This was a labor of love. What do I love? Animation, ripping guitar riffs, and Space. I set out to make a piece that spoke to those loves and hopefully gave people a little portrait of what inspires me to create what I do. The culmination of which apparently is a team of mystical letter headed space-ninja-spies.
My first concrete idea was that I wanted it to have an over the top, driving guitar track under the animation. That was never really a decision, as it just seemed like a given. Fortunately, I knew exactly where to turn. Canadian metal badasses Skull Fist (www.skullfist.org). From there I looked to incorporate the things that inspired me to move towards the path of animation, and continues to push me down it. Science fiction illustrations, mid 90's video games, comics, and cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s was where I started. Eventually, I arrived to what I called the “Team Assemble” shot, where every character in the team or squad moves into frame dynamically and poses for the final frame, i.e. Thundercats, Silverhawks, Voltron, G.I. Joe, etc.
Sketching began and as the lines started to be laid down it became clear that I needed to match the music and push the over-the-top nature of the end frame, so instead of just bring my name on screen, I decided to go heavy handed and have the letters actually be the characters. I started trying to draw each character around sections of my titles, but soon realized it was not working.
I decided to simplify to have the characters in the team be the actual characters in my first name. Five team members. Five letters in PETER – easy enough. The idea for the heads as letter, soon followed. I mean, come on? Letter heads? It was too ridiculous not to work. I began to try and find each letter’s role in the team. Hierarchy was pretty easy since spelling counts in this case. The ‘P’ was to be the leader, heroic and strong, but balanced. The ‘T’ was the enforcer, the strongest of all the team members. The two ‘E’s became twins, that brought speed, stealth, and agility to the team. What is a team of space-ninja-spies, without a tech-genius/mystic? With that, the ‘R’ became a young tech-genius, that has mystical powers. The team was assembled. The next challenge I began to tackle, was how will they be brought on screen and where?
Production & Post-Production
I ended up working my way backwards from my sketches of the “Team Assemble” end frame. Again, the composition of the team was somewhat already decided, since “PETER” was the goal, but each entrance had to represent each member's' skills and characteristics. Each letter was pretty straight forward as far as decisions for their actions on screen. The most difficult turns out, was the opening shot with the ‘P’. In the beginning I wanted to a homage to the iconic motorcycle power slide shot by Kaneda, in Katsuhiro Otomo’s legendary film “Akira”.
My initial tests were promising, but after showing a WIP to a few friends, the general consensus, was that the opening shot and subsequent camera move was not working.
I went back to examine, the old cartoon intros for some inspiration. I asked myself: Why is the team assembling,? How did they all get there? What makes this team so powerful; weapons, vehicles, or something else? I knew I needed to establish their unique powers and give some context and setting around them.
I ended up ruling out any vehicle or machinery shots, since that would eat way too much time in production. I began to draw more from the idea of the ‘R’ and mystical powers. I began to see it more as the each team member shares in this mystical power as well. Knowing that I also wanted to play up the space theme, I decided to use the first shot as more of an establishing shot. Eventually, the idea grew into an establishing shot in space, with an energy portal opening up and firing and enormous bolt of energy, sending our team to an an alien planet that held a special significance to the source of their power.
With the new establishing shot, all that was need was to fix the camera move from before. Another round of feed back, and it was decided to eliminate the need to show the ‘P’ Character rising from a kneeling position. Once again the shot was simplified.
A little compositing and it was pretty much finished. The thought of pushing the look into a 4:3 VHS had been rattling around in my head, but had it taken a back seat until I got some constructive feedback from a very trusted source. I found a great downloadable free template at rocketstock.com, and with some tweaks, the titles were complete. What resulted was one the most rewarding personal projects I have produced to date.
The Finished Piece