Mike Smick UX Sketch Sub Page Image

Fun Budget Motion Graphic Work!

I struggled whether to give these works their own pages, but I decided they fall nicely under fun budget work! Everything is mostly on some budget, whether time or money. Either way you’re constraining the hours. I used to work at a yearbook publishing company called Walsworth. Many years passed and they approached me about helping them with some augmented reality AR work they wanted to do. Basically the idea was a student could scan their yearbook with their phone and the app would launch some extra video feature. This is nice because you don’t have to add a video disc in the book or rely on the student typing in a URL.

AR has its appeal. I’m not sure how it’s ultimately received in something like a yearbook, but you want to try everything you can. Ultimately these books are for students and for historical purposes. Novel ideas are fun AND the fad stuff is an extra delight many years later revisiting the books. A couple different schools who decided they wanted to add this AR feature, were handed to me for their video production. And I also created some promo content for the Walsworth catalog that year. I needed to produce the content correctly to ensure it would play in the AR app so I had access to that software backend for testing.

“Stranger Things” Promo

Out of the gate was creating a Stranger Things video parody of sorts. This was something my former colleagues had discussion about as it was a really popular trend that year. The objective was to recreate the “underworld” on a budget. The TV show has various times where the character will instantly be transported into a dark frightening monster realm. It wasn’t my job to actually scare anyone but more to give people fun ideas through this catalog example. And while I would have loved to create a part of a school in 3D, modeling, texturing was going to be way too much for me in the timeframe. I’m not a big fan of trying to find stock images (I hate it), but I managed to locate a school photo with hallway lockers that didn’t have a lot of personalization to it. This was a good starting point as I would need to make this photo look like the underworld. We’re talking major tonal changes, dark ambience and the floating particles iconic to the realm. The animation would end with a ‘Stranger Things’ parody type treatment that said “Yearbook AR (Augmented Reality).

I decided to use a sound effect that had mysterious dread to it with some punchy strikes that I could match for a smash cut to the underworld. For the dark variation of the photo I did a series of image filters, perspective scaled some black vines (In hindsight, I wish I had worked on vines a little more TBH). Once I had the pacing I needed, I realized I should precede the smash cut with some pulsating dark vignettes and frame flashing. Sometimes a smashcut is too smashy and you need to “cue it up” so to speak.

So what happens is you scan the Walsworth catalog from that year and an app you’ve been prompted to install at the front of the catalog will show this video. Again this is for promotion and inspiration for schools so it’s not actually trying for any sort of realism. Interesting note I’m going to tuck in this caption. Sometimes budget quality is the best quality because it’s more accessible to people when you’re trying to inspire them. Make them get more ideas from your idea. This is not a marketing model for everything but it’s one you need to be aware of I think.

Granby High School AR Video

I’m not trying to oversell these. I just want to show budget work, but this video I’m uniquely quite proud of for the attention to budget but more because of the way creativity and collaboration took place. Remember these are schools paying a company, to pay me, to produce something for their yearbook. They raise money and build the yearbook themselves. These books are very nice and expensive. I don’t take their budget lightly. But here’s the amusing part. After my Walsworth colleagues and I acknowledge the budget range we’re shooting for, (low), word gets back to me what the school is asking for… “Hey you know that old ’80s music video “Take on Me” it’s all hand drawn, we want that.”

Yes like any client you’ll ever have, they set up the start of the budget conversation by asking for one of the most famous painstakingly rotoscoped animated videos ever made. But you you know what’s really cool? It prompted some very fun conversation and a clever budget idea that they could participate in. But no, they weren’t going to get a parody of ‘Take on Me’. They wanted upbeat, they wanted to show a history of their yearbooks and they wanted some sketchy animation. They already had some of their cover work done for their book. So here’s what kind of came up on the fly…

The cover sketch animation idea

I instructed the yearbook adviser to print out copies of their cover for each student. What I wanted the students to do in part of a class was to put a sheet of paper on top of the cover print out and each of them trace the cover in pencil. But Why? Because they would all have very consistent and inconsistent drawings of their cover that I could animate in a really charming wiggly animation. And you know what, it worked. After that I would convert their old historic cover designs to a “sketchy” look and have them morph into the actual covers. It was budget it was so very cute. And there was some really innovative shortcuts I conceived to pull this off, in image conversion but also capturing a limited number of cover sketches, 15 or so and I needed them to continuously loop, but also to do so randomly so it didnt look like a loop. This is not something baked into video editing software as a plugin ok. Want to know how I did it?

I scanned and aligned all their sketches (that were overnighted to me in a big envelope (adorable BTW). And once aligned the differences were fantastic, some were really well done, some way lazy and shoddy. I’m not being insulting it’s a project they probably had 10 minutes to do and didn’t understand why no doubt. And you know kids, 3 minutes in and they want to be done and on snapchat.

Here’s how I got the random sequence to work. I set up some image viewer software, XnView to display a folder of images (the exported perfectly aligned skeetches) in slideshow mode. Then I was able to set up a framerate in milliseconds, and then I was able to set it to random. And THEN I used screencapture video to record about 2 minutes of the animation running. Once I captured it I could manipulate the speed a little bit but thankfully XnView was really flexible.

I added the grid texture behind the books and the animations on top give the yearbook video a hand drawn look. I’m not sure what prompted them to want this, whether it was the music or the beat, but I’m just really proud this was on time and within budget that from the outset I had some skeptical moments I’ll just put it that way.

Natrona High School AR Video

This video for the Natrona school was also interesting. Their cover was already finished and when the book was scanned with the phone, they wanted to show a live version of the cover. So the objective here was to create a whirlwind particle effect of numbers. So a lot of Blender for this one. I actually created two versions of this. Blender has the ability to generate particles based on an object array, you can have it generate randomly and with random material variation as well. I also created a 3D version of their yearbook that I could feature in the video as well so it created an overall congruent experience from beginning to end. I wish I had more to say about this one but it really was a straight forward objective, it required a lot of 3D, which meant it required a lot of problem solving. There were other challenges with getting things to populate in AfterEffects with masking.

The middle part was the schools edit so I was only able to capture a little audio from it and try to make sure I had enough to put it together. Pay attention when the yearbook populates the numbers, that was a separate 2D animation underneath the 3D work so it seems to build it. This kind of thing is a challenge because You wnt it to look exactly like their design but you need to somehow populate it from a particle tornado. So you fake it with masking!
Here’s the particle simulation using the object array with color constraints that fall into a spiral vortex and drop onto the page. It’s pretty cool. Took quite a while to figure out how to get it to work. One thing I regret was adding motion blur to the animation. That would have sold it a lot more without a lot of extra work or render time. Just didn’t think of it.