Applying what is described as the simplest of materials, MakeMake Studio has created two aesthetically wonderful animated videos to capture the serene textural sounds of, My Robot Friend, for the tracks Goodbye and Waiting. Liam Stevens explains on his website that he and co-founder, Chris Tozer, brewed MakeMake as ‘an outlet to motion experimentation and animation,’ with the collaboration with My Robot Friend being their first music video assignment. Considering that this debut project has been shortlisted for best animated music video at the Fest Anca International Animation Festival in 2011 comes at no surprise, it just gives me the notion that this team is well on its way to further acclaim and opportunity.
While watching these videos, keep in mind that Stevens and Tozer prefer to rely on their colored paper stashes, mechanical pencils, and scalpels in stop motion photography rather than heavy computer animation. Doing so will allow you to really appreciate the artistry, time, and dedication to craft that these men put into their passion with fantastic results.
I felt I needed more information on MakeMake Studio after watching their videos, so I emailed them. Fortunately for us, they got back to me. They had just finished writing about Goodbye for an awards submission and passed along the foundations of the creative process to M.I.T.N.G.
Originally we thought the song was about a man and his unsettled feelings towards his relationship and how he wanted to move on but couldn’t bring himself to say ‘goodbye’. After discussing this narrative with the Artist (My Robot Friend) we realized that in fact the man was dying and couldn’t face saying goodbye to his loved one. Rather than starting again, we felt that the death theme could actually benefit our concept. Playing on our initial interpretations we utilized a romantic relationship to strengthen the death theme and increase emotion by showing the couple in intimate yet everyday moments. With the use of metaphors and abstract visuals, we opposed the saddening lyrics with a hopeful visual story, only to reveal the real meaning of the song in the final scene.
We had initially wanted to make a stop-frame, paper-cut animation so considered the limitations in our storyboarding and kept the visual elements simple so we could focus on storytelling rather than complex animation details. After some tests, the sheer amount of paper-cuts needed and the client wanting a pencil texture aesthetic, we realized that this may not be the most viable solution. We experimented with various other techniques but in the end settled on a mixture between 3D and 2D computer animation with hand rendered textures of watercolors and pencil. With this technique we were able to incorporate the illustrative style and texture of our initial concept yet have the freedom of 3D animation to achieve more sophisticated camera angles and moves.
To keep the flat style we wanted, we animated in a 3D program (Cinema 4D) and from that output masks for each element of the shot. These were then used to composite the textures in After Effects. Using the 3D information for each object/character, the 2D textures were parented to their 3D positions using code or manually adjusting them. The draw back with this technique was that every shot was treated individually bringing the file count for our little laptops to over 300,000 – creating numerous delays and problems, not to mention man-hours. It turned out to be a much more time-consuming process than our tests had led us to believe, but it did allow us to achieve the aesthetic we wanted.
The video was well received and seemed to generate a genuine emotional response from viewers, some drawn to tears. So far on YouTube and Vimeo it has garnered over 57,600 views and over 1100 likes. It was selected for Vimeo’s Staff Picks and featured on their home page. The video has also featured on Promo News and has been accepted for screening at BUG on the London Southbank in the near future. Completed in May 2012, it has been submitted for several festivals and awards this summer.
The texturing process is one that we have not seen before so we feel like we have created an original and innovative music video that not only pushes the boundaries technically but also creates an abstract and illustrative narrative that is rarely seen in music videos.
Also to add with regards to future projects – We are going to spend the coming months collaborating on smaller experimental projects, developing ideas and styles before tackling another large project. Motion sketchbooks will be appearing on www.makemakestudio.com in the not too distant future…
I want to thank Liam and Chris for taking the time from their schedules to give us this great info on their work. I also need to shout out to My Robot Friend, for his intuitive utilization of this team for breathing more life into his music. Check out his website, particularly his interview with a
German news team. He is an interesting cat, to say the least, and attending one of his live shows is on my shortlist.