Mettle Profiles Sonia Rechaux | ShapeShifter AE
Sonia Rechaux was classically trained in design schools in Paris, France. She learned Adobe After Effects at a Parisian advertising agency, and now works freelance. When she began work on a film title sequence for Praschan Requiem, a French crime film, she chose mettle’s 3D plug-in ShapeShifter AE to help deliver her vision. The long typographical morphing sequences were perfectly suited for ShapeShifter AE’s capabilities.
Sonia explains her involvement:
Luckily, I had creative carte blanche on this project. I wanted to create the title sequence in After Effects, but give it a unique look and feeling. Everyone has access to the same tools in AE, so I find the work can end up looking alike. With mettle’s ShapeShifter AE plug-in, I saw a way to differentiate my work, and create something unique.
My idea was to create a typographical story of long morphing sequences, to illustrate the following: the Franco-Thai origins of the hero; Praschan – which means Moon in Thai; the flight sequence; the trap that closes in on the main character. ShapeShifter allowed me to express all this, in a way that I thought was unique. The fast rendering times gave me lots of time to experiment and create.
To begin with, I sent a mood board to Albert Fautré, the Director. It showed samples of rendered images that I liked, made with ShapeShifter. As soon as he was sold on the overall concept, I did some animation tests and created some key images from the storyboard. This quickly showed that ShapeShifter was the tool for us to use. Afterwards, I used the music to inspire me and to create the rhythm. It was a walk in the park.
So tell us, where did your love of design begin?
Even as a child, I was enthralled by animations and t.v. commercials. I enjoyed any creative activity, but my favorite, bar none, was design. I just loved doing design makeovers on anything, from my bicycle, to notebooks, furniture. I was always redecorating my room (that still hasn’t changed) Lol. During summer break, I would pass a lot of time in my grandfathers attic, designing and building all kinds of strange and mysterious objects. I had many tools available, so I could do things like solder. It was a fantastic place to be free and create.
Sonia in her design studio.
How did you know that graphic design and advertising would be the right path for you to take?
While I was in secondary school, I found my courses extremely boring. It was really my mother who helped steer (me in) the direction that I finally took. (Thanks Mom!) She brought me to Open Houses at different art schools in Paris. Wow. What a revelation! I immediately immersed myself in whatever it took to follow this path. That’s why, from the age of 15, I began training in the arts seriously, and did the entrance exams for the top Art schools in Paris. At Corvisart, my first art school, there were 1800 kids trying out for only 75 places. I did many all-nighters working tirelessly on projects. I was hooked! I was even awarded ’Top Student’ of my school in 1991 by Mr. Jacques Chirac, who was then mayor of Paris.
What was it like at Corvisart?
It’s a lycée for Graphic Arts. We had to learn everything by hand; logos by brush, gouache and Rotring. Illustration with colored pencil. Photos retouched by hand or airbrush. My teachers encouraged me to follow a more conceptual and creative path, and to continue my studies to become an Art Director. So I continued my studies at Maximlien Vox/Rue Madame, Paris.
Sounds impressive! What did you do there?
I got a Bachelor’s in Technical Design and Creation. We learned all things related to graphic design, photography, industrial design, including many fine art drawing classes. It was great! I loved it so much that I wanted to continue my studies at a higher level.
So what was next?
ESAA Duppéré in Paris. They teach a Master’s level of design and fashion, and is well known in Paris. I went through the program for Visual Communication, and that’s where I was really attracted by motion design. One thing that was really stressed there – concept before execution.
Do you notice any difference between motion design in France and the US?
When I began doing motion graphics, I found that the American-style graphics were more effects oriented, and the French style put more emphasis on being elegant. I found that these differences have disappeared, that there is a more international style, with everyone using the same tools. Although a French style still exists, apparently.
How did you discover After Effects and mettle plug-ins?
I discovered After Effects in 1997 while I was working at Arsenic, a Parisian agency that was a pioneer in animation for tv commercials. At the time, the market was divided between 5 or 6 agencies (it was the Golden Age of Motion Graphics). I moved on to work at Print studio, but had one desire, which was to integrate the production department with the designers. This wish was realized three years later when I led a pitch that won a new account that prompted that integration.
I discovered mettle in 2011 on Facebook, on an AE portal. I was seduced by the renderings, and the visual possibilities of ShapeShifter and FreeForm Pro. Especially the idea of staying in After Effects, which was really great for my workflow. I didn’t have to go render in a 3D app and bring all the assets back into After Effects for compositing each time I wanted to make a change. ShapeShifter let me create, design and render all inside After Effects.
Sonia with her daughter, near their home in Brittany, France.
You have a beautiful daughter. She’s obviously an important part of your life. How do you balance your work and family life?
Thanks for the compliment. Haha. Work balance. That’s not always easy, especially when you work in an advertising agency with crazy deadlines. Revisions always seem to happen at 5 pm, when the day should be wrapping up. That’s why I went freelance. To better organize my schedule, and have time to spend with my daughter. Overall, I am more available for my clients, and there is less stress in managing my time. Even when my work is stretched out over many evenings or weekends, this no longer compromises my family life. Even with tight deadlines, when I manage the project myself, it’s a win/win situation. I am also extremely fortunate to live right next to the Atlantic, near Lorient, in Brittany, in a nature preserve. It’s easy for me to take a quick walk on nearby trails with my daughter and my dogs, and recharge my batteries. It’s a great quality of life.
Lucky you! It must be amazing to spend time there. You must have other interests that influence the kind of work that you do?
Of course. Everything that I like is somehow design-related. Contemporary architecture. Eco-design. Product design. Interior design (with all things LED). I gladly welcome projects in any of these fields. I have delved into product design with an Australian company. As long as it’s design, I’m happy and I’m there. I envy multi-disciplinary designers, like Philippe Starck, Ora ïto, André Putman or even Jean-Charles de Castelbajac , who can transition easily from fashion, furniture, interior, set, jewelry, car interiors, or whatever!
What do you love best?
I personally love changing media, going from packaging design to a film title sequence. Or designing a new logo or product. It makes me feel like I’m breathing creatively.
Thanks SOnia! Merci beaucoup.
Link to Sonia: