Narrated animation
September 28, 2010 9:55 AM   Subscribe

How difficult is it to create something like this?

What tools, software, skills, etc would one need to create something that is close to as professional and slick looking?
posted by AceRock to Technology (6 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
We used something very similar to introduce our new web site a couple of weeks ago, and just the other day, I overheard the artist and the video editor do a sort of post mortem on the first installment as part of planning for some new footage. I knew a lot of work had gone into the editing, but until I overheard that conversation, I had no idea how much. There were obvious things, like removing pauses, but also things like speeding up or slowing down the video to make some of the drawings more intelligible when they were in progress. And there was some discussion about dealing with freckles...

The editor is a member here. I'll see if he won't pop in and share more insights.
posted by Good Brain at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2010

Goodness graces. It all needs to be storyboarded out. Everything from what is going to be said to what images are going to be drawn to convey the words spoken need to be planned out.

You need a decent video editor.. a wall painted with whiteboard paint. a decent video camera.. the ability to draw.. and good skills in using both camera and editor.

I would rate it high on the difficulty scale.
posted by royalsong at 10:34 AM on September 28, 2010

You want a visual facilitator, sometimes called a scribe. IFVP might be a good place to start. Here's one company's website with some nice examples.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:11 AM on September 28, 2010

You may want to lower the bar and try something more along the lines of Commoncraft, which can be done with cut-outs and some basic drawing. The end result is still impressive and professional.

The tools you need are blank white paper to draw on, sharpies, scissors, a video camera that can be suspended over a table, white butcher's paper for a background, and video editing software such as iMovie on the Mac.

Storyboard you idea and script, and then draw and cut out all the "pieces" for your video.

Narrate into the camera's mic as someone moves items around and draws on the background as needed (change to clean backgrounds when necessary) and then clean up in post-production editing. Can be done in an afternoon.
posted by qwip at 11:28 AM on September 28, 2010

Best answer: The piece I did is similar to your example.

The narrative was done ahead of time and edited into nearly final form, running about two minutes.

The entire piece was storyboarded out against the narrative and the resulting storyboards taped to one end of the whiteboard out of sight of the camera and active drawing area.

I used a good Canon HD camera and shot at 1080P/24fps. The Panasonic HVX200 series camera is also a good choice if you can find one to rent although the next time I do this I will probably rent a Red. I used a reasonably high quality Manfrotto fluid head on a heavy ball-head tripod but found that I should have used a higher-quality fluid head (such as a Sachtler). The small angles of camera movement needed to stay ahead of the artist's drawing are very hard to do smoothly. Perhaps a camera rail system or even a gear head (or both, combined) would be better choices if a velvety smooth camera performance is important to you.

I used four big floor-standing Videssence fluorescent lighting units in a white-draped studio and wished I had used more lighting. I chose fluorescent because they produce soft, even light draw little power and produce little heat. I knew the artist was going to have to work for many hours under lighting and didn't want the studio to get uncomfortably hot.

I directed a fan at the white board from several feet away so that the solvents in the pens would be carried away and to keep the artist comfortable.

I edited on Win using Premiere for edits and After-Effects for levels and color correction via Color Finesse. I edited the 1080P footage at 720P because I wanted the extra freedom to electronically scale and move the image to dampen camera motion, etc. I used a stand-alone relic, Realviz Re-Timer, to process those few sections where I chose to do linear off-speed (as much as 5000% faster) and to add motion blur throughout the footage. In the end I condensed nearly three hours of footage into 2 mins mostly through single-frame cuts. There were, maybe three or four, 10-20 frame off-speed or ramped sequences used intact. Altogether I made about 1800 finished edits in the piece.

Freckles on the artist's hand were a big issue. Our artist has freckled hands and when I stretched the video signal—to make the whites really white and the blacks really black—by raising the luminance and crushing the blacks, most of the skin tone on the hand became super-humanly bright except the freckles which, along with the blacks, became very dark and the hand started to look like something out of a 1000 year old crypt. If I did it again, I'd have the artist wear freckle obscuring makeup. If he hadn't had freckles, the video stretching on the hand's skin tone would have been acceptable as it is in the example you link to.

To preserve the look of the hand, I ended up not stretching the video to complete white, leaving in shadows and color influences from the artist's clothing on the white board. The results were not as snappy as your example but, when viewed by itself without comparison, it looks fine.
posted by bz at 11:46 AM on September 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

A couple other points:

You simply cannot directly light the whiteboard because whiteboards are surprisingly reflective. As I mentioned, I draped out a studio space with a lot of white muslin; floor, walls, ceiling... all of it, and bounced the lighting off of the muslin to get as indirect lighting as I could. As it turns out, there was still a lot of directionality present in the illlumination which is why I'd want to use more lighting fixtures thean the four I used, even though they were big lights with a lot of surface area. Ideally, I wanted the equivalent of a bright cloudy day sort of illumination.

You need to use as heavy a whiteboard as you can find and it needs to be really well anchored and supported across its entire surface. Normal mounting methods for whiteboards produce a surface that isn't stiff enough and will boing in and out ("oilcan") as the artist draws and particularly when they draw text as the artist tends to apply greater pressure to draw letterforms. You will have a heck of a time with continuity if the drawing surface is not 100% stable. Ask me... I know, alas.

If you can find a European source for dry erase pens, you will find that there are a great many more choices available in, say, Britain then there are in the U.S. It turns out that Europe embraced whiteboards earlier and more widely than did the U.S. and, so, their whiteboard product lines are more mature and offer greater variety. Pen feel, tip size, ink flow... all of these pen attributes are really important to the artist and moreso because they are drawing in an akward position, trying to keep only their hand and forearm in the picture.

The color of the clothing the artist wears can influence the color cast of the white board (inter-object diffuse illumination) so choose carefully if you are not planning to do exaggerated stretching of your video levels.
posted by bz at 7:13 PM on September 28, 2010

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