Mograph Mentor: Lollipop Network Case Study
I produced this video alongside my classmates Diego Chavez and Daniel Stanush as a class project for Mograph Mentor. Mograph Mentor is an online school for motion graphics. We were paired up with a leader in the industry, Alex Mapar. His guidance throughout the piece was invaluable and I learned so much from him. I decided to write this blog post to give everyone an inside look at the production of this piece and share the success and failures we encountered. I've yet to complete a video and be fully satisfied with it and this video is no exception, but I am happy with the end result especially considering where we started. As you'll see below, it wasn't a perfect process and many things were done over and over until we found a solution we were happy with. Too often we look at a polished piece and assume that everything that was done came naturally or was a part of the plan but I would say rarely is that the case (At least in my experiences). You'll see that we went down some crazy roads for a while until ultimately it all came together in the piece you see above.
For Class 3 of Mograph Mentor my classmates and I were tasked with producing a 60 second video for a non-profit in 12 weeks. The purpose of the class was to give us a real world project to create while exploring new styles and workflows. We were given a mentor and he would guide us through the entire project and provided weekly critiques. We partnered with Animation For A Cause who provided us with a client and a script. The rest of the project would be left to us.
We began the project by doing R&D, gathering references, concepting and ultimately preparing for storyboarding in the coming weeks. Our deliverable's were:
- Reviewing and finalizing the script
- Concept Pitch
- Sketchbook Presentation
We quickly found out through this process that my classmates and I all had different visions for this video. We brought a wide spectrum of reference images to class to discuss. Here's some of our references images as well as early sketches.
We began to pick up some steam during Weeks 4-6 as we moved into storyboards and style frames. Our deliverable's were:
- Completed Storyboard
- Art Direction
One of many workflow tips we picked up from Alex was to leverage services like Google Docs for collaborative work. After a bit of discussion we realized Google Docs would be the best way for us to work collaboratively on the storyboards and get instant feedback from each other. Here's a link to view our storyboard utilizing Google Docs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RXN0hop8WE16dt7bMKz3EIvcFh345291ILc-zCXB280/edit?usp=sharing
Here's a very early animatic with our drawings matched up to a scratch VO to start to get a feel for the timing of the piece.
This is some of our early design and art direction exploration. As you can see, some of it looks pretty similar in the final piece and some of it looks drastically different. All three of us were designing and pitching different styles and as you can see we were still in the process of reigning that in and landing on a cohesive look and feel for the video.
Weeks 7-9 were designated for designing as well as animation tests. We fell behind a bit during weeks 4-6 and had to try to pick up the pace a bit. Our deliverable's were:
- Final Designs
- Final Animatic
Neither one of those ended up being "final" during these weeks. We made a lot of progress in the design and motion of the piece but things were still in constant flux. We were struggling with the design for certain scenes. One example was the opening scene, we went through many iterations of this scene trying to get it to work. Initially the plan was to take a grid based approach with objects representing who Emily was. We then had the idea of using the objects to spell her name so we tried to merge the two ideas and it was always coming out messier and more complicated that we were wanting. I feel like we eventually solved that problem, but it wasn't until weeks later.
Animatics played a huge role in the production for this video. Something that was stressed early on by our mentor was how important a good animatic was. Essentially week by week we would produce a new animatic until it eventually became our rough cut and then final cut. It was ever evolving and always changing but it was really important to see things set into basic motion to understand if it was communicating or not. This video shows the progression from our board-o-matic to our final cut. It's kind of fun seeing which scenes stayed pretty consistent throughout and which scenes changes
During weeks 10-12 we made a big push to finalize the animations for the video. There was a lot of hard work and late nights spent during this phase! The program was coming to an end and our only deliverable remaining was a final video. We made some good strides, but ultimately when it was all said and done we weren't really satisfied with the piece. It was watchable and complete but a lot of the goals we had for the piece we didn't feel were met. We asked if we could have an extension on the video and work on it further on our own time to push it a little farther. Michael granted our request but encouraged us to wrap it up quickly so that this project didn't drag on forever and not get finished. Our mentor Alex graciously offered to do a few more class sessions with us to help us push the design of the video and create a better overall piece. Design was something we all wanted to get better at and because of how the production went and the timelines of things we felt like we were never able to really dive into the design like we would like too. A lot of things were done last minute and late at night. Some of us regretted the design choices we made during the wee hours of the night! Here's where the video was at after 12 weeks.
* Bonus Weeks * 13-16
The first thing we did was step away from the project for a week and take some time off. Everyone had worked really hard and was a little burnt out so it was important to have a little distance from the project. It allowed us to come back refreshed and recharged to push this thing through the finish line. It was during these weeks that in my opinion we learned the most and produced our best work. Alex work-shopped a lot of our designs and helped us troubleshoot some of our design problems and strengthen our compositions. Because the majority of the work was already done and we didn't have a deadline breathing down our necks, we were able to really focus and improve certain scenes. Alex had a great process of bringing frames into Photoshop and making very quick and dirty adjustments to them until we solved our problem. Something about working in Photoshop versus Illustrator allowed us to not worry about the cleanliness of things and do rapid iterations. It's a workflow I plan of caring out in future projects. We delivered a final piece a month past our initial deadline but we were all much happier with the final piece.
When it's all said and done I'm happy with the video and I loved my experience with Mograph Mentor. We were able to gift this video to the Lollipop Network and they we super excited to receive it and are now using it to promote their great cause. My classmates were great and worked really hard and Alex was such a wealth of knowledge. I hope to take with me many of the words of wisdom he imparted on us. Some of my key takeaways were:
It's all important, but I learned to prioritize concept and design over motion."Does it communicate" is more important than "Is it pretty".
You rarely fix a design problem with more animation.
Specializing in animation or design individually is fine, but if you don't take on more ownership and responsibility for projects as a whole, you're generally going to hit a ceiling much sooner in your career.
Stay organized during the production process. Have a production schedule with milestones. Learn conditional formatting and filtering. Make it easy to use so that you're encouraged to keep it all up to date.
Good design isn't easy, and great, original design is really hard.