Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Making of the Book Trailer for THE RAVEN BOYS

I honestly thought that a making of the Raven Boys animated trailer would be a straightforward blog post, but it turns out that you cannot make a straightforward blog post about a non-straightforward-process. Or, you can, but you have to remove all the non-linear and disastrous bits, but that makes it inherently untruthful.

I like being truthful, so this is going to be messy. And long.

I knew right off when I started the Raven Boys trailer that I wanted it to be a stretch for me — well out of my comfort zone — or I just didn't think there was any reason to do it at all. If I'm going to be committing 60 or 100 hours of my life to a creative project, it had better leave a mark in the very fibers of my creative being or at the very least result in me having a statue of myself erected in a village somewhere.

I need to tell you right now that there was probably a better way to do all this. I understand people learn how to do this the right way and it is an efficient and beautiful process. My animation schooling involves paper cuts and glue fumes, and I am not sure I recommend trying this at home.

So, that said, I have always loved traditional, 2D animation, and I used to make my living as a colored pencil artist, so I wondered if there'd be a way to combine the two. The only problem with this plan was that colored pencil is a slow medium. Even I, who had become fairly speedy, took an hour or three to finish small pieces. When you're animating, every second of on-screen action eats anywhere between six and twenty-four frames. In colored pencil that is . . . a lot of hours. 

Which meant that my first hopeful step was to see if I could digitally reproduce the look of my colored pencil work. I could work way faster on my Wacom tablet. But my digital Gansey just did not look like my colored pencil Gansey.


Colored pencil it was. Oh, and I wanted to try voice-over. I've always been intrigued by the pleasures and pain of syncing animation to voice, and I figured, if I'm going to experiment, I'm going to EXPERIMENT.

 So the next step was to mock up my trailer. Well, kind of. I sort of worked on finished images and mocked up at the same time. I told you. It's not really . . . linear. Anyway, this was an early mock up, with some finished art, some not, music from Zoe Keating and from Blood and Chocolate's soundtrack acting as placeholders. Yes, I am in fact doing all of the voices in this one, and I understand that it is hilarious.


As you can see, it wasn't working. The entire structure of it was just a giant mess and it was on its way to being about ten minutes long, which would take the rest of my life to animate. I restructured. (Still hilarious)


I was doing most of this in iMovie, iStopMotion, Photoshop, and on my kitchen table. I was doing my sketches with my Wacom tablet (that was the source of the digital Gansey), tweaking the movement when I could (altering the frames just slightly) in Photoshop, and then sequencing the frames in iStopMotion, before exporting the tiny movie sequences to be pasted together in iMovie.

YES. I'm aware there are easier ways, Stiefvater. But I could never do my algebra in the correct order, either.

By this point, I had a lot of frames laying around the house, and everything sort of smelled like pencil dust and orange solvent (click to make anything bigger).

RB Ronan Declan RB Adam RB arms RB Ronan parts RB spirits RB Blue expression RB Blue Mouths RB Blue Face and Mouth RB Gansey face RB Camaro RB Gansey threat RB mouths
RB Henrietta
RB kiss 

All of those mouths and arms and stuff are because I would paste those onto the frames digitally in Photoshop and then animate them later, to keep from having to redraw the entire frame. At some point I started plugging this into a better mock-up. With music from Transformers, because I'm classy that way.


At this point, I began inflicting this thing on my family and friends for peer review. Did this bit make sense? Was it interesting? Would music help? Should I change the font? Should I change this voice?

And I also failed a lot. I animated the title sequences with little gritty bits around the edges; it wasn't obvious enough and I ditched them. I made the colored moving bits in the kissing sequence more colorful; it looked like the scene took place under a disco ball. I had to redo the fight sequence four times until my editor stopped laughing when he saw it.

I spent loads of time on things that you can't really see. The gun, for instance, at the end — it's multiple frames with slight motion, because when I used the same frame more than once in a row, it instantly looked out of place with the constant movement of the rest of the trailer. Blue's face is a late addition in the bit where Adam is staring up through the forest leaves with Wonder. Before, it just sort of looked . . . unbalanced. I redid the landscape pan twice because it just looked goofy. Partway through the process I just went insane and went back in and animated about half a dozen blinks. In the end, the thing that nearly broke me was spelling Jessica's name wrong in the credits at the end — I had to pull out those frames and re-export the video after Photoshopping a brand new end credits. I was about ready for the nice men in their clean white coats to come take me away at that point.

Which left only the music and the voices. I hit the studio and after that had to tweak once more ("making of" post for that HERE). Anyway, in the end, I ended up with:

The next one, Maggie says confidently, will be better.
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