MARCH 9: Mike Patterson & Candace Reckinger

mike and candace

Michael Patterson is a director, designer and animator working in visual music. While in graduate studies in animation at Calarts, he developed his impressionistic style of animating which led to a 10-year career as a director in music videos. This was followed by 20 years of directing award-winning blended media TV commercials at Rhythm + Hues and other studios. He’s been creating visual music work and teaching at USC since spring 2007.

Candace Reckinger is an artist-director creating blended media and visual music using animation and photography. She has an undergraduate degree in painting and an MFA in film from UCLA. Her work ventures beyond the boundaries of conventional narrative exploring the border between the figurative and abstract, the mythic and experiential, and the tension between movement and stillness. Candace’s professional directing career has spanned independent film and video, music videos and TV commercials. She’s been teaching at USC since fall 2007.

Candace and Mike began their professional careers as co-directors. Their music video career started in 1985 with the animation for the MTV hit Take on Me for A-Ha. Together, Patterson and Reckinger directed a string of MTV hits that include, Suzanne Vega’s Luka and Opposite’s Attract, featuring Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat, which won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video.  In 2006, 7 of their music videos, along with Mike’s animated film Commuter, were added to the Museum of Modern Artʼs permanent collection.

While at USC, Patterson+Reckinger collaborated with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and a team of their students and animation graduates to create a 5-screen visualization of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for the gala opening of Frank Gehry’s New World Center in Miami Beach, Florida in 2011. They produced and co-directed the live immersive events, Rhythms + Visions / Expanded + Live I and II in 2011 and 2013. The large-scale outdoor events gathered internationally renown visual music artists work from the US, Europe and Japan for architectural projection, installation and live performances with a curated gallery exhibition.

In 2015, Patterson and Reckinger directed 7 new visual music works for contemporary music, 3 of these pieces were created in collaboration with a team of their USC animation students. They continued their work in immersive visual music design with Measures + Frames, a concert for live string quartet and multi-screen projection. The visualizations were created in collaboration with the composers, Thomas Ades (Arcadiana), Veronika Krausas (Mideragami) and Jeffrey Holmes (Kirurgi). Other visual artists in the event included David Lynch and Agnes Varda.

The other 4 pieces were commissioned by concert pianist Gloria Cheng for Beyond Music: Composition and Performance in the Age of Augmented Reality. These new works were for live music performance and surround projection at the Broad Experimental Digital Arts space at UCLA, November 2015. Other visual artists in the program included Refik Anadol and Bill Viola.

Since 2014, Candace and Mike have engaged in collaborations with the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance and the Thornton School of Music. In September 2015, they worked with the Thornton School to re-stage Pictures at an Exhibition for panoramic projection at the Granada Theater in Santa Barbara. The concert featured the USC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carl St. Claire and was the first time new Museik iPad controller was used to sync projection media with live symphonic performance.

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19 thoughts on “MARCH 9: Mike Patterson & Candace Reckinger

  1. David Nessl says:

    Like most of our faculty here at USC, Mike and Candace are amazing artists and it’s a big benefit to have them here teaching us. They have the ability to inspire and there’s something about the way they teach that makes you feel like an artist. When they spoke of becoming professors at USC and turning their competition into connections for the benefit of education I thought about what it might be like for us in the future. Lisa is always telling us that we will one day be inviting each other to speak at universities and pass on our knowledge to new generations and it makes me feel good to strive towards making that a reality once we leave Cinematic Arts.
    I really like Mikes rotoscoping techniques and I’m also interested in examining the relationship between dance and animation. He has a talent for communicating visual music and that ability makes his work very strong. Candace said that it’s very difficult to become a DP in the industry, but from my perspective she is a DP in the industry and there’s a certain peacefulness to her cinematography. The shots she composes mixed with music seem to kind of mirror each other, and when they’re experienced together, time seems to take a different progression; either fast or slow.
    It makes me very happy that I’m able to focus entirely on my art right now and I’m glad that I have people like Mike and Candace to ask questions of and learn from.


