Premiere Pro – Editing & Sound
I knew that sound would be absolutely crucial for my animation. The contributes a massive part to the feel of the animation and how the audience feels at certain points. After watching and researching other animations I arrived at the undisputed decision to select an orchestral composition. Most if not all of the famous animations by big studios like Pixar and Walt Disney Studios had big time composers work on their films to produce a composition which would fit the moos perfectly. More than often I watch a great film that gets massively let down by a poor choice in music and I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen to my animation. As I had already looked at Wall-E I first considered to use some music from that particular score. However as Wall-E is a sci-fi film, Thomas Newman did a fantastic job of making the music sound all space like.
Hence, I began to look at other Thomas Newman compositions for the multitude of films that he has worked on and I couldn’t find one that fitted my animation just right. I was looking for something powerful but also kind of cute at the same time. I wanted my title scene to come in with a bang but then drift off into a sad simple tune. As soon as I thought of sad and cute I immediately thought of John Powell and headed straight for this particular piece below which is taken from Ice Age 2 when Ellie thinks about her past.
I tested this piece with just the title scene earlier on in the project and it fitted perfectly. Luckily the score continues to get slightly quieter and eventually your left with this adorable motif which makes your heart melt. I knew that this would be perfect for when Harvey first appears in shot and after some editing in Premiere I managed to line it up reasonably well with the scene in the borrow.
This score worked brilliantly right up until Harvey and the bumblebee begin their journey. I wanted the piece then to go happy but alas I wasn’t going to get that lucky. Hence I went on another search for a happy piece which would blend in nicely from the first composition. I searched through the rest of the soundtrack from Ice Age 2 to see if anything would fit but nothing really worked for me. I continued to delve into some of John Powell’s other compositions as most composers recycle motifs they’re particularly fond of. I came across this piece he did for P.S. I Love You and was happy to find that it was exactly what I was looking for. It’s the perfect combination of happy but reflective which fitted in well after the first composition.
For my first draft I was trying to look for music which would exaggerate the cheesiness of the hedgehogs love for each other and landed upon the same music which plays during Shrek 2 when Fiona and Shrek have their montage; because it seemed to work for that film I thought it would work for mine. At first I thought it did because it emphasised how clichéd the film scenes I was referencing were but I would later discover after some feedback that I was wrong.
Once I had the non diagetic music sorted all that I had left to do was add in the diagetic sound. After some experimentation and advice I ended up using high quality recordings from the internet. I didn’t have the time or the resources to record most of the sounds that I needed for my Harvey animation.
I as told by one of my tutors that it was very important for me to lay down some background noise which would just continue throughout the animation until the audience became unaware of it. Thankfully as my animation was set inside a forest it wasn’t hard for me to decide upon the background sound for my film.
This sound clip was perfect and thankfully it carried on for 10 hours so I didn’t have to worry about looping a tiny track.
The only other sounds I had to download were an eagle cry and the sounds of wings flapping which I used for the eagle snatch scene and the end. I recorded the sound of a bumblebee buzz because I was lucky enough to find one trapped by my bedroom window one morning. See below.
In addition I recorded some leaves rustling in my garden with my phone as well which wasn’t too difficult at all.
Once I had all the sound clips and all the scenes exported from Flash all I had to do was stitch them all together and play around with the composition a bit; which sounds easy but I had all sorts of technical problems which in total probably set me back at least a week. On top of this my laptop froze a lot and often, which slowed down my editing speed by at least an additional week.
The biggest problem I had to face throughout the entire project was most definitely, without question, trying to render in 1080p. In hind site I should probably have started animating all my scenes in a 1080p resolution but my laptop at the time simply was unbearable trying to process the data whilst I was trying to animate 10-30 symbols at a time. It probably would have been fine if I animated the entire film in one file but as you can see below I animated every scene in a separate Flash file; and ALL of them were in a low pixel resolution but obviously I didn’t realise until I exported all the videos into Premiere.
So, I had to open up each scene individually and re proportion the document pixel density which doesn’t sound hard because it isn’t but my laptop was unbelievably slow at doing this relatively simple task. On top of this, when I would increase the stage proportions and tell Flash to make an “intelligent” attempt at increasing the size of everything else (the motion tweens, the symbols, the motion paths) all most every single time something would go hideously pear shaped. I had multiple events where Harvey’s lower body would fly wildly across the stage with no hope of return. One scene (scene 3) was soo buggy that I had to render the entire video as a PNG sequence, which took my laptop THREE hours… Nonetheless I pushed through and once I had all the scenes in the right quality I was even more determined to get the animation spot on.
This is the first draft I produced of Harvey. In total I have 10 different drafts made up. The main reason for this was because of the feedback I got from my first draft; I was given several ideas for improvements which I’ll discuss now. The first point I got was to shorten the length of scenes. People said they understood they wanted to be enjoying the backgrounds but some of the scenes left them wanting it to pick up the pace a bit; this was easy to do in Premiere so that didn’t take too long. Another point I got back from feedback was that I needed to add in some more close up shots. This was suggested because I didn’t have enough close ups in the first draft; people wanted to see Harvey’s expressions up close sometimes and it would also break up lengthy scenes to make them more interesting. As close ups would take a long time to do in Flash I decided just to do them in Premiere which saved me a lot of time. Although some shots lose the tiniest bit of quality when I zoomed in, it wasn’t particularly noticeable so it didn’t matter.
