Animation with The Inside Story

What happens when a filmmaker can't film?

I’ve never really thought of myself as a filmmaker, despite being Director of Video at The Inside Story.

I used to put ‘Generalist’ on my CV as I thought it best covered my sometimes-eclectic skillset and made me sound a bit mysterious… In today’s creative industries though, it’s almost a requirement to know something about everything. We solve problems.

With the current pandemic beating almost all creative industries over the head, it can be difficult to know where to turn and what to do next. For obvious reasons I’m unable to travel to a show and interview the people behind the scenes. But rather than look at this as just a roadblock, we as content creators can use this time as a way to flex those other creative muscles. And that also means we have to look at the means of getting our message across in a different way.

Animation is great for this as it still allows us to tell our story in our own way, without compromise. Gone are the days of painstaking hand drawn cells taking years to produce mere minutes of footage. We live in a digital age where new tools are developed daily to speed up workflow and allow creatives to collaborate across vast distances. We are in a golden age of technology.

Using Adobe After Effects, a program once described to me as “Photoshop for those with ADD”, we’re able to move away from lower thirds and the shake reduction of those late-night filming sessions. Full character animation is possible, and with plugins such as Duik (free or donation and about to start a crowdfunding campaign to develop v.3), or RubberHose ($45), we have the world of ‘Inverse Kinematics’ open up to us.

It’s not a genre of European Cinema, but a way that we can rig a character to ‘make sense’ with its movement – you move a hand and the arm moves in a way that doesn’t look wooden. It also greatly speeds up the animation process.

Need a voiceover? There are various voiceover agencies out there for you to peruse but recording ‘the talent’ has traditionally been done either in person, or over high capacity ISDN lines. Now? We’re able to record high quality audio through a web browser! As long as your voice artist’s mic is good, and they’re able to record in a quiet and preferably sound treated room (or have a duvet to chuck over their head), we can record using services such as ipDTL from £10 per month, or Cleanfeed (free or £15 per month). You can now send someone a link to a web page hosted by your producer, where you can have incredibly clear recording sessions with surprisingly little latency.

This is only a small element of what’s possible, of course. Using 3D animation opens up even more options, and VR is poised to become even more important in a post-Covid world.

What do we do when we can’t film? We solve problems. We animate an interview. We create an explainer video about your new product. We create a virtual reality version of your show. We adapt and keep creating, because creating is who we are

Animation is great for this as it still allows us to tell our story in our own way, without compromise.

Developing animation character sketches with The Inside Story

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