  2. Ruchia Masuko says:

    The works of Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger are so beautiful and I was so inspired.
    To me sounds and musics are important elements for animation.
    They lead, and constitute the image and atmosphere of animations and leads audience to certain sensibility.
    But understanding sounds and music is I am inexperienced, and being well versed in music and sounds will improve the fluency in manipulating expression in works.

    And it is vey honored to be in a university where professors and David Lynch work on art project together. Me and my professor are big fan of David Lynch, I was so excited to hear about the project they did with David Lynch.


  3. Megan Simon says:

    I really enjoyed this talk by our faculty members Mike and Candice. Not only are they accomplished contemporary artists, but they have incredible amounts of experience creating commercial work for things such as music videos. In fact some of their music videos are classics. I adored this talk because Mike and Candice broke down their experiences, their transitions and their process for us. Their work speaks for itself. Breathtaking projections designed to play along with live musical performance.

    That is what I picked up most from this lecture, the idea as animation as collaboration. True that animation is the art of movement, but I also firmly believe it is an art form of collaboration. How else could massive projects like movies or huge projection installations be created without some form of teamwork. Candace and Mike seemed to have mastered this, both with their own strong aesthetics coming together to make something uniquely theirs. How exciting the opportunities teaching allows them to no longer compete with their peers but instead create fantastic art! It makes me wish that America supported art outside of academia and commercial art, with a film board or something similar.

    I loved hearing all about each of the projects Candice and Mike worked on, they truly have keen insight in the industry as well as how to design an animation for its function rather than to be the center of attention. I think most animators are used to trying to be the center of attention that some of the intelligent design is lost. I think this is a common mistake for many young artists and designers, mistaking overworked for good design. That’s certainly a common topic in painting. If something is overdone it loses its impact. That isn’t the case for Mike and Candice. Years of experience clearly shine through their work, proving a sophistication to their design and animation. I look forward to learning from them next semester. It’s going to be a fantastic class! I can’t wait!


  4. YuYu says:

    Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger show us lots of their great works tonight. I like the one which made by many students the most. The whole film tone is so consistent that is hard to tell it was combined with lots of different people’s works. Some parts they even overlap with each other and fit very well.

    Besides how well their films work with the music, the most important part they mentioned tonight is we should know what’s the purpose of our works. Is it an independent film which wants to tell a complete story, or it is a film made to show as the orchestra is playing? If it is the last one, it shouldn’t be too strong or too complex to distract the audience.


  5. Jane G. Kim says:

    This was a very interesting lecture, particularly because it was something that I was completely unfamiliar with. Sometimes I become so involved with the traditional use of animation as storytelling, I would forget that there is a whole world of possible ways to use the medium. What I found particularly interesting was the one that focused on computer noises; the title of the piece involved many q’s and x’s. It was performed on three walls of a room and it made me wonder what it would be like if mainstream film/movies tried that kind of format. Same goes to the panoramic ones as well.


  6. HyeonJeong Cho says:

    It was very interesting seminar; meeting Michael and Candace as artists not faculties, their arts are amazing. Colours, composting, and sync with musics are awesome. Also it was so fun to watch how other students participated as artists. Loved the diversity of style!

    I really really really liked the piece with small electric pianos, and rotoscoping of dancing. For the projection work with small piano seemed like the visual plays music- the tone of music and animation match together so well, and rotoscoping was just beauutiful; I love work that shows animation is not only about 2D, or 3D commercial means but is something beyond; the arts.

    I’m so excited to take CTAN 555 next semester. I’d like to learn more about compositing, and use of colours from them!!! (the colours of their work were soo good.)


  7. Kun Xia says:

    I really appreciate last weeks’ seminar with Mike Patterson and Candace Reckinger, they shared many beautiful works, it was very visual pleasing, and inspiring. Some of their animations shared strong symbolic representation, some of them were all created out of a limited set of representations, so that the entire middle of some pieces felt like a reshuffling of common elements. Which create a major force to audience. Mike mentioned a technique about music sync, which you don’t keep it constant all the time, try to break it for some sequences and then restore it, makes the piece more powerful. I found this is very helpful, sound and music play an important role in animation, sounds are much given attention in a way that when this will be sync with the animation it would bring the audience into the story. Not just by looking at the pictures moving but also with the sounds it creates for us to feel the mood and the atmosphere of the animation.


