Digital artist Stephan Dreadford accidentally fell into the craft of animating famous heavy metal cover art. The single incident, which involved doing animated cover art for social media for his brother's band, has now pushed Dreadford down a very cool path. Over a very short time, Dreadford has animated numerous cover paintings, turning them into moving pieces of awesome--by such artists as Ed Repka to Andreas Marshall--from static greatness. Dreadford's vision has put into--well, actual--motion covers by Judas Priest, Sodom, Blind Guardian, Helloween, Pantera, Kreator, and many more. He sees the art like we all do... Living, breathing covers, but instead of using our imaginations to see where, for example, Mark Wilkinson (cover artist for Painkiller) wanted go, Dreadford does it for us. Read on as we extol the virtues of Dreadford's GIF prowess.
At what point did you look at heavy metal cover art and think, “This would look awesome in motion”?
Stephan Dreadford: I’m a big fan of music in general--not only heavy metal, but also classical or movie soundtracks. However, metal music--with all its sub-genres--is the one which fascinates me since I can remember. Metal releases come predominantly with great and magnificent cover artwork--stimulating the imagination of listener. There is no other music genre, where graphic art on the cover of releases means so much for bands and for fans. I've always been fascinated and mesmerized by artworks of albums, but also of books that I bought. Sometimes I bought the album (and still it happens to me) just for the cover artwork without knowing the band's music and name before--I know this happens to many metal fans, [Laughs] but the idea to animate the cover artwork came few years ago from my brother’s band. I work as graphic designer for web, video clips and sometimes as photographer and videographer and they asked me if I could help with some promotion stuff. They just released new debut album and wanted to have something special and “eye-catching” for promotional purposes on Internet, all social media channels, etc. We noticed that almost all social services like Facebook and Twitter started to be open for all kind GIF animations. So, I created a very simple animation for them, just few frames in the loop, but their fans were very excited and started to share it intensively--it was very viral… And so it began.
What was your first cover you animated?
Stephan Dreadford: After this simple animation for my brother’s band I realized that in this way I could “turn to live” all my favorite artworks from so many albums! At once, the first thought was Judas Priest Painkiller--I always wanted to see it in motion. As I remember, I worked on it something around 12-14 hours. I wanted “to move” it in every detail. After the magic was done, I shared it on my private profile on Facebook just for friends--I was surprised about the very positive feedback. So, the next step was to create the website and Facebook profile for AnimatedCovers and start sharing the goods with the world…, but yeah, Painkiller, was the first.
Do you have a favorite cover you’ve animated?
Stephan Dreadford: I guess that could be all covers I’ve animated for Blind Guardian--generally I admire and love to animated Andreas Marschall’s artwork.
On average, how many covers do you animate a month?
Stephan Dreadford: It depends on how much free time I have when I haven’t to work in my daily work. I try to make 2-3 animations a week, so monthly it’s like 8-12 covers. I know I could easily make 1 animation every day and that’s why I’ve created a Patreon crowdfunding account, where all fans and believers of AnimatedCovers art can support me in the mission to show for the world all great cover artworks in the motion. The address is: www.patreon.com/animatedcovers. Every supporter gets a downloadable HD video version of every animation I publish on my websites, no matter what amount that will be, so I guess this is good deal. For just one dollar weekly you can get 2-3 animations now--my dream is to give people 7 animation every week.
What tools do you use to animate the cover art?
Stephan Dreadford: Generally, it's Adobe Photoshop and After Effects. Occasionally, if it’s needed I use 3D software like 3ds Max or Maya, like you can see in the aforementioned Painkiller or Helloween’s Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2. Additionally, almost in every work I use graphic tablets to reconstruct the backgrounds and other graphic elements.
Do you draw or paint yourself?
Stephan Dreadford: Unfortunately not. I’m a guy who’s totally addicted to the computer and work in a digital environment.
What has the response been like to the animated cover art?
Stephan Dreadford: The response is just great! Every hour I get e-mails and messages from music fans with ideas and suggestions for the next animation and work. I love to read them and would like to realize every request, and I hope Patreon crowdfunding support will help in this matter. The great response is also from the bands. You can see my animations on social media channels of bands like: Annihilator, Sodom, Blind Guardian and many more, which makes me very happy and proud. More and more young and newcomer bands also want their cover artwork in motion.
Have you been contacted by the original artists about animating their art?
Stephan Dreadford: No, I haven't yet, but I hope they like their characters, creatures and things flying, running, crawling, dancing or shining. [Laughs]
Do you think animated cover art is the wave of the future?
Stephan Dreadford: This is very young art, but as with any art I, as creator will do it as long as there will be the need for such medium of entertainment and so nice feedback from fans so far and as long as it will make me and other people happy. The future will verify it.