A collection of pottery set on a display case


Like a lot of artists, I'm not the best at updating my demo reel. I attempted to update it over the past couple years, but it was difficult to accomplish with NDAs on a lot of my motion work. Instead of creating a bunch of new content, I decided to focus a lot of my skills into one specific video, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality is a book by Peter Scazzero on spiritual maturity thru emotional maturity. The book features an iceberg motif on its cover, and talks about how most of our emotional maturity lies under the surface. For the intro video, I wanted to illustrate as many of the main points of the book as possible.

  • Using God to run from God
  • Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness and fear
  • Dying to the wrong things
  • Denying the past’s impact on the present
  • Dividing our lives into “secular” and “sacred” compartments
  • Doing for God instead of being with God
  • Spiritualizing away conflict
  • Covering over brokenness, weakness, and failure
  • Living without limits
  • Judging other people’s spiritual journey.

At first this project was going to consist of many different mediums of art set in one scene, but it became difficult to get the message across. There were too many variables between each element that the story was lost. I was looking to create something with a beginning, middle, and end.

Pottery lent itself to a lot of the main points so I redesigned the project to match this new direction. I could illustrate "Living without limits" by setting the pottery on an endlessly spinning lathe and "Doing for God instead of being with God" by the pottery forming itself instead of being shaped by a master potter.

The second scene illustrates "Covering over brokenness, weakness, and failure" as well as "Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear" with the glaze covering the newly dried pottery. Glaze covers the ugliness that lies underneath and can partially disguise imperfections.

Most of the video was built around this scene. Unlike most of my videos, I searched for the perfect song first. I needed something to inspire the animations and create emotion. I think it took 5 hours of intense searching but I finally found the perfect song. Nearly all of the animations came to my mind when I first heard it. Those specific notes were perfect for shattering the pottery in slow motion!

It was easy for leadership to explain away the time saying, "You're doing it for God," despite the fact we're called to rest in God.

This scene focused on "Dying to the wrong things," which is what I did a lot when I was a young designer with my faith. I worked as an art director at a church, and like a lot of churches, the hours were ridiculous. It was easy for leadership to explain away the time saying, "You're doing it for God," despite the fact we're called to rest in God. "Unless the Lord builds the house, it's builders labor in vain." - Psalm 127:1. I'm not saying there can't be hard work involved, but if you find yourself consistently drained it's worth checking to see if there's a problem. I allowed myself to fall into this trap until I stepped out into freelance work (shortly after this I moved to the Seattle area in Washington State). Now, all the work I do for my church now is done with the mindset of staying healthy and not overworking myself when it's unnecessary (although this video did require a lot of work, haha).

In the final scene the pottery magically comes together and "Denies the past's impact on the present." I had started with this scene since it's the main graphic and I knew the animation was going to run a few weeks into the series start date. It would also feature the most amount of assets, so it would be easier to copy things to other scenes after I finished this one.

To pull in the iceberg motif from the book, the entire display is set one a stage that mildly represents it's chilly reference. While it's not as obvious as I may have liked, it added a nice touch to the design.

Software Used

  • Cinema 4d
  • X-Particles
  • Rizom UV
  • Substance Designer
  • Substance Painter
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Redshift

I put a lot of intentional thought into lighting each scene. As a secondary story, I decided to represent God as the sun throughout the video. There's evidence of the sun all around us - it's light and warmth - yet we can't physically touch it. To help tell the story I had the sun travel through a normal day period. The video starts at sunrise with the lump of clay and ends with the shattered pieces coming together at sunset. During those early moments, the windows in the shop open invite the clay to join it. It shows that God is always present and all we need to do is join him. The pots are eventually concealed in darkness when they enter the kiln where they shatter.

Since this was essentially meant to be my new demo reel, I put in extra detail into all the elements. Most of the textures are new to the project or revamped versions of old ones. There are a few shaders that I sourced to help save time.

The environments were completely new. It's not very often that I create them, but they help add a sense of realism with the light bounces and reflections. In a few of the images below, you can see the environment cad models. Adding in windows was tricky to get correct because the angle of the sun changed quite a bit, so the sun was one of the first things I animated in each project file.

To make the pottery in the first shot, I started by creating the first and final stages of each piece. My first thought was to animate each state individually and blend them together, as can be seen in the image with the rainbow. The UVs needed to stay in the same positions as it grew so I used the gradient to help track the parameter. Unfortunately, using this method didn't allow me to animate on specific beats the way I hoped, so I ended up scrapping that process.

Instead, I used an animated spline to snap the pot into different shapes and had it rise from underneath the lump of clay. The lump itself was an animated point-morph mesh to give the illusion that the clay was being shaped. Then I combined both meshes into an OVDB mesher and baked the textures along with it.

I used Ryan Talbot's XP Infection Tutorial to create the paint dripping effect. I highly recommend checking it out and sending him a like. It's a pretty simple, versatile effect that made it easy to swap out the pot and bake out the new alembic file.

The shatter effect used Cinema's Voronoi Fracture object with a sphere as the source of impact. This gave it a radial shatter pattern which was animated with plain, step, and push apart effectors.

To animate the pots back together, I used a spline effector (not to be confused with the spline deformer) on the fracture object while animating the start and end position to spread the pieces around.

All in all, I'm really happy with how the project turned out. Thanks for checking out this deep dive into my project! If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message.