Over the past couple of years, I have been working on a one-minute book trailer for JM Frey’s Skylark’s Saga.
If you haven’t had a chance to see the trailer yet, here it is!
This was a large undertaking for someone with a full-time job and several side hustles, and it was quite the journey. So much so that I felt it would be better to do a series of blog posts breaking down the experience rather than just one. Today’s post is about the animation process, and my favourite scenes. All of the blogs are stand-alone, but if you’re interested, the first instalment is here.
For me, one of the magical parts of animation, the thing that keeps me coming back over and over, is the thrill of taking a static drawing and making it live. Taking this:
And breathing life into it frame by frame. For anyone who has never tried it, it takes intense commitment, a lot of time, energy and commitment to near-perfection. Every drawing, for hundreds and even thousands of drawings, you have to commit to making the character express the themes of the story.
So what were the hardest parts of this book trailer? There were some unique challenges, for sure.
You may notice that there are a lot of explosions, and vapour trails, and moving clouds in this trailer. In scene 11, when Robin is flying through the battlefield, the explosions are the main event. Before doing this trailer, effects animation had never really been my thing. My co-op and subsequent film and jobs focused more on 3D layout, modeling and texturing, and so I’d never really gotten around to trying it. It took a lot of research and prep, but not only was I really satisfied with the effects animation, I think I may have found a new specialty, because I love it. It’s really fun to observe the physics of various effects and make them happen on screen!
The transformations were another aspect of animation that I have never tackled before working on the trailer. Because we needed to convey Robin and Velph’s connection with the Skylark and the Coyote, a transformation as they struggled ended up being an elegant and artistic solution. These ended up being really fun to try as well. The key is to just break the transformation down into its component parts, like any other animation, and to make absolutely sure that the movement is smooth.
So, what was my fave scene? Well, As above, I loved the scenes with effects animation and transformations, but I think for me, it’s tied between Scene 8, where Robin, rapidly turning into a bird, struggles against Velph and finally breaks free, and Scene 16, where Robin drops from the sky to slice the wing of Velph’s plane anime-style! In Scene 8, it was super fun to animate so many feathers slowly drifting to the ground while Velph sulks on his knees. It’s just a great image with a lot of drama and I was really happy with how it turned out. In Scene 16, I not only got to blow up a plane, but I got to do my own version of that anime visual trope where the sword comes down, flashes and then something is just cut in half! *Shing!* I’ve always wanted an excuse to do that, and JM Frey provided me a venue, so thanks again to her for feeding my inner 14-year-old.
In the third and final instalment of this series, I’m going to get a little personal and talk about what doing this trailer has meant to me. Bring your water wings, cause it might get a little deep!