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Music video: Fitz and The Tantrums

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Another cool music video project, this one by Grasshorse Studios.

Producer Kathy Buxton writes:

When Fitz and The Tantrums approached Grasshorse Studios to collaborate in making this animated video it almost seemed predestined. The character animation studio had previously created a mobile app as an outlet for kids to talk about issues they weren’t comfortable discussing in other ways. “It became the launching point for this video,” director Steve Jennings grinned, “a music video made of assets from a smartphone app warning people not to pay too much attention to smartphones. It seemed meant to be.”

It was important to the band that this video convey their deep sincerity and understanding about putting yourself out there. “They want their audience to know we all feel like monsters sometimes,” said producer Kathy Buxton.

Prior to being commissioned for the video, Grasshorse had already done research and development for character set-up that was going to be applied to a 3rd version of the app. By leveraging the assets, Grasshorse was able to start with a look and aesthetic and modify it. This allowed the studio to jump immediately into production while the individual character designs of Fitz, Noelle and the band were being completed. Grasshorse used both 2D and 3D pipelines using ToonBoom Harmony and Blender. All facial animation and character design was created in ToonBoom. Once complete, the animated sprite sheets were applied to 2D style animated puppet rigs in Blender. “When we had difficulty achieving a natural pose for a character, we illustrated the awkward elements and combine them with the animated rig,” said Jennings.

The original rig had color changing abilities for the skin and clothing as well as a more complex auto hiding line system. These elements were removed to streamline the rig and meet the deadline. It cut the sprite exporting time and volume by 75%.

As a studio, Grasshorse specializes in hybrid production utilizing 2D and 3D technologies. On first glance, it would appear this project should have been entirely created in 2D. However, Blender gave Grasshorse an advantage with its non-linear animation toolset. It allowed their 3D animators to focus on reusable cycles that could be used in multiple scenes. In turn, it allowed 3D character animation production while 2D character design and 3D character rigs were still being finalized. Blender’s nonlinear animation gave the studio the flexibility and capability of switching the dance cycles from the characters they were originally animated for to different ones. Separating the performance between 2D and 3D animators and delegating it generically allowed Grasshorse’s crew to create and animate many more characters than they have in the past.

“Typically for a 3 ½ minute piece we would have a maximum of 4-5 characters,” said Buxton. “We shattered that ceiling with a total of 17.”

About Author

Kathy Buxton

Grasshorse Studios is a Midwest character animation studio that approaches our development like jazz. We employ hybrid animation techniques, often working with 2D, 3D, stop motion, robotics and animatronic puppetry. We specialize in engaging, entertaining and drawing our viewers’ attention. Our clients are regional, national and international studios, networks, advertising agencies and new media. Having been recognized with over 50 awards in recent years, Grasshorse is a quality driven studio. Our area has less cost of living than Vancouver, the "mecca" of off-shore animation, but still offers comparable cultural and social merits. Our vision is to build a quality of life and affordable culture for animators. Come play in the grass!

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