134: Stop Motion PSA: revisited
About a month ago, Literacy Source contacted my friend Kevin. They wanted to make another video PSA, like the one we had made for them previously. Kevin contacted me, and we met with them to find out what they had in mind.
They wanted something with a similar feel to the original, but it was to be about 5 times longer, coming in at around 3 minutes. Literacy Source provided the script, and they set up the narration, everything else was up to us.
So here’s what we made:
Now for the behind the scenes stuff:
We had a month to complete the project, but for the first half we took it a little easy. Honestly, a month was probably cutting it close, and to push it to about 2.5 weeks was really cutting it close.
One corner of my living room was transformed into a book and cardboard world, so that I could work on the animation into the wee hours of the night, and I sure did that.
Because we set up by a window and needed our light source to be consistent, we could only really shoot at night. So, during the last week and a half, I was up until 5 a.m. every morning. I would curse at the sun when it came up to ruin my shots, then hit the sack.
One of the interesting problems to solve was figuring out how to make a book tip over slowly, frame by frame.
The book-violence squeamish should look away, now. Don’t worry, it was just a dictionary, not great literature or anything. I hollowed out a section, to attach a hinge, and stiffener board to keep it from wiggling.
Here’s the thin plywood that went inside. (A bit of a coincidence I just noticed in this picture: the arch I cut for the hinge, stops at the word arch.)
The hinge was screwed to the wooden support structure under the cardboard, and a half disc was screwed to the underside.
This little rig did a great job. I tried out a few shots, and then marked the best angles on the disc. I put a page from a book over the bottom part of the hinge, to hide it.
This is what the filming looked like. Trays and trays of bodies strewn around the house. Each laid out very specifically and numbered. The video runs at 8 frames per second, which means for every minute, I need nearly 500 drawings. Add to that, the fact that there are multiple people in most scenes and, and the final number is over 1000. And that’s just for the paper parts. There are hundreds of additional frames of digital animation.
It may sound like I’m complaining, and I probably am, but when I look back on it, it was a really fun project. I also learned so much about animation that I plan to do some personal cartoons for fun, later.
These are just the first few scenes. I have a box where “retired” paper people go to make room on the trays for the new batch.
No need to spend money on a fancy light table. I have a glass table, and a desklamp.
It works beautifully. In fact, right over the intense part of the bulb, I could see through about 10 sheets of stacked paper. That’s very useful for complicated sequences.
Cutting things out and adding a pin to the back of every single drawing took an amazingly long time. Then I numbered them all, and devised a code with symbols to keep track of loops and key moments in the animation.
For those reasons, I preferred the digital animation. When you’re done drawing, you’re done with the animation.
If you watch it again, try to imagine that just off-screen in most scenes there’s a growing pile of used bodies, because there is.
Kevin did an awesome job editing the footage into a seamless finished product, snipping pieces here and there and adding little bits to make sure the audio synched up with what was actually happening onscreen. He also made custom book covers for all the books which really tie the narration into the video, and disguise what books we really used. And together, I think we came up with a really solid piece. The people at Literacy Source loved it. They “oo”ed and “ahh”ed as it played. I’m really happy to work with them, because they’re always so appreciative and sincere. Really great people. Bob Hughes provided the voice of the narrator, and the music is from FTDrop.
As for how we did that floating down shot, I have to keep some things secret.
See ya next week.