Two of the biggest pieces of feedback I got from the first draft was to change the ending or rather to continue it till it found a resolution and the other was to change the music when the love montage starts. One of my tutors very cleverly raised the point that the pop love track took away the element of surprise at the end. The track starts of way too upbeat right from the start and made the slow scenes seem boring. He suggested that I find an orchestral piece again which starts off slow and then builds up right at the end, to get this crescendo of emotions building right up until the eagle snatches the female hedgehog.
This piece, again, by John Powell fitted in perfectly in my animation. I had to move a few things around visually to fit the music so it was in time but it only took a day or so of tweaking till I had it lined up.
The biggest challenge I faced in post-production was undoubtedly thinking of a way to end the animation. I was given words to think about like resolution and continuity. I had to think of a way to make the audience feel good again. No one wants to sit through a film and just feel empty inside after they’ve watched it. I had to somehow let the audience know that Harvey was going to be happy again.
One of my first attempts at an alternate ending was to have the bumblebee return again but this time with multiple females, look at Harvey, then look at the bees, then fly off with the bees leaving Harvey alone again in the middle of the forest.
This double bad event didn’t feel right at all. I didn’t get great feedback from this ending at all. Everyone thought the eagle snatching the female was funny but no one could take something else bad happen to poor Harvey.
Instead someone suggested that the two bumblebees should return back to Harvey and cheer him up and then walk off together merrily. It would be a reference to the start of the animation and would give the audience a sense of resolution. Everyone would feel happy for Harvey because he’s no worse off then when he started and he’s stupid enough not to care so why should the audience dwell on it.
This was great and all but I felt like there was still an opportunity to catch the audience off guard again. If I could still somehow shock the audience again with something they would never expect in an adorable animation then I was going to find it.
The use of graphic content in animations to shock and surprise the audience can be seen in multiple adult cartoon series like Happy Tree Friends and Family Guy. This technique is almost guaranteed to get some laughs and also reminds me a lot of the slap stick humour you would see in Looney Tunes animations. One of my tutors helped me to think of a last shocking ending and he suggested to have the female hedgehogs body flop into the stage at some point. This would work perfectly right at the end of the animation so I made it so and I feel like it did indeed get some good responses from audiences.
It was my last chance to shock the audience and I feel like I made to most of it judging from the reactions I got from it when I showed it to them.
So after all my thinking, making and evaluating I finally reached the end of my project and finished with this final animation which entails a lot of thinking and developing. I’m happy with the results because it meets all the requirements I set myself out to do right from the start and for that reason I think of it as a success. Enjoy:
Without my proposal I doubt my work would have been as successful as it currently stands. It really helped teach me how important it is to structure and plan your work before you start. It really helped with time management and it left me plenty of time to get feedback from various people and allowed me the opportunity to actually make those changes as opposed to just suggesting what I should have done. The evaluation section of the project was also aided hugely by the Proposal stage of the work. It taught me to not just evaluate the work when it’s finished but to continuously evaluate throughout each stage of the project and throughout. This, I can see now, was a huge factor into getting my best possible result and I hope to use a similar work structure in all my future projects.
Without studying other artists work I am sure my skills would have progressed as much as they have. Looking at other animators like Tex Avery, Yuriy Norshteyn and Walt Disney really propelled my learning and understanding of animation in ways that I could never do on my own. Exploring various animating techniques and styles really expanded my imagination and helped me develop my own style which I can continue working on throughout the rest of my career. Analyzing various other narratives in films helped grow my piece into a more developed plot. Without studying films like Wall-E and Bambi I wouldn’t have had such a well thought out beginning to my story and my characters wouldn’t have been as life like either. Studying other characters really aided my ability to portray my own characters in a way which the audience would sympathize and grow affection for. This was essential for my piece to work because otherwise the final shock and resolution in my film wouldn’t have been as impacting or shocking.
If I had studied the programs I was going to use (Flash, Photoshop and Premiere) a lot more than I did then it may have opened up some more possibilities for my animation. I would have had more time to concentrate on the characters subtle mannerisms and small expressions which could have made a world of difference in my animation. I also undoubtedly would have produced my animation in a lot less time and not wasted so much production time with silly errors or problems which I would later come to realize could have been made a lot simpler.
If I could do the project again I would start asking for people’s opinions a lot earlier on. It wasn’t until the making and evaluating stages that I really started asking for feedback and if I had been brave enough to do it at the start then maybe I would have ended with an even better final animation. I would also have perfected my animation a lot earlier on probably saved myself a lot of time smoothing off errors. However, I wouldn’t have learnt from my many mistakes as I did without the opportunity to fail on my own. Still, it’s much better to work in the close proximity of critics then in the confinements of my own bedroom.
I feel it is necessary for my viewers to submerse themselves in my animation and to just enjoy it as it plays. I hope my viewers don’t get distracted as they watch it but instead just soak in the moment and the backgrounds and appreciate all the subtleties I spent so long animating.