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Keng-Ming Liu is a music video director, illustrator, motion and toy designer. He is the creative director and chairman of the board at Bito, a creative studio founded in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2013. He has worked for international brands such as Facebook, Disney, Asus, Mercedes Benz and Herman Miller.
Sports fans are sure to have watched the 29th Summer Universiade in Taipei. Many may even be familiar with the promotional video, Taipei in Motion.
A combination of fast-moving images and sports, the clip expresses the dynamism and frenetic energy of Taipei.
It was produced by Bito and directed by Keng-Ming Liu, who was also a juror at the iF DESIGN AWARD 2017. We spoke with him about his approach to design and the experience of being an iF jury member.
Bito comes from the word, Beetle. I have a BA in Entomology, and beetles are my favorite bug. I particularly like the fact that beetles move towards the light, so when I set up my studio I fiddled with the word 'beetle' and named it Bito. Bito has only four letters, which is short and powerful. I wanted to set up a studio that pays attention to visual design.
Nowadays, most of the video production is done by production companies in Asia, and I really want to introduce design thinking into the design industry. That was how Bito, a design-driven studio, was founded. We design every moving image, and we plan every moving picture from the perspective of branding and graphic design to filming. We tell stories with videos; we try to push the limits and break the rules.
It is a city marketing and sports video. You can see the beauty of human body and the energy of the Taipei city in this video. All we wanted to do was to use specially composed images of the city and movement of athletes to reveal the invisible energy of Taipei.
From the beginning to the end, your eyes are driven by energy towards designated direction. Every scene was carefully designed. There is a rule to it: You see the movement of a basketball dunk, followed by diving, while the movement of wrestling is followed by a bridge, then the throw of a Chinese divination block. We started the production by planning the energy flow, then later spent most of the time carrying out the plan.
Choosing and sorting through the materials was the hardest! We wanted to make an extraordinary film, one which stands out from other tourism promotional films. It can’t be a video about street food, the MRT, Taipei 101 or a whole lot of aerial shots. We were on a mission to fill scenes of center-aligned geometry, like sport courts. We introduced design thinking right into the pre-production, which makes every scene pictorial and the film unconventional. This is what motivates our work.
Besides, the most important factor of making a motion graphic is to grasp the rhythm. That's what we are good at. We spent more than a month working with a group of Canadian musicians, who brought us an extraordinary perspective, to revise and refine the sound effects. I had to re-edit the film every time they would trim the music again. The sound was very elaborate. And we put a lot of effort to match the visual flow of energy and the sound.
We ended up spending five months to accomplish the task. We had the right people in the right place and let the team reach its full potential with enough time. This sets a precedent. In the concept development stage, the studio was full of pictures and images of various different sports. It took us a lot of time researching, developing concepts and making a script. Pre-production is, in fact, very important in terms of film production. Design should be introduced in the very beginning rather than the so called ‘post-production’ that commonly seen in Taiwan. I want every detail to be well planned. That is what I learned during the 10 years I spent in the US.
To accomplish a sophisticated project like this, we need a director, art director, designer, animator and composer that all work together, rather than just a staff working under the director’s instruction. Our workflow and team structure is set up to be different.
The main difference is the workflow. In Taiwan, people always work under the circumstance where time and budget are limited, and you have to go for safety shots. However, design is, in fact, a solution for the customer, and in return, we need enough time, budget and respect. And we need to work on that.
Additionally, we need to work on our sense of aesthetics, especially since the computer is widely used, which weakens people’s sense of aesthetics, if you look at signboards and buildings. And it takes time to turn these things around.
We would like to push people’s sense of aesthetics forward. And we are happy if the promotional video of the 29th Summer Universiade has helped do that.
Some images are provided by Bito.