When prospective clients contact us nowadays, we often hear something like this: “We want a video that is clever, memorable, informative, perhaps slightly humorous, but not too kitschy or cartoonish.” This sentiment is especially true for B2B clients. So how do we walk this tightrope between boring and fun? Why with the help of an approach our art director Robert Kopecky dubs “Editorial-style Animation”.
In a nutshell, editorial-style is a wry, witty, and subdued approach. It is often black and white, or with sparse and selective uses of color. You’ll find it in The New Yorker and other high-brow publications.
If you’re new to editorial-style, sit back, relax, and enjoy some of our recent pieces in the genre. If you’re familiar with the technique from the pages of The New Yorker, now’s the time to take a sip of your Bombay Sapphire martini, scruff the designer haircut of the well-dressed Bichon Frise sitting on your lap, and apathetically click ‘play’.
If you’ve been following Weeds this season, you’ve seen a new show-open that traces Nancy Botwin’s journey through the previous seven seasons of the show. We were very proud to produce this piece for Weeds and Showtime Networks. It’s eye-catching because it was produced in the whiteboard or RSA-style, an approach radically simpler than most show-opens these days. Here’s an interview I did for the occasion with Studio Daily.
This post will circle back to animation, but first let’s talk about lenses.
When I went to film school, we were taught about the properties of lenses: wide-angle lenses made spaces seem larger and objects seem farther away, they had great depth of field (meaning things in front of and beyond the point of focus stayed sharper), but be careful… they also distorted things.
I am here to tell you that wide-angle lenses do not distort things. Reality is already bent. It’s our minds that distort things by straightening them out.
Imagine that you are about 50 feet in front of a skyscraper. Look straight ahead at the building and the lines on each side of the skyscraper are parallel. Now look up to the top of the skyscraper – the lines on each side of the skyscraper are contracting, and pointing to a vanishing point up in the sky. How did a pair of lines that looked like they would never meet, suddenly start converging so strongly? The answer is that the lines curved on their way up the skyscraper.
Why don’t we notice this? Part of the answer is that although our field of vision is close to 180˚ we can really only focus on an area in front of us that’s about 40˚ wide. This means that when we tilt our head up to the top of the skyscraper, we only notice a portion of it at a time. But it’s also our brains helping us. In our minds we know the lines are straight so that’s how they seem to us, even though the lines are subtly curved.
Now let’s go back to animation. Say we want to create a point-of-view shot of a character looking up to the top of a skyscraper. How would we do it? We would create a piece of art like the one below and move it from field A to field B.
Notice how the lines are straight in the initial and final part of the movement, but curved on the way up. It looks odd, but when animated, the curve will be hard to spot, just as it is in real life.
Whiteboard animation projects keep rolling in, and as we touched on in our earlier post, bigger and bigger companies and organizations are employing the dismembered hand, like “Thing” from The Adam’s Family, to explain complex offerings via hypnotically materializing drawings.
Bigger whiteboard clients have brought along bigger and more active legal departments, who usually peep out toward the end of the animation process. Very few if any legal questions have arisen, except in respect to the Sharpie logo…
One in-house counsel said it’s kosher to show the logo, since we’re using the marker as intended, and ultimately giving the company positive and free publicity. But another in-house counsel asked that we 86 the logo, for fear of a lawsuit. In this case, the client also thought the drawing hand should be illustrating on a dry erase board with an erase-able marker, instead of a permanent Sharpie. This brought up a new question: in what conceptual space is our dismembered hand drawing? Does Thing represent impermanence, like Buddhist sand paintings? Or does he stand for unwavering, ironclad certainties? Ultimately, we removed the logo and decided to save the philosophical debate for our weekly poetry slam.
On a different note, a whiteboard project for the Sharpie company would be pretty sweet. So if you’re listening, Sharpie, please know we treat your marker with class. We will continue to use it to draw complex illustrations in an enchanting digital whitespace, not to scribble the signatures of drunken musicians on the chests of various groupies.
Here’s an inspiring Sharpie ad:
We’re stoked to announce the entrance of a new Rocketeer: Dana Wulfekotte! And yes, we do refer to ourselves as “Rocketeers”, as we zip around our shared office space on roller blades wearing Devo helmets. Suffice it to say, we’re not very well liked at WeWork Midtown…
Dana, a former Animation Collective colleague of creative director Will Gadea, has worked on previous IdeaRocket videos as an animator and storyboard artist. After superb work time and time again, we decided to bring her on full time. Previously, Dana has done projects for big names like Cartoon Network, Fox, and Zynga. You can check out more of her work here: http://www.danawulfekotte.com. Also, she illustrates a sweet weekly web comic: http://www.leadpaintcomics.com.