Watch the Premiere of Some Kind of Animal’s New Video
For “Dead Man Walking”

My Background:

I got my start in film studying at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. I concentrated in cinematography, so I was always hands on with cameras and lights. My education helped me realize how much I love process and collaboration, so I ended up diving in to just about every aspect of it, which is what got me involved in motion design and 3D. In the last ten years since I’ve graduated, I’ve made three feature documentaries, dozens of music videos, commercials, and a stop motion short film called Battery Life that did well in the festival circuit, as well as a Vimeo Staff Pick. I’ve never stopped being interested in learning, so I tend to throw new techniques into every project so that I can push my skills. I like having some experience in everything so that as a director it is easier for me to communicate with a team.

My Process:

Coming up with ideas is really interesting to me – as I’ve aged and matured as a creator (especially as a professional) I’ve tried to create methods that cultivate new lines of thinking. This includes seeking out new inspiration, like museums, concerts, new outdoor spaces, looking at architecture, and of course watching films. When I’m approaching a new project, I spend a lot of time outside, either walking or riding my bike. I work out a lot of problems while being active. Once some dots are connected or I get a vision for specific shots I hit the sketchbook, drawing thumbnails, characters, costumes, etc. This range from scribbles that only I understand to finished, colored drawings both physical and digital.  Storyboard keyframes come next. This is where I flesh out a story, but I leave room for inspiration down the road. This is probably the most important part of the process for me, figuring out how to communicate a story to the audience. Sometimes it’s abstract, others it’s very linear, but I like to have some level of progression in all my works. I’m really looking for audience connection and participation.

Visualizing the Song:

When I first get a new track to visualize I have it on repeat for days, whether that’s with my commute or daily walks. I like to sit on it for a while and see what my mind formulates. The theme will sometimes depend on the artist, they’ll come to me with a vague idea and I’ll expand on it. Other times I get free reign. I’ll know a song backwards and forwards by the time I’m into production. 

The “Dead Man Walking” Video:

I was approached by Some Kind of Animal to make this video, and they were really open to interpretation and ideas. I’m close friends with their bass player Tony who initiated the collaboration. Tony and I spent a lot of time on google hangouts just chatting about potential themes and which song to use. He sent me the drummer’s art which is really dismal and captivating, so I was able to draw a lot from them even though the final look is really far from what he does. We met over drinks while I was back in Pittsburgh for a film screening and had a quick, informative conversation about theme, story and elements that would be interesting to include. I do naturally lean into a darker aesthetic so we got along really creatively. Both of us being from Pittsburgh made it easy to use old steel mills as a backdrop.  Despite my inclination towards dark work I try to implement a little bit of hope in the stories I tell, and that’s exactly what I did with the end of this video. I wanted the character to attempt to end it all, but wake up with some level of relief. I just hope he doesn’t get too lonely. 

Production was smooth and was done over the course of six-seven weeks. I really love digital sculpting, so it was quite fun designing the main character in Zbrush. Everything was assembled in Cinema4D and rendered in Octane. The last 3 years have been a deep dive into 3D production and I used every trick I learned over the course of this video. As a director, 3D can be quite freeing because you can literally do anything even if it really feels like you’re wrestling with software. Any idea you have can be realized, it’s just figuring out how. Problems aren’t intuitive to solve, but that’s what the internet is for and solving these

What’s On Tap:

I’m wrapping up another 3D video to be released in April, and I’m in pre-production for a live action short film that shoots mid-April. I’m getting back into live action and want to combine everything I’ve learned over the last decade into my current work. I’m always on the look out for new directing projects.

my website/portfolio:

my instagram: @justinanixon


~ Justin Nixon

photo by: Brett Wagner