“The Accidental President” visualizes Donald Trump’s journey to the White House
How Donald Trump ended up becoming the 45th President of the United States still remains a mystery to some. The documentary by James Fletcher pictures Trump’s way from kicking off the campaign to actually beating Hillary Clinton. The intro sequence is created by GeeFX Studios’s Graham Clarkin, who designed a visually compelling sequence using the Maxon-tools Cinema 4D, Redshift and Red Giant.
Back in the spring of 2020, Graham Clarkin of GeeFX Studios was called on by his friend and director, James Fletcher, to come up with the intro title sequence for his documentary, “The Accidental President”. The pitch was simple — depict the visual journey Donald Trump took to get to the White House over the course of his campaign.
Tackling the project entirely by himself, Graham completed the work in a matter of weeks, using a combination of Cinema 4D, Redshift and Red Giant tools. The results are a beautifully rendered sequence that is visually compelling and in keeping with the energy of the film.
Graham Clarkin spoke to Maxon about his latest project.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and about your work as a 3D artist?
I had my first taste of working in 3D while studying moving image design at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in London. I graduated in 1998 and worked primarily as a freelancer until I started GeeFX Studios in 2011.
I was using 3ds Max, but Cinema 4D looked to be the number one choice for motion graphics, so I contacted Maxon directly and booked myself on a week-long intensive training course at Maxon’s UK headquarters in Bedford. I’ve used Cinema 4D alongside After Effects for the past ten years, initially with Element 3D, but more recently with Redshift, primarily because the impatient designer in me wants immediate results.
What visual references did you use when creating the look of this sequence?
When I initially sat down with James Fletcher in 2019, there was a plan to create an animation within the documentary to help visualize the impact Trump had on social media using Twitter during the 2016 campaign. Specifically, we wanted to illustrate how a single tweet from Trump could go viral within minutes.
James really liked a great sequence that The Mill created for “Snowden”. So that became a jumping-off point for all the visuals we wanted to create throughout the documentary, including the title sequence.
The actual concept for creating an abstract world from the Presidential Seal and depicting elements of Trump’s election campaign really came into focus after watching Design Director Bryan Coleman’s Maxon NAB 2020 presentation on his short film “Surface Exploration.”
That piece was the driving force behind the title sequence’s opening shots, and the rest was inspired by my love of holographic and FUI design from movies, such as “Prometheus,” “Oblivion,” “Black Panther” and “Iron Man” to name a few.
What challenges did you encounter along the way?
I handle around 60 percent of the projects we get at GeeFX Studios, so I’m no stranger to working on a project entirely by myself from start to finish. The biggest hurdle initially was finding time in between our main projects. In early 2020, though, the COVID pandemic hit and several major contracts were canceled.
At the same time, James secured financial backing for the project, so he was able to put a budget together. I worked on it for a good eight to 12 weeks in between smaller projects, so I had plenty of time to really focus on the sequence.
What’s next for you and the team at GeeFX?
I recently completed a large visual effects project for a children’s TV show on ITV called “Mini Movies“. I created visual effects sequences for 20 fake movie trailers where the children and parents shot everything on their smartphones. It was a huge challenge creating a massive variety of creatures, aliens, dinosaurs, UFOs, robots, explosions and much more.
We’ve also been working on a new Sky Cinema Ultimate Movies series, a new chat show hosted by John Bishop for ITV and several new crime documentary series similar to “I Am A Killer” and “Murderer & Me,” which we worked on in 2019 and 2020. We also work on “The Graham Norton Show” and “The Jonathan Ross Show” here in the UK, providing live playout graphics.
Credits: Graham Clarkin, GeeFX Studios