  8. Sagar Ramesh says:

    I took a class with Mike last semester, and he would mention his involvement with visual music every now and then; he never had a chance to dive very deep into the work that he and Candance did, so it was great to see them speak at seminar!

    Visual music is such a pure, beautiful form of animation; the color, subject matter, and movement in the piece work in conjunction to communicate an idea, and the music adds an emotional layer to the work that augments the entire experience. It was interesting to hear about Mike and Candace’s inspiration, approach, and the risks they both took with their pieces. Each of their pieces surrounded the viewer– visually and/or sonically– and provided something beyond a conventional film-viewing experience. I’m looking forward to seeing more of their work in the future, especially their explorations with VR and projection mapping.

    Something that I’ve been interested in pursuing with visual music is role reversal– having the music evolve according to the visuals rather than the other way around. I think there are numerous technologies available to artists today that can facilitate such projects, and it’s something I’d like to explore in the future. What if there was a way for the viewer to manipulate the visuals in a piece, and in turn, change the music that was produced by the work? The interactive element would further engage the viewer, and the piece would literally be shaped by those who interact with it. Seeing how Mike and Candace captured the attention of their viewers through creative visual music solutions definitely inspired me to think about this more deeply.

    Overall, I thought Mike and Candace’s presentation was phenomenal, and I’m excited to see their future visual music explorations.


  9. Okike Franklin says:

    It’s always a pleasure to hear Mike & Candace present. I’ve attended a few of their presentations and I’ve noticed there’s always new projects / contents in their presentation.

    Haven taken their CTAN-555 class, I’ve come to appreciate the value and important role music plays with visuals. As an animator, I used to base my main focus on just how well my characters performance can be without having sound/music in mind but that class changed me a lot.

    In all, Mike and Candace gave an outstanding and insightful presentation and I always look forward to their new projects


  10. Evan Tedlock says:

    It was really inspiring to have Candace and Mike talk about their work with us. I personally have admired what they do for awhile but hearing about structure, content, concept and execution of these pieces has given me a whole new view into this intensely specialized and beautiful niche of the animation world. They are truly masters of their craft and have set all kinds of paradigms and milestones in the visual music sphere. It is astounding that they are so readily available to us as mentors and professors.

    One of the most useful things that I walked away with was the concept of creating an augmented performance. When working in live projection and performance the screen is not the only window present. The music should shine just as brightly and as the performance progresses, the music should energize the visuals and the visuals should energize the music. It is a dynamic, living relationship. Sometimes the visuals need to relax and let the music play. Good visual music doesn’t visualize every note but rather it works with the music to create a wholly new, transcendent experience. Mike has said several times that ‘nothing’ is so important and sometimes more relevant than all of the frenetic something that you can muster. The synchronization of ideas is more important that micky-mousing.


  11. Bryan Lee says:

    It was a great experience to hear from Mike and Candace talk about their many projects in visual music and it was truly inspirational to hear how they could transform their passions into art that was visual music. It was fantastic to see Mike’s work after having a class with him last semester talking about his experiences in visual music. I enjoyed hearing their artistic visions and how they could translate that with the music and convey the experience with an audience. I was particularly moved by the “Storm” piece with the two percussionists, it was mystifying and enrapturing to hear a storm personified through musical means and gave something that is normally considered chaotic and destructive a very beautiful and elegant portrayal. Overall, it was a wonderful talk to see what Mike and Candace envisioned through the years.


  12. Yingzong Xin says:

    It’s really a good experience to see Mike and Candace’s presentation. Before that I hasn’t learned visual music a lot and not even pay lots attention . But it turns out it’s really interesting area. it was really inspiring to see how the music and visual images works together so perfectly. And the images are beautiful , the way to create that images are also unusual and intense .
    I’ll always looking forward of Mike and Candace’s new project.


