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Creator Q&A: "How did they do that?" 2013 Staff Favorites Edition

Riley Hooper
December 31, 2013 by Riley Hooper Staff

Seasons greetings, Vimeo!

By now I hope you're all properly stuffed with figgy pudding, properly stocked up on socks, and you've had a chance to peruse the rabbit hole of awesomeness that is our 2013 Staff Favorites page, in addition to watching all 10 of our curation team's top picks from Staff Picks.

While watching some (or maybe all?) of these videos you may have found yourself asking "How the heck did they do that!?" Over here at Video School, we feel it is our civic duty to answer that question. And when we can't quite find the answer, we go straight to the source and ask the creators themselves!

We selected three particularly perplexing pieces from our top 10 list and decided to pick the brains of their makers, to find out how they pulled off such stunning feats of visual mastery and technical expertise.

First up we have Ohji with this superb piece of music video excellence. Just give it a watch:

VVS: What was the research process for this animation? I assume it involved pouring over many, many romance novels?

Ohji: Soooooooo many romance novels.

I looked in public libraries, used book stores, and brought a scanner and laptop to a Value Village (thrift store) and spent an afternoon being the weirdo in the store scanning mountains of sleazy novels into my laptop. While there were some gems at Value Village, ultimately, Google and Flickr proved to be the most useful resource.

Once a library of covers was amassed, I organized them depending on styles (vintage / photo-real / comic-book-style), the type of genres and characters (period piece ladies / fantasy wenches / sci-fi ladies / gun-toting action ladies / femme fatales / bored housewives), the types of poses, the composition of the image, the action happening in the scene – and of course, these all had to exist in a high enough resolution. Then I chose what would be the most interesting, the most thematically relevant, and provide the most variety. I also had to consider the reality of being able to execute the animation technically for each cover. I essentially had to curate the best covers out there. There were so many covers that I wish could've made it into the video, but ultimately didn't because they fell short of certain criteria.

VVS: Can you walk us through the animation process?

O: I used Final Cut Pro to help time out the video to the music using reference images and videos. Photoshop (so much clone tool) – to separate the cover art into different layers, extend backgrounds, and remove titles. After Effects (so much puppet tool) – to animate and composite everything, The Trapcode Suite and Video Co-Pilot Optical Flares plug-ins for added touches, and a borrowed Mac Pro for final renders. I also used a Canon T2i to shoot my friend's roommate's lips saying "gotta treat me right" in a bunch of different angles.

VVS: Had you made something like this before? Where did you learn the skills necessary to make this animation?

O: By the time a few years had passed since my first exposure to an introductory After Effects course during college, I had dabbled in compositing and motion graphics in student films and corporate videos enough to feel prepared for this project.

VVS: Tell us about the greatest challenge and greatest reward of working on this project.

O: The greatest challenge was chiseling down the source material, which is virtually infinite, to just a few handfuls of covers.

The greatest reward was being able to share and express my sense of humor and appreciation for the phenomenon that is the romance novel.

Next up, we talked to Polish artists Kijek / Adamski about this stop motion creation they did for Shugo Tokumaru:

VVS: Can you walk us through the animation process? What programs and methods did you use to design the animation and to cut the pieces of PVC plates?

Kijek / Adamski: All of the animation was prepared in Adobe After Effects with masks; only the human silhouettes were taken from pre-recorded green screen footage, which was later auto-traced and adjusted by hand. After we had all the images outlined, we copied every other frame (which amounted to 1900+ shapes) onto 13 PVC plates with Adobe Illustrator. (Copying every frame of the original 25 fps animation would have made the final installation over 20 meters long, which wouldn't fit in the studio. Therefore, we chose to use every other frame, which would make the final animation 12 fps and the physical object only 10 meters in length.) Those 13 files were then sent to the studio, which used a digitally controlled roller cutter to cut all the silhouettes. Finally, we painted selected silhouettes and extracted all the shapes from the plates one by one.

VVS: How did you shoot it? Was the camera on a dolly?

K/A: We shot the whole video in a studio using a Canon 5D Mk II. One picture was taken after adding each silhouette to the installation. After each frame was taken, we moved the camera back .5 cm (the exact thickness of the PVC plate) on a simple, self-made dolly. The whole installation was 10 meters long. Check out this behind the scenes video and you'll see!

VVS: Had you made something like this before? Where did you learn the skills necessary to make this animation?

K/A: We have never done a piece like this. It was an experiment, but quite a predictable one, since the method was very clear, based on simple animation features. We try to stay fresh all the time, and we learn a lot during the process of making.

VVS: Tell us about the greatest challenge and greatest reward of working on this project.

K/A: The biggest challenge was to tackle many technical issues from various creative areas to create one coherent work.

The biggest reward is that people are able to appreciate this video for so much more than those technical issues from which we started.

Last but not least, Martín Rosete walked us through some of the behind the scenes secrets of his popular short "Voice Over":

VVS: Wow, the locations! Where did you shoot the moon, underwater, and trench sequences? What challenges did you face in doing so?

Martín Rosete: We found all the locations in Tenerife, which is part of the Canary Islands of Spain. It is very volcanic and has amazing landscapes where several Hollywood movies have been filmed ("Clash of the Titans II," "Fast & Furious 6," and, currently, Ridley Scott's "Exodus").

We shot the scene on Mars in the Teide, which is the highest peak in Spain and an amazing volcano. For the trench scene, we thought we'd have to create the bridge in post, but when we went scouting we found an incline right next to a bridge that was just perfect. Similarly, we first thought we would shoot the underwater scene on a tack and then recreate the boat and the cliff in CGI. But we realized that it would look much better if we could make it real, so we bought a super old and small boat and went underwater. We're really happy we did this, because we feel that scene looks so amazing and so real.

VVS: Color correction seems to play a big role in the final piece. Can you walk us through the creative choices that were made with color?

MR: I love planning every shot and atmosphere with my DP, who is also my brother, Jose Martin Rosete. We worked many months in advance, doing different tests with the camera, lenses, and color. We ended up shooting on a RED ONE MX, and using very old anamorphic lenses.

For the color, we wanted to be bold and use the primary colors: dominant red for the astronaut scene, green for the soldier, and blue for the fisherman, leaving a more neutral palate for the kissing scene. We did all color correction at the Technicolor lab in Madrid using Davinci.

VVS: Tell us about the greatest challenge and greatest reward of working on this project.

MR: When I first read the script for "Voice Over" I thought that every scene would be impossible to shoot, but then I started to break them into small pieces and brainstorm the best (and least expensive) solution for each of them. We had a lot of VFX, animatronic, in-camera effects, rain, and the underwater scene that were all really hard. The underwater scene was particularly challenging because down there everything is really slow so you need to know exactly what you need. It also helps to have a great team who really love the project.

Aside from the 90 awards that "Voice Over" has won so far, the most rewarding thing is all the messages I have received from people all over the world who have told me how much they love the film, or how it inspired them. I've also received messages from many producers offering me work because they just loved the film.

10 Comments

s. palmer Plus

really love hearing behind the scenes, gear, tech, and artistic choices talk like this... thanks for sharing!

INSPIRIT PICTURES

The best video story telling i had ever saw in such a perfect piece!
Amazing work!
Thanks.

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