless, if I can’t finish my animation, as least I have a comic strip.

There’s a lot of variation in the style of your shorts(and work in general) from the spartan Nothing Personal to the gothic A Friend I Know. What would you say is the common feature or signature of all your work?
I believe there is no “new” story as it is for idea. But there is always a new way to tell the same story. Just like different directors would come up with different films based on a same script. Maybe I haven’t found my “signature” yet…but I am always trying to seek a unique way for my story telling.

In your latest and I believe greatest work yet, Palingenesia, you’ve fused a parable on humanity’s relationship to nature with a free flow of symbols and abstract images that, together with the soundtrack, draws a very clear narrative. Would you tell us about the development of Paligenesia?
I certainly think the short I am working on at the moment will be the best I have ever done. Palingenesia is a quick turn around I did for a small contest. While the topic is technology… the narrative is actually a summary of a topic—earth and humanity— I have been thinking about it for a long time.

Are the dramatic and abstract elements of Palingenesia something that we’ll see more of in your personal work?
Certainly, you don't have too many chances to put the stuff you really like into commercial things

What artists do you admire and/or inspire you?
Too many and there is no dominant one. But certainly stuff from the studios of the Ebeling Group is the most inspiring works I have ever seen. I surely admire those who can match techniques and art together, and adopt their own style into their daily jobs.

What are your aspirations for the future? And what projects do you currently have in development and when can we expect to see them?
I have not settled myself on any aspect yet, although I see myself as a motion graphic designer for the moment. I am looking forward to any interesting film and TV projects ranging from design to production.

If I can’t pick up good jobs at work, I will find time to develop my own projects. However, I think I have to work on strategy a lot more before I kick off any personal videos.

Right now, I have a new short film in development. The visuals are almost there, but I am still waiting for my musician to come up with some tunes to help the atmosphere. I am greatly excited about the overall concept and the outcome so far. If you could see the stills you would know.

Thank you, Yibi. I'm looking forward to seeing your new project and hope you have time to continue experimenting with your personal projects.

iStockPhoto - Palingenesia
Red Bee Media

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