  13. Joe Stucky says:

    Thank you Mike and Candice for this presentation of your work. Truly inspirational. Extremely remarkable the amount and quality of work that you have been able to accomplish with the projects that you shared. your artistry and craft is top notch. What I was struck with was the fact that you knew how to fully answer questions about your work. You have a handle on what students need and are fully capable of giving this in your work and presentation. This really stands out from any other presenters that have visited. In other words you are exceptional artists, but also remarkable professors. I would like to discuss more specific aspects of your work and will save this for office hours thank you for this insight into your life and work.


  14. Erik Dumas says:

    Mike and Candace are incredible artists and filmmakers, and we are really lucky to have them here as professors. While I don’t intend to make the kind of animations that they make, I have a lot of respect for their ability to marry music and visual elements. I’m of the opinion that sound matters just as much as the visuals, so it’s really great that they obviously put just as much time and care into that aspect of their animations.

    Keep on inspiring, Mike and Candace!


  15. ZOEY says:

    Candace and Mike gave powerful and in-depth presentation knowledge related to projection. From diverse collaborative pieces directed by both of them, audience can soon get immersed into the alloy of music and visual elements. I really enjoyed listening how and what they did during the processes to construct works by communicating with musicians and composers which can help them to get big rough direction at first. Later on they solidified ideologies with both linear and non-linear vehicles to hit the points. Somehow, although projection needs precise calculation and sync technique to reach the best effect of combining music and visuals, contents itself need to leave some space to let audiences breath and imagine, Which means that music and visual components cannot be both dominant at the same time or it will blur the point and be chaotic.

    To some degree, I think the way they gave the speech and cooperated is like the pieces they directed. They will listen to each other to find a right time to strengthen the points consecutively. They always know how to preserve some chances to let each other demonstrate idea. I appreciated how artists embody their ideas into their real life.


  16. Min Shi says:

    I still remembered the first time that I went to Mike and Candice’s presentation. It was 2014 when I was studying for my undergrad degree in Beijing Film Academy. When the big screen plays Take On Me, I saw every international students(especially american students) began to cheered and sang this song together. And for me Suzanne Vega’s Luka is one of my song!!
    One of the most useful things that I learned today was that the concept of augmented performance. It seems that music should show up just as brightly and as the performance progresses.


  17. Sequoyah Madison says:

    I don’t even know where to begin! Mike and Candace truly are a powerhouse team!! Their work was so inspirational and the imagery they presented so thought provoking, that I found myself discovering solutions to my present animation dilemmas and coming up with new ideas for animations I would like to create. There is such a beauty in Mike and Candace’s work where the music would dominate then the visuals would dominate.

    A part of their presentation I don’t want to forget were their thoughts on how the visuals need to accompany the music in order for an audience to retain equal parts of both. The narrative cannot be too intricate because the mind needs to not be tethered to the visuals so the spectator can focus on the music. The pattern in the visuals and the pattern in the music have to complement each other, either through parallel or juxtaposition. The information Mike and Candace shared –also the part about academia and how it is a huge financial supporter for animated projects and their experiences working with a composer and what its taught them – was also really enlightening and I look forward to learning more next semester!

    Mike and Candace have an amazing ability to foster an obviously beneficial work environment, that produces a gratifying musical/visual experience for the audience. After their lecture I formed the premise of the animation I would really like to work on in 555 and I am eager to hear their feedback and critique throughout the animating process!! Like I said before unbelievably inspirational presentation of work!


  18. Jing Huang says:

    Mike and Candace’s presentation makes me learn more about visual music. I have watched not so many visual music videos before I came here, but I know it’s a popular way in America. I remember one work which is made by many students the most, everyone has different talent and they work well with others, and the result impressed people. In future I look forward to take course by Mike and Candace to approach this area more.


  19. Amir Arzanian says:

    Mike and Candace presentation was really interesting. I really impressed by strength of their work. I knew their work from old times when they made Aha music video. Actually Aha music video is one of my favorite music videos of all times. It was really interesting to see evolution of their works through the time in one session. They recent works are amazing and give a sense of peace and passion. Another interesting thing about their works is creating a team of two and keep it for years. Mike and Candace are example of artists who make their effort to move forward with each work they create.


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