What started as a simple sketch of a robot holding a balloon (drawn sarcastically after spending fruitless hours brainstorming ideas for a band logo) evolved into an epic quest that consumed 3 1/2 years of my life.
I had no experience with stop motion animation but have always loved the art form, so I dove in wholeheartedly. Over the next six months I designed and built characters, constructed a set in my garage, bought a copy of Dragonframe, and began clawing my way up the learning curve via trial and error. I knew I wanted the robots to show emotion and sing along, so I designed characters to have faces chromakeyed in during post production. I didn’t own a DSLR when I started, so I begged and borrowed photography gear from friends. This video was shot on a Nikon D800, Canon 6D, Canon 70D, and eventually (when I could afford one) a Panasonic GH4.
Post production work on this video was an immense task. Although I had minimal experience with After Effects, after animating faces in all 10,920 frames I became something of a highly-specialized expert (Need something corner pinned? I am your MAN. I’m also pretty good at chromakeying marginally-lit dancing robots. Hit me up).
All of my favorite videos tell a story. Spectacle is cool but at the end of the day I want to be taken on a journey. I drew on three concepts to build a narrative in this video :
1. The Exploding Amp scene from Back to the Future. This scene changed my life when I first saw it as a kid. It made me want to learn to play guitar (and blow up guitar amps). Recreating the scene shot by shot was one of the most rewarding parts of the project because it initially seemed impossible. But if I learned anything from this project, it’s the importance of moving forward one step at a time. I made lots of mistakes (I used individual 9 volt batteries to power each LED, costing roughly $80 in batteries to power the amp each time I needed it for a sequence….then later learned it would have worked with only three batteries) but kept solving problems one at a time until it was finished.
2. What happens if two musicians get in a passive aggressive fight during a performance? This idea was fun to shoot because anyone who has been in a band knows what it’s like to fight with a brother….it’s just how things go when coexisting in tight quarters with a bass player who refuses to shower. I know what you’re asking: Does the guitarist intentionally hit the bassist with his headstock to start the fight? That depends who you ask, but speaking as the guy in the blue robot, I can assure you he does. Just take a shower, man.
3. Homage to a western gunslinger standoff at the end. I wanted the bandmates to fight like overdramatic brothers, not mortal enemies, so I wrote a hispanic-style tune to up the ante during their battle while simultaneously defusing tension with silliness.
Fun note: Although I’m the driving creative force in the band, Too Many Drummers is made up of an increasingly large team of transient members. Collin “The Berninator” Berner is a fixture on drums but other instruments are played by a revolving cast of very talented friends. When I began production of this video TMD was a three piece ensemble (guitar, drums, and bass). Half way through animation, our bass player abruptly moved out of state so I found myself with a bass-slapping robot lacking a clear identity. That problem proved to be a fun wrinkle after fans, friends, and family sent videos of themselves for inclusion on bass. Of the 35 faces featured, five belong to former bandmembers (including our most recently departed bassist, who is the first face shown). Having the opportunity to include so many supporters in the project was a highlight for me!
– Character/Set Design
– Sound Design
– Music creation and production
– Post production
– After Effects ninjitsu