Another gig I got from a referral by Kert Gartner!
I was pleasantly surprised and excited to see this email, because previously both Kert Gartner and Marlon Wiebe did great trailers for Drinkbox Studios on Guacamelee and Severed. Just goes to show you that there's a LOT of work out there, and when people have so much awesome stuff to work on, eventually difficult decisions have to be made.
The first Guacamelee game came out in 2013; it's a Mexican folklore inspired side-scrolling metroidvania game with beautiful art and animation. There's no game that looks anything like it. The game really tests your dexterity to circumvent all sorts of combat encounters and platforming challenges.
When Drinkbox came to me, they already had a rough animatic of the introduction, and music to use. My job was to take their final artwork, tweak the pacing, bring it to life with some animation, and add in a final gameplay montage, and sound design. Oh, and in 4k.
For the cutscenes they wanted some 2.5D parallax effects where appropriate. I was glad to hear that it wasn't going to be TOO much more complicated than that, because I don't consider myself an animator, and didn't want to bite off more than I could chew. Initially I started by putting everything in 3D layers, but in some cases like the very first shot it didn't really make sense because the objects weren't far enough apart to parallax.
For all of the 3D parallax shots, I used pt_Multiplane from AEscripts.com. It's a fantastic tool that will take your 2D layers, and set the apart in 3D space to a distance you specify without any of the size of the layers appearing different. This means it automatically compensates the scale of the layer based on the camera focal length and distance from the camera. Absolutely invaluable for this sort of project.
The second shot had the most layers by far. Everything was made in Photoshop using shape layers which meant that I could resize it to whatever I wanted without losing resolution. I worked off the original file which had a TON of layers for every single element; I had to merge several layers so that they'd be on the same plane, because it just didn't make sense for every single element to be offset in 3D space. For example, two hands for a character might be on a separate layer, but in physical space, they're likely about equidistant from the camera.
Initially with this shot I was really lazy about how I created the comp for each character. I just separated them individually with little to no regard for where they were in 3D space. But when I combined them into one comp and pressed the collapse transformations switch, the layers all went crazy; some were on top of layers they shouldn't have been have etc. So on a spreadsheet I wrote out what layers would be on what plane for every single character, and in relation to each other. pt_Multiplane also allows you to say from where to where in z-space layers should go. This worked perfectly the first time I tried it, phew!
I loved timing the guacamole dipping sequence, and adding super dramatic sound effects. Originally, Juan dipped the chip, the chip broke, and then he went back in to dip again, but I thought it wouldn't read that way, especially because it wasn't fully animated, so I changed it to just the chip breaking (with some reverb FX on the break sound effect)
One thing that Drinkbox paid really close attention to was how video compression affected the artwork. The first time I received art there were a lot more gradients, but when gradients get compressed you can get some bad "banding" where gradients get simplified into what looks more like a rainbow with discrete sections. To combat this, several pieces of art were revised to have solid colors instead of gradients.
The montage of quick shots was a lot of fun. I don't often use the Puppet Tool in After Effects, but I had to use it a bunch for this. You'll probably recognize the 80s movie reference in the shot of the arms flexing as two hands come together. That one was the most complicated one to do. I used PuppetTools to create inverse kinematic rigs for the arms, though one of the arms stubbornly refused to function properly so I ended up keyframe animating it manually. It's such a quick shot that I think it barely mattered. Some extra layers had to be added to the Photoshop file; since in the final pose one hand's fingers aren't visible, it wasn't necessary to draw them. So for just a few frames (if that!) the hand is there before grabbing the other.
Tostada also has some very light puppet tool animation on her limbs, and also I added some 3D depth of field blur to the enemy objects in the scene. For the final shot of Juan, I used the puppet tool to animate Juan breathing (I used Kert's Guacamelee trailer as reference) and also had to use the puppet tool to make the rooster head/necks wiggly. In early versions there was some artifacting caused by the puppet tool, so I had to change the resolution of the puppet segments to fix them.
Gameplay for this trailer was all captured by Drinkbox. My goal for this one was to just make it all flow very nicely. There's a lot of new stuff to show in this brief montage, and I wanted to make sure the audience didn't lose track of any of it. With the exception of the last few shots I'm pretty sure that the direction of motion at the end of each shot is the same direction that continues into the next. Then if the direction is changed in that shot, the following one also reflects that change. Of course I also did my best to cut to the music, and keep the eyetrace consistent.
That's pretty much it! A lot of the structure of this trailer was already there when I first started, I feel like I just tweaked it here and there so it all fit together better. I had a lot of fun making it especially because of the great music I got to work with, high impact shots with lots of nice action in them, and the voiceover set the perfect tone. It's also just so COLORFUL!