Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Making Scary Smash

So first and foremost if you haven't seen "Scary Smash" yet click here.

I thought it would be fun to show a few bits and pieces of the process behind the animation and other elements that went into Scary Smash. I worked very closely with the director, my friend, Daniel Strange, throughout the process. Dan had followed a series of illustrations I made of Santa Claus last year and was interested in creating animation that would create a similarly unique blend of line and texture. Dan had a definite vision and was quickly sending me some ideas for what those textures would be. This direction worked out well, since I had been collecting and creating my own textures for years now. This look did derail one aspect of animating Scary Smash though— it wasn't going to be practical to animate it in Flash. The textures made it far too difficult. It was going to have to be hand drawn and colored in Photoshop. This approach would look as if the monster were cut out of felt. It looked great but it was laborious.

All of the frames in Scary Smash started as a black white ink drawing.

After scanning in all the drawings, I arranged them in layers in Photoshop, then I would use a series of action scripts to paste in various textures. After dropping each texture I would move it to a slightly different location so that the texture wouldn't remain static behind the drawing. This creates the grainy fluttering effect you see when the monster is on screen.

Some sample textures.

The first multi-eyed monster to appear (whom we affectionately named "Hundo") was easily the most challenging to create and color. I wound up creating each frame in three layers— the front set of eyes, then Hundo's tentacles, then the back set of eyes. This meant I could loop the back set of eyes and allow the tentacles to move over top of them at a slightly longer loop, then I could animate the dozens of other eyes and the mouth as needed. I thought it would be funny if just one set of eyes had an angry expression.

Each frame was saved as a series of transparent tiffs which Dan would drop in with Adobe After Effects.

The fire and water effects were some of my favorite parts of the project.

I created a shot of fire that the monster spits out (Dan wound up utilizing it for some of the guns as well). This was actually all hand drawn. I drew the frames of the fire in yellow, red and black ink side by side on a few sheets of bristol.

Each frame of the water started as a high contrast black and white drawing created with a brush and a sponge. I then pasted a series of colored sponge textures I had created and added some finishing touches using custom brushes in Photoshop. So basically each frame is hand painted (Dan was the stand in for this sequence while I worked on the animation— the shot with Mr. Whedon hadn't occurred yet).

Example of one of the sponge textures used for the water effect.

Once I finished animating the monster I was very excited to get to help out with some background imagery as well. These were created in the same manner as the monster but with different textures— some hand drawn and some from physical objects that I scanned in.

I've always been a huge fan of Looney Tunes and in particular their amazing background paintings. I was definitely thinking of them when I made some of these background elements.

Dan created the fields of fire that appear in several shots. These were some extra set-pieces to make it look as if the whole town was fire. These were ink drawings colored in Photoshop with custom brushes.

At one point Dan and I were going to have an anime inspired death frame when the monster got stabbed. It would have been fun but it wound up not working out. This was pen and ink and, again, digitally colored.

Here are some early sketches of the monsters. I always start out trying to make a drawing funny, then I work at making it look presentable. Sometimes a polished drawing loses its charm. I was trying to make it look as if I really don't care what the drawing looks like.

Some early versions of "Hundo."

An early version of the one-eyed monster.

Big thanks to Daniel Strange for doing such a great job putting everything together. Thanks to you for reading! If you haven't seen it yet, there's a great series of making of videos on youtube as well. I make an appearance in a few of them. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


THIS is the reason I haven't posted anything on my web log since— forever. I had to keep it under wraps. It stars full-on heroes and an almighty heroine— Dave Foley, Joss Whedon and Kim Micucci. I'll be posting a few process pieces in the future. Thanks always for paying attention to what I do. Please share it with friends if you like it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Where have I been?

This is where I've been. Check back soon to see what all this means. It will be worth it!