The dynamic duo of a UofM art instructor and student will bring tomorrow evening’s televised presidential primary debate to life with an array of onscreen graphics.
The Third Democratic Party Presidential Debate will air Thursday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. on ABC and feature the graphic design work of Brandon Bell, Assistant Professor in Graphic Design, and 20-year-old junior graphic design major E. Marshall.
“The toughest part of this project was visualizing how all of these different elements will work together at the time of the show,” said Bell. “Sure, we have all kinds of different sketches and 3D models of how it should look, but we ultimately don’t know for sure until the last few days when all the pieces are in place.”
The team of Bell and Marshall were tasked with creating animations for 13 screens around the physical set, which includes surfaces along the ceiling, the sides of the room, the moderators’ desk, each candidate’s podium, the stage wings and the candidate backdrop itself.
“I can’t give away too many specific details of what the graphics are going to look like yet, but we make use a bunch of different surfaces and were able to put together some pretty wild stuff with a mixture of projection and LED,” said Bell.
Specific elements of their design include projections of stars on the ceiling and a square center screen on the stage with the YOUR VOICE logo, in addition to a series of LED walls that includes a large wall behind the candidates and panels on the moderator and candidates’ podiums. To accomplish this, the Texas Southern University H&PE Arena was transformed from a sporting complex to a lecture hall of presidential proportions.
“This place was a basketball court three weeks ago,” said Bell. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s more of a challenge for us as artists. ABC basically built a whole new environment for us to work in.”
Bell’s graphic design portfolio includes a number of high-profile clients, including PBS, the Tony Awards, the Lincoln Center and more. He chose to bring Marshall into the fold after the student volunteered his time to work on the visuals associated with the Memphis Bicentennial Celebration this past May.
“Marshall had some skills that many of our students don’t have early on in the program,” said Bell. “Motion graphic experience was absolutely crucial to this project, which Marshall had a good bit of experience with.”
Marshall came into The University of Memphis with prior knowledge of the graphic design program Adobe AfterEffects, which made him a perfect design partner to team up with Bell.
“The project involved a lot of work with AfterEffects, which a lot of students don’t pick up while they’re undergrads,” said Marshall. “So Brandon reached out to me to help with a lot of the design work. I’m looking forward to seeing our work live this Thursday evening. It’s obviously a really good opportunity to have on my resume for future graphic design employers.”