Warning: This is where things may get a little nerdy...
We learned a lot from creating “Social Network”. Mainly, that it is a large pain to make tweaks and changes after a first pass. With hundreds of keyframes floating across countless compositions in After Effects, things got a little stressful when it came to getting the changes completed in time to actually release the video before Christmas.
This time around, we set about organizing and animating the project for “Follow” in a way that was ready for changes to be made later, as easily as possible. We knew that things like timing and script would be subject to all kinds of change. Trent is our wizard of expressions (which basically means coding instead of key-framing) here at Igniter, and he built the project in a way that would tackle these problems. He explains his methods:
When we were working on “A Social Network Christmas,” the project expanded and contracted so much that I wanted to design the After Effects project for “Follow” in such a way that minimal effort was needed to make changes during the revision process.
The first thing I worked on was the animation for how the "tweets" enter. The needs were as follows:
1) Tweets enter in reverse layer order
2) All previous Tweets reposition themselves accordingly when the next tweet enters
3) Had to have a solution without "parenting" (connecting layers to each other) in the event that a layer was deleted
4) Layers readjust their positions if the order of layers or the height of a tweet changes
My solution was using expressions and markers in After Effects. The position of the marker in the composition (which is a timeline in After Effects) dictated when a new tweet would drop and fade up. This solution gave us the ability to quickly change timing of tweet animations based on the music and how long it took to read each tweet. If we slid a marker over to adjust when the tweet would fall, we wouldn’t mess up any future tweets. We weren't dragging layers or keyframes around in the timeline and newly added tweets would find their proper position with little effort.
For the “Follow” computer monitor look, we did not shoot video of the animations playing on a screen. Instead, we animated everything in After Effects. We started by taking a couple photos of pixels on a blank white LCD monitor, and blended that layer of pixels on top of each scene. We then key-framed “cameras” inside After Effects around our scene to get our dramatic pushes and pans.
The setup for “Follow” may have taken a bit longer, but in the end we saved an enormous amount of time during revisions, not to mention it simplified the work down to where one person could make all the changes. During the making of “Social Network” , animations were spread across 3 computers with 3 different project files. This time around, it was a breeze.
Our “Follow” music score, the combination of production music and Rob’s elements, was merged in Apple Logic and mastered by Clint. For sound effects, we rendered what we had built in After Effects, brought it in to Final Cut Pro, and matched up mouse clicks, swooshes, wind, etc. to the animations from our render.
Both “Follow” and “A Social Network Christmas” were subject to heavy critique, multiple times. It started with just the individual elements. In the making of “Follow”, the script, music, scratch track and graphics were all created and reviewed, changed and reviewed, changed and reviewed, changed and reviewed until we had what we liked, and what worked well together.
When all the elements were combined into a viewable video, we would gather 4-5 people on the couch and watch through the current version we had. Trent or myself would take down an average of 2-3 pages of changes that had to be made, which we would make as quick as possible, and after a day or two we would all reconvene and review again. We spent a lot of time tearing apart this video. We took things out, added segments, and changed wording right up until it was time to do the final render. I have to say, having a reasonable amount of opinions on a video can be challenging to find the right compromises, but in the end it makes the project so much deeper and more refined.
We had great time learning while creating this video. It changed a ton from when we first started, and it was satisfying to see how it ended up. We hope you like it, and that it makes the story of Christ come alive for you today.