By lance weiler, January 3rd, 2008

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This edition of TCIBR is brought to you by IndieFlix and Breakthrough Distribution – Over the holiday break we recorded two editions of TCIBR that looked back on 2007 and forward to 2008. In part one we take a look at the year in digital entertainment. Our guests include Scott Kirsner of CinemaTech and Woody Benson, general partner of Prism Venture Works.

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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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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

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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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By lance weiler, June 4th, 2007

Filmmakers That Think Outside the Film
By Christy Dena

In the 1940’s filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (known as “The Archers”) championed a multi-artform cinema. They created films that represented music, dance, painting, literature and photography; for they believed that ‘all art is one’. Now, with the proliferation of media platforms, the palette for filmmakers is stupendous. Not only is it impossible to encompass all artforms in a single film, but there are aesthetic and economic reasons for maintaining their integrity. All art is not one within the film, but in its relationships with artforms around it. Filmmakers are now thinking beyond cinema and DVD to include the web, theatre, books and mobile technology in their canvas.

In this article I’ll take you through a whirlwind tour of some of the ways filmmakers are thinking beyond the film. Our first stop is a look at how the assets of a film are repurposed. This is not a discussion about distribution methods or how the medium of delivery influences the experience. Instead it is an exploration of the ways assets can be reused to create new works. The first example is that of filmmakers offering components of their film in digital format for anyone to ‘remix’. Remixing is rife with fans, but it is only in the last few years that filmmakers have begun to offer their content for remixing.

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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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By lance weiler, April 17th, 2007

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Our guest today is David Dudas. David is the CTO and co-founder of an interesting remix community called eyespot.com. eyespot enables users to easily shoot, mix and share media. During our conversation we discuss remix culture, media consumption and how content creators can work within the commons.

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For more on David Dudas and eyespot click here

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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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By lance weiler, March 29th, 2007

I’ve heard a lot of people challenging the theatrical experience – box office numbers are down from previous years, and home theater systems are only getting better. Not to mention all the competition for viewers attention thanks to a 500+ channel universe, broadband and a shrinking amount of free time. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that people still want that communal experience that a theatrical film can provide. But I think that filmmakers need to make the theatrical experience their own and find interesting ways to engage their audiences.

After doing a 17 city, DIY theatrical release for HEAD TRAUMA, I think that traditional theatrical releases of “truly” independent films are a dangerous proposition. It’s next to impossible to pull people into a screening without P&A money. I harnessed the internet to help with grassroots promotion, my social networking friends helped to flyer and sticker for me, they also brought their friends. But a theatrical release is a humbling affair. On average we’d have nights with 25 to 30 people in a screening. On a rare night, we’d have over a 150 people in attendance but often we’d have only 10 or 12. In the end I made money but it was not because of the box office take alone. It was a combination of speaking engagements, poster sales and the fact that I didn’t spend anything on promotion or renting the theaters. I did 50/50 splits with all the theaters to help reduce my risk.

What I think is a more interesting theatrical model is an event driven one. For instance, I’ve been staging a number of one off live events. They are special theatrical events that use a mixture of multimedia, performance, and technology to remix the movie in a new way. Some people have called the events Cinema ARGs (alternate reality games) because of the way they engage the audience in the theater and after they leave.

This coming Saturday, we’ll be doing a special remix screening of HEAD TRAUMA in Philadelphia. It is broken into the following parts.

THE MUSIC
The evening will consist of Bardo Pond, Espers, Fern Knight and a DJ providing a live score to the movie. I’ve separated the dialog and sound effects tracks, so we can do a total remix of the movie live.

The current remix shows came from a concept we had called CURSED. CURSED the HEAD TRAUMA movie project started as an alternate soundtrack experience for the movie. Similar to how Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon lines up with the WIZARD OF OZ, we created a soundtrack that could line up with HEAD TRAUMA. Turn down the volume on the TV and turn up the volume on the stereo. The following behind the scenes short describes the process.








THEATRICS
The night will include a number of theatrical elements. On stage, we’ve constructed a tent which is key to the story of the film and the hooded figure who is the protagonist’s nemesis will emerge at different times through out the night within the audience. There are fog machines, lighting effects and physical scares. The theatrical elements borrow from a cross between dinner theater on acid and the school of William Castle. William Castle was a famous showman who actually wired the audience’s seats to shock them during screenings of his classic THE TINGLER.

THE GAME
The last element of the evening is a high tech one which allows viewers to use their mobile phones to interact with certain characters from the film. Since I’m working with the IndEx media server to project the film, I’ve been able to easily add subtitles. On screen at key moments a phone number appears. When audience members call the number they’ll hear the hooded figure from the film. Depending on their answers they’ll receive a number of clues. At the conclusion of the movie we’ll ring all the phones in the theater at the same time. Then for the lucky few the film will follow them home as they receive additional calls and text messages that lead them to hidden elements online.

This coming show is the first in a series of remix screenings. The release will target universities and museums. Since it is an event the ticket prices are more than double a traditional movie ticket. We’ll see how it goes, but I think it’s an interesting concept that points towards a new type of theatrical experience.

I’ll let you know how it all works out.

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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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