…or salvaging a collapsing project through the beauty of low fi.
A few months ago Alex Marín set up a meeting between myself and the band Gérmen 00 to make a music video for an 8-bit/chiptune song. The project was pro-bono, allowing me full creative control. It was both an exciting and daunting proposition, but I was all for it.
Alex and I started banging out story ideas and finally focused on one. Then proceeded to work with Sarah Goodreau on developing the look and feel of the characters; in this case a stranded spaceman and a pirate girl trapped inside a whale.
My initial idea was to go literal with the idea of the 8bit: I did some tests with some 8bit characters, but that was proving to be too time-consuming for a one-man-job. Then I shifted over to a voxel approach – while it looked good, it wasn’t providing enough mobility and facial expressions where being a problem. This is where I brought in the extra help of Ida Andersson to help me with character rigging, and I-Nu Yeh to help me out with different facial expressions. Once I got their help, it felt like I was set.
I started working on the opening scenes… and as it turned out, the facial expressions and the movement was being entirely too time-consuming and the end result was far from satisfactory – imagine detailed models and environments, but clunky character animation and jarring facial expression transitions. It was being really hard to make it work.
Then I resorted to another approach – “What about pixelating everything so it gives it an 8Bit look?”. I brought my renders over to After Effects, and gave it the pixel treatment. The stills looked really good, I was certain this was the approach. But then seeing it in motion, all the pixels were moving entirely too much and it was distracting and took away from the look and feel. I was stumped, and certain that this project would never get done.
Fast forward to a month later, I revisited the project and checked out my animatic. I realized that maybe a good approach was to embrace the lo-fi quality of what is known as a playblast (or a hardware render in C4D). Then on top of that, not only embrace it, but put it in what seemed like a command-prompt media player from the early CG days, something akin to Ed Catmull’s A Computer Animated Hand. Added fluff: an image sequence counter, a CPU processing log chart, an FPS counter, and of course the name of the media player. That, along with a treatment to sharpen the edges but make it look old, made for what I think is a good salvage.
Conceptually, the current style works. It’s got that lo-fi, mix of what seems like analog meets digital (or vice-versa?), and thematically also works with the song.
Now, to move onwards towards what didn’t make the cut, but was crucial for the development.
Research + Development
Even though none of this made it to the final version, it was a long journey and gives reference to what I mentioned in the backstory.
Pixelated Motion Tests
While these look good, in motion… not so much. The last one, characters were a problem.
So there you have it. As you can see, I tried a lot of different approaches, and they each worked in their own way, but each had major flaws. It got to the point that I was not going to finish or release it, but I’d rather find a happy medium than just abandon a project.
It’s a bit sad to see all this potential – maybe one day with a bigger team, budget, and time it can all be made to work.
Director/3D: Fred Huergo
Producer: Alex Marín
Script & Story: Fred Huergo, Alex Marín
Concept Sketches & PrePro Assets: Sarah Goodreau, Ida Andersson, I-Nu Yeh