The Man Behind the Motion

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Trevor Carmick at his computer, touching up the his latest animation.

If he had it his way, the work that gained Trevor Carmick attention from renowned photographers to the New York Times never would have happened.

Or, at least, they never would have seen it.

His once personal project, started for fun and jest, would have stayed just that: personal and private. But then a coworker caught wind of his efforts and after some poking and prodding, a blog was born.

“All I wanted to do was find a reason to play around in After Effects,” said Carmick, referencing a specialized editing software he uses for his day job as a video editor. “I had no idea what a Tumblr was and had to get my coworker to help me set it up.”

Inspired by the still (yet moving) images from a New York Times story about Dogfish Head Brewery, Carmick decided to give it a go.

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The GIF that helped launch Beer Labels in Motion

“I was looking at a bottle of Edmund Fitzgerald and thought ‘I could easily take a picture of this and animate the picture inside,'” he said.

So he did.

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But the serendipitous creation of Beer Labels in Motion, a website where Carmick takes images of beer bottles or cans and does exactly what the title suggests, became more than an excuse to test his technical skills. Fans started clamoring for a unique visual take that set Dogfish Head’s iconic shark logo loose to swim around a beer-filled glass or kept an explosion of hop flavor from Heady Topper in perpetual motion.

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The process, which usually takes two or three weeks of after-hours work to complete, is an intricate web of technological know-how and the eye of an artist. However, it starts in a pretty simplistic place that most beer lovers can relate.

“I choose beers I would actually drink,” Carmick said. “I’ll usually go to the beer store, walk around and see if a beer jumps out at me.”

An ideal backdrop is important, whether a brightly-lit Spruce tree and roaring fire for Anchor’s Christmas Ale or a brick facade to play off the industrial name of Hangar 24’s Barrel Roll series. Carmick uses his iPhone 5S to snap a photo of the bottle or can, or he’ll contact the brewery to get a high-resolution image he can directly import into his editing software.

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From there, it’s all about willpower and his willingness to stare at his screen. It often results in hours passing by as he animates piece after piece of a label, “bending” photos to fit the contours of the real-life bottle or can and getting the flow of an animation to seamlessly repeat.

“Knowing when to stop is the hardest thing I run into because I’ll start isolating different bits of a label and pick apart every element I look at,” Carmick said. “I usually get around five to seven iterations before I go ‘OK, this is it, I need to call it quits.’”

That’s amounted to a lot of hours behind the roughly 50 animations he’s made this far, which doesn’t count the unfortunate end for several unfinished efforts. Uncomplete labels included New England Brewery’s Ghandi-Bot after a controversy popped up surrounding its name and Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon, which simply never met Carmick’s own standards.

Regardless of his own feelings, others have been thoroughly impressed. Aside from his thousands of followers on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, Carmick’s beer animations landed him partnerships with food photographer Christopher Boffoli and on the front page of the New York Times website. He’s had other projects come his way, including the animation of deodorant labels.

“A lot of the time, my ideas come by just looking around and daydreaming,” Carmick said. “I could be walking around or sitting on the bus.”

The nonchalant approach is fitting, considering Carmick was never supposed to be where he is today, entertaining thousands with a careful eye, clicks of a mouse and hours of patience.

“It’s funny,” he said. “It was one of those ‘right place at the right time’ things and I just fell into it.”

See this 30-second video with images from Carmick’s creative process to make his latest label in motion:

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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