By lance weiler, December 13th, 2007

M dot Strange reports – So I was lucky enough to be summoned to make an animated music video for one of my favorite bands “Mindless Self Indulgence” I used Cinema 4d 9.1 w/Cactus Dans tools, and After Effects 6.5.

I thought I would out together a little thang documenting my work on the Mindless Self Indulgence music video “Animal” There’s a ton of music video making-of’s out there but since I’m bored waiting for 3d renders to finish I’ll add one more to the mix.

So this is my process….

The sonG – The first thing I do is listen to the song over and over and just see where the sound takes you… If nothing really jumps out…if scenes don’t start building themselves in my head I’ll go read the lyrics and see if that does something for me… The title can also do thing for you… For this song I just kinda had an idea about the singer being chased around a weird city by a bunch of strange animals. So I listened to the song and drew up some totally photorealistic storyboards.


Storyboard Example

After doing the rough boards I had an idea of what I was going to have to model for the video. I had to model, texture and rig the four members of the band. Now I’m not trying to impress anyone with my modeling abilities. There’s no use in creating a multimillion polygon model if you can get the same effect with a 10,000 polygon one. When I’m designing characters for a project like this I just try to create very simple iconic figures with strong silouettes. Since my roots are with 8-bit video game graphics I approach building a 3d model like I’m creating pixel art except I use 3d primitive cubes in place of pixels. This leads to the 8-bit/lego-ish look of the models. So I always trying to use as few polys as possible with my models. I run my 3d app and render clients (cinema 4d) on Windows XP 32bit so I’m prone to out of memory errors which suCK really bad. So I try to keep the characters low poly so I have a lot of free polys to use for the ridiculous backgrounds I like using. So a simply designed cool looking character animated in a funky fashion in front of complex backgrounds.


Non textured Model

So after modeling all the characters and adding temporary textures to the them I hand them off to my old media friend Sean Boyles so he can hand paint the textures. He uses the colors and designs from my temp texturing but applies it by hand with Bodypaint 3d. This adds enough imperfection to the model to make it look less like it came off an assembly line.


Textured Model before my modifications

Once the models are textured I’m free to add joints, skin and rig them. Since all the bodies have the same geometry and only the heads are different it was a fairly quick job. I think I did it all in one sitting in the cafe before my laptop battery died. I use the excellent Cactus Dan plugins for adding joints, skinning and rigging. The Cactus Dan plugins make the process much easier and faster. So I just created a skeleton for one model and copied it over to the others. I use the joint mirroring and auto-skinning to speed up the process and the C4dIK plugin’s make rigging a snap. So once they’re all ready to animate I put them in cool poses and just make sure they look right together.


My evil 8-bit Lego MSI peeps

Since I only had less than two weeks to make this video I didn’t have time to create new sets and backgrounds so I just used some sets from my animated feature film “We are the Strange” I built an entire world in 3d for that film so I guess its like my own private backlot I’m shooting on now ^^ So once I have the time consuming modeling and rigging out of the way I revisit the storyboard. I add in new scenes that came to mind while in 3d land and then scan in my crappy drawings so I can create the animatic.


Animatic SnippeT

I use the shot times from the animatic as a guide for the 3d animation. Also by looking at my animatic I know exactly which shots and which parts of the song will require lip sync. I had a few people helping me out with this video project and since lip sync is SOOOOO fun ^^ I asked my friend DemonicBunny if he would do the honors. Like the character “Pasteur” in WATS I wanted the lip sync to be created in MAriopaint. So this would be a 2d pixel animated mouth pasted onto a 3d animated character. So I sent him the sound files for the clips that needed lip sync and a reference image for the style/shape mouth I was looking for. In a few days he sent me the adobe illustrator sequence files I needed for the mouth.

Mouth shapes made in Mariopaint for lip sync

Since I didn’t need to do any lip sync I could instead just focus on the character animation. I’m already familiar with the band and they’re performances but I went ahead and got some reference videos from youtube of the band performing the song “Animal” The singer is always the center of attention in a performance so the singer would be the focus of the character animation in this video. By looking at the animatic I figured out which shots would require synchronized animation and music. I went ahead and animated the Jimmy model synced up to the song in empty scenes for all the shots I needed. My composition contain many layers… I start with the coolest stuff first and than add on top of that. So for this video I had to make sure that the singers animation was entertaining enough on its own before worrying about anything else. I then animated all the shots that needed Jimmy to perform and slapped the lip sync animation on. So the scene’s looked like this.


Animation Test

At this point I’m already past the one week mark so I didn’t have time to keyframe animate the rest of the band for every shot. Well what does a band do anyway? They play right? So I utilized a little procedural animation to get them to play for me. Cinema 4d has an excellent Xpresso scripting module so all I had to do was parent the instruments to the models bones, set up the proper set driven/driver relationships then add use a noise generator to drive the rotation on the models spine. After tweaking with the setting for a few minutes to get they’re movments roughly synced to the music I had this.



Simple Xpresso setup for procedural animation

So now all I had to do was drop my band in a scene and they doing they’re thang. Once I had the singers and the bands performance animations down I could focus on the other character animation in the video. This includes the singer running around getting captured by giant monsters and flying around with his fiery fairy wings. Once all the 3d was animated I set it off to render and waited. Well thats what I’m doing now…waiting for 3d renders. I never do any of my skies in 3d, I prefer to composite them in After Effects. Since Cinema 4d generates After Effects project files with 3d light and camera information it makes this really easy as well. So once all the 3d is rendered I’ll drop in the skies and proceed to color correct and stylize the shots to my liking.



FINISHED CLIP

Then once all the shots are rendered out of After Effects all I have to do is replace the animatic shots with the final ones and hand the 1080p version of the video over to the band ^^ I don’t know when the band will make the video available online but be sure to check it out when it is. Here’s a little teaser video I put up for the music video.


Music Video TeaseR

And two other video that are pertinent to this making-of post…


MAking of Part 1


Making-of Part 2

mdot.jpg

M dot Strange is a mixed media animator from San Jose, Ca. He recently singlehandedly completed an 88 minute animated film entitled “We are the Strange” which made its world premiere in January of this year at the Sundance Film Festival. A reviewer that saw the film M dot made in his bedroom with 9 PC’s over the course of 3 years said “it looked like something Hollywood would make for 70 million” He has recently been featured in the NY Times, ABC World News , Wired.com and his youtube videos have been viewed over a million times.

Find out more about M dot Strange and his work
www.wearethestrange.com

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Posted in BTS News arg audio case study community design digital downloads directing discussion distro diy doc dvd education interview legal mobile production program remix resource roundtable scripting sharing sites tech update vidsocial

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

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COMMENTS

  • Another excellent podcast. Full of a lot of practical and useful information. I've found that, as a filmmaker, we always want our film to be shot as close to that moment of inspiration that created it, but Stu's comments about using your resource of time to get all of your financial ducks in a row is a valuable one.

    Thanks for putting this together.

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