December 23, 2013

Atomic Bomb making of

I recently made this music video for William Onyeabor, a nigerian afro-funk forgotten legend.

I was contacted by Luaka Bop, the label that has been working on reissuing a compilation album of William Onyeabor´s music for five years. Innitially they were just interested in collaboration on the project somehow and after talking we agreed on making a music video.

Because the budget was very low, the time very short, and I would be working alone I had to come up with a very economic way of producing the video. An additional problem was that the song "Atomic Bomb" suggested a more narrative kind of video, so I would need to make quite a lot of shots. Luaka Bop provided me with 3 minute long  radio edit of the song as the original one was almost 8 minutes, which would have been impossible to make in time.

I decided to use Flash, because I could animate super-fast. I needed to draw a lot of things quick but make it look reasonably good. This is why I chose this thick line aesthetic, filled with colorful gradients, an idea I took from one of my favorite animation shorts ever: "Styled Robbery". It´s super fast to draw this way, because you only have two solid colors. To avoid the ugly Flash brush effect I simply added broken lines around those fills. To make it look more vivid, and because I wouldn´t be able to make very detailed animations I also animated the gradients, adding little ornamental movements and color changes.

Following the "Styled Robbery" inspiration, and given the atomic bomb motif in the song, I wanted to make something inspired by spy movies and have a cold-war setting, all that mixed with Onyeabor´s own mystery, as so little is known about his life besides all the rumors and myths.

I tried to come up with a narrative that could use a lot of reptetion to be able to recycle as many shots as possible, and tried to make it so this repetition would create a rhythm.

I started working directly on an animatic. I first laid out the key events in the begginging, middle and end, and after that I slowly started filling the gaps, taking every oportunity to re-use assets, scenes and animations. This was actually very fun and fruitful process as not only I was able to gain time but the story itself got so much better and coherent. Some of my favorite scenes came out of the constraints, by thinking, "what if instead of making a new scene here I could use something I already have?".

When animating, I first made all the more difficult shots and left the smaller ones and those that were variations of existing ones for the end. During this process I also amused myself hiding as many radioactive symbols and other references to atomic bombs, aswell as other details from Luaka Bop´s press material aluding the the reissue project. See if you can find them all!

The whole video was made from start to finish in just a month, featuring a total of 51 shots. While it´s not the greatest thing, I´m truly proud of it, specially considering how fast I made it, but mostly because of the chance of making a music video for such an amazing and unique musician. It was also great to be able to finish an animated piece so fast, specially after spending three years on Astigmatismo.

Now go listen the fantastic music of William Onyeabor.

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