Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Partisan Peeps.

Last Tuesday, Mary Katharine Ham decided that for our newest video, we should do something involving those marshmallow Peeps everybody hates because it was going to be Easter weekend, and she used to do videos with Peeps all the time covering newsy topics.

Naturally, I thought it would be fun, and being the industrious and ambitious individual I am and generally wanting to take everything the Daily Caller/MKH does to "the next level" I grabbed a couple Peeps, went into my faux-studio for about an hour and came back to MKH with a 2-3 second video of stop-motion animation.

How cool would it be, I thought, to have 20 or 30 seconds of kind of hilarious stop-motion Peeps on screen while MKH is talking about the news or doing whatever it is she wanted to do?

Pretty cool.

Well, of course, Mary Katharine saw the thing and the gears started turning and later that evening, I get an email or a text or whatever, saying something to the effect of "I have a great idea!! Talk to you about it tomorrow morning!"

That's always fun for me, since I rely on her to come up with the "ideas" for our videos and good ideas tend to me more interesting production for me.

Little did I know...

Next morning, I get into work and just about the first question I get asked is... "Heyyy.... Can you re-create Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start the Fire' so we can do a music video?", while being handed a page of lyrics.

At this point, I could already tell that MKH's great idea was going to be a hundred times more work than I anticipated, but once I'd read through the song lyrics, I knew two more things... First, that it would
actually be a thousand times more work than I had anticipated originally, and second... that it really was a cute, hilarious, fun idea and we would have to get it done by the end of the week in time for Easter.

So I went to work...

By a bit after lunchtime, I had arranged, produced and was mixing a pretty solid background track over which would be recorded the lyrics. I'd set up the vocal recording project and set up a miniature green-screen stage for our Peeps. By the end of the day on Wednesday, I had a complete breakdown of all the different shots we'd need to get to do the video.

Maybe not quite needless to say, the breakdown included about 180 seconds worth of stop-motion animation that we'd need to complete to properly pull off a good video.

Now... you may not be aware of this, but the human eye sees the world at something fairly close to 24 frames per second. That's why movies are basically all shot/played back at 24 (or 23.97) frames per second. A frame, by the way, is one single image that makes up the basis for a film. Most people get this I would assume. Film works just like a flip-book or a zoetrope.  Image after image gets passed by our eyes and the brain synthesizes all that and our minds merge all the data into one seemless video.

Honestly, there's a ton of cool stuff involved here, but videos actually work mostly because our brains do fun, interesting and strange things.

This is relevant because 24 frames a second in stop motion would mean that somebody (i.e. me) would have to take 4,320 separate images (and moving little Peeps around a little stage in between each shot) to achieve 180 seconds worth of stop motion video.

Fortunately, because animation isn't "real", and your brain knows it, we don't actually need to watch stop-motion animation in 24 frames per second. We can do animation in 15 or even, on generally more rare occasions: 12 frames per second.

Still... When it's all said and done, the fact remains that at 12 fps, we needed to come up with 2,170 individual shots in order to get enough material to produce the final video. Seriously.... 2,170!

To further complicate this situation, each and every video made with these Peeps then must have had all the green backgrounds keyed out (removed) before they could be usable for anything! So I sat here at my fabulous desk, editing away for hours. Mary Katharine photographed the Peeps while I put hundreds and hundreds of single frames into my NLE, created videos, then keyed out backgrounds and added scenes and additional animation in After Effects.

All said and done, for every 2 seconds of final video, there was probably an hour and a half to two hours worth of production work needed to make it what it is.

And just so we're all clear here... That is insanely fast for any kind of stop-motion production!

But after putting in about 40 hours of work in 3 days, and even coming back in on Saturday morning to finalize the thing, I'm rather proud to say that we did get it done just in time for Easter Sunday. Here it is:

Now... I really do hope you enjoyed this little video... and I hope that the background portrayed above has helped you understand a little bit more about the challenges and diverse skills that went into the creation of the video. Maybe you don't care, but I know some people will watch it and say, "Ehh... Whatever, I've seen better", and of course that's surely true. I'm no Tim Burton... fair enough.

And indeed, looking over the YouTube comments, a few people did dislike it... For instance, "blogbat" writes:
"Wow. That. Really. Sucked. But thanks for the effort. :)"
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatever, blogbat. I'm certainly not going to cry about, or really even think about the anonymous comments of people like that... I worked incredibly hard, I'm basically a "team" of one, and I'm pretty sure there aren't more than a handful of people in the world who would be able to do music, stop-motion photography, animation, graphic effects and edit this kind of a project in the time available. I'm pretty secure on that level... But some of the comments that I read on the video have honestly baffled me.

If you haven't seen the video yet... Do so now, please.

Ok... So, reading through a few of the comments, one came in early on that I just don't understand. Commenter "angusmcphooey" wrote:
"Could have been funny, but too partisan"
Uh... What?

Another commenter comes to the video's "defense"... "JoeSquid1970" responds:
"Partisan??? Mentions Obama, Scott Brown and Christine O'donnell...I think it was fairly done...Do you think it is "Partisan" when something bad is said about ACORN or Obama? The song was mostly about celebrites and world events so I just don't see it..."
And so McPhooey goes into detail about how the video is supposedly "partisan"...
"Positive mentions of Tea Party/Pain, negative mentions of Obama and his wife. Yeah, partisan hackery. With peeps. Not surprising since the person who wrote it is a right-wing talking head."
He/she isn't the only one to think that, apparently... Another commenter writes:
"atrocious vid is atrocious. the part about michelle obama pissed me off the most. wtf is this bullshit."
...and still another chimes in with:
"Let's see- ACORN was a set up- it was selectively edited video by FOX News to implicate the employees of ACORN (didn't mentioned that after the "prostitute" left the men in the video called his police officer cousin to report it) No charges were filed once the the unedited video was reviewed. Youtube won't let me add a link to news stories about this, google "acorn set up" for more info) Other issues with video, no room to write about them. Cute idea, too much of a right wing agenda to go viral."
And on the other side of this miniature flame war, "sstrudell" wrote:
"Maybe Negative things are said about Acorn and Obama because they do negative things? Makes sense to me. Great job with the video!"
I really couldn't care less if people mock the video or say whatever they want about my work... But... Partisan?? Huh?


Consider this... We have a commenter who goes on at length about Fox News and ACORN (and a commenter who defends my video's "negative things" apparently said about ACORN), and the totality of reference to ACORN in the video is literally... the single, solitary word, "ACORN" in the lyrics, and a picture of an acorn... The nut, not even the logo of the organization.

The "positive" mentions of the Tea Party, for that matter include... umm.... exactly 0 direct references. The Tea Party does appear in Peep form on screen with the lines "Sarah Palin gave a speech, regulator overreach", and "Congress passed Obamacare, incumbents had to go".

Now, maybe the "regulator overreach" thing is disagreeable to some people or may seem "partisan"... although, I'm vehemently anti-partisan, and it's not disagreeable to me at all.

The rest of it is just statements... Sarah Palin gave tons of speeches. Congress did pass ObamaCare, and considering the massive incumbent ousting of the 2010 election, that seemed a bit news worthy to me too. And of course, all of these lines are surrounded by stuff about Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, Helen Thomas and Mel Gibson... I mean really... There's even Twilight Peeps in this video!

So... What? Partisan??

I guess some people see whatever it is that they want to see... Bizarre.

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