Monday, December 3, 2012

History of Cool Stuff - Limited Animation Videos

We put together some short,  minimally animated edutainment videos a year ago to see what interest, if any there was in this format.

We set out to try and explain some historically cool stuff with ,"blackboard" images, narration and a host.  Could we do a "History Of Cool Stuff" series?

We came up with some theme music to use through out the episodes. It isn't Top Gear's "Jessica", but as I wrote, performed and recorded it, I don't have to pay any fees to use it.

Wrote is a bit strong a word.  I basically press record, play something on the spot, then arrange and Jam to that to produce this type of thing. Always start with a tempo and guide track put together in ezdrummer. It only has the number of tracks a live band would have playing it, but I do several takes of different parts and edit them together.

Sounds like this:

I worked out a basic script, based on the format I had come up with, which is:

1) A consistent intro and ending with the animated talking head host. There is some basic lip sync.
2) A series of white on black images with limited animation, with narration from the unseen host.  This is to explain some historic sequence of technology.

This seemed like a fair compromise in production effort to get something out in some part of two days, our usual time frame. A bit more than the slide shows we had been doing, and way less work than full animation.

We started by recording and editing the narration against the music track, handling the music ducking in our Reaper DAW.  The Vocal was recorded with a Audio Technica AT2020 microphone and stocking pop filter.

Reaper Narration Audio Project

This gave us the basic lengths of visual scenes required.

We then did a series of black pen on white paper sketches for the required sequences. These where scanned into Photoshop and inverted to look more like chalk on a blackboard.  Didn't worry about making them perfect.

The talking head of our host Rodger was produced as a series of layers in Photoshop, from a single basic pose produced in CorelDraw. These frames with different eye and mouth positions where saved out as individual images. His look is based on an English motor sport hero, Graham Hill, of the late '60s and 70s.

A very basic arrangement of audio and image frames where then put together in Sony Movie Studio.

Initially without any animation at all. Just all still images and this was edited to be the foundations to start the animation.

Complete Video Project
Rodger is basically animated by dragging different facial frames on an upper visual layer.

Rodger Animation Frames
We only prepared 9 different mouth positions, with a traditional lip sync breakdown.

Mouth positions for lip sync

In this video, additional animation of the blackboard images was produced in After Effects. It wasn't really required, and adds extra complication as After Effects CS4 doesn't handle sound sync very well.

After Effects Animation Sequences

Additional frames and animation where brought back into Movie Studio and moved around on the time line there. This is MUCH faster to do.

The result is this:

It is supposed to be interesting and educational.

We have done two videos so far. One on Aerodynamics and one on Turbocharging. What we found is the videos receive few views.  We expected the thumbnail image could be improved and have tried several, with little change in views.
The subject mater doesn't appear to be something that is searched for on YouTube, but we really don't know.  We haven't done anything else along these lines since.

Would making full animation and colour images help? Probably, but a LOT more work, and we haven't wanted to go down that road without any ROI.

The first one on Aerodynamics that set the format is a little simpler

Other work samples at our website  Art & Technology

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