Illuminate Your Animation! Meet Neon Nikki!

Celebrate and animate women rappers, poets, producers, and singers!

Neon sign with the image of a girl.

by Erica Schisler

posted on 03-23-2020

Meet the Neon Nikki puppet, a neon sign hanging in the window of a lively nightclub. She’s inspired by a scene from the video for “The City” by DJ Aktive. The song “The City” features multiple artists including DJ Aktive, Freeway, Common, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Bri Steves. Each artist is featured as an animated character in their cities.

The Neon Nikki puppet and the music video were created by director, documentarian, and animator Konee Rok. He’s produced projects featuring Grammy-winning, Oscar-winning and multi-platinum acts such as Kanye West, Common, Wu-Tang Clan, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Rhymefest, and A Tribe Called Quest, just to name a few. His documentary on MC Juice tells the story behind the freestyle MC’s battle against rapper Eminem.

Using Adobe Character Animator, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Premiere Pro, Konee completed the animated video by himself in only two months. The video is filled with subtle references to various cities and the history of hip-hop. How well do you know your hip-hop history? There’s a shout-out to women in hip-hop from Philly. Can you name those women emcees? The Neon Nikki puppet is inspired by the Bri Steves’ character. Bri is an inspiring Philadelphia-born rapper, singer, multi-instrumentalist, poet, and producer. In the video Bri talks about going to Temple University and celebrates her education, tenacity, and drive.

“When we reach the first chorus of ‘The City’ video, we find ourselves in a lively local nightclub where DJ Aktive is entertaining a dense crowd. On the club wall, we see orange, green, yellow, and blue neon fixtures,” Konee said, “a Mount Rushmore, if you will, of four iconic female Philadelphia emcees.” As the camera trucks to the right we see a fifth neon sign opposite the wall, against a window. This fifth sign is turned off — but when a feminine voice kicks in, blue electricity ignites and the sign illuminates a vibrant pink light in the image of Bri’s face. Glass shatters, and the “Bri sign” begins blinking on and off to the beat of the song as she begins the track’s second verse.

“The idea here is that there are the established artists of Philly hip-hop’s past behind her, but that she is now in the forefront with the torch as a prominent representative of the new guard — bringing that legendary lyrical energy to life once again. To capture the blinking sign effect, I created two separate versions of Bri’s head as a neon sign — one appearing off and the other on.”

“I explored Character Animator’s “cycle animation” and “head-turner” capabilities, setting it up so that I could motion capture Bri’s head performance while the sign simultaneously automates between the “on and off” sign versions at a specified rhythm. I also adjusted the “pose-to-pose” feature to help add to the feeling of a limited range of movement, selling the idea that she is a fixture attached to wires,” Konee said.

This sign idea was the initial concept I envisioned to start Bri’s verse, and I was really happy with how it came out using these methods.”

Like the character in the video, Neon Nikki is a neon sign hanging in the window of a looping nightclub background. Using the blink feature, the sign turns on and off with the blink of your eyes through face capture. This puppet also has a dangle behavior on her ponytails so that her hair moves when her head moves. Her head has a right profile so that she can make subtle head turns too.

There are five triggers with audio. By pressing “1” you can trigger her sign to electrify. By pressing “2” you can trigger the glass of her sign to shatter. And if you press and hold “1” and “2” simultaneously, the electricity will appear to shatter the glass. Triggers 3-5 surround the character in electricity from different angles.

Animate and illuminate your message — or bring to life and celebrate your favorite poetess, rapper, or singer using the Neon Nikki puppet!


Get Neon Nikki and other free puppets here.

There are more fun free puppets at Okay Samurai’s page.

_Want to learn more about using Character Animator? _Here you go!

Topics: Creativity, Video & Audio

Products: Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Creative Cloud