Mummies get their freak on in Bobby Standridge’s "Freak Flag" music video using cebas’ fR and fT!
About 10 years ago, Bobby Standridge was bartending when a customer at the bar “loaned” him a copy of 3ds Max R3 to play around with; and that was how he got his start in animation.
It didn’t take long for him to catch the animation bug, resulting in "several thousand dollars of therapeutic purchases of newer versions of 3ds Max and assorted 3rd party plugins (including cebas’ great stuff)".
With his one-man operation called Bobby’s Brane, Bobby Standridge is mostly known for the animated YYZ video, which starred a digital Neil Peart of Rush fame. It was his first big animation project that eventually led to an official gig with Rush on another video. Animated shots of Mt. Everest that he completed for an independent film project led to his freelance work for ESPN.
cebas: It seems that the “Freak Flag video” for the band “Here Come the Mummies” was an important project for Bobby’s Brane. Can you tell us how you were involved?
The Freak Flag video, just like the YYZ video I created before it, was not a paid gig, but a labor of love. I’ve got a really big project in mind that I want to pursue eventually, and I reckoned that I needed at least one more eye-catching notch on the belt before I could confidently go out and bang on any doors. So when I discovered this unbelievably fantastic band, I knew I had found my muse. Basically, I contacted them and said I’m doing this for you and you can’t say no!
cebas: Which shots/images/sequences in particular were you involved in?
I did the whole thing by myself. I spent the first day or so just staring at an After Effects timeline with an MP3 of the song staring back. My way of building a music video is to animate cuts of typography on the screen that describe what I’m visualizing. Eventually, a coherent narrative develops as I lock things down with scene/camera, move, descriptions and so forth. Once I’m pretty happy with things, the model acquisition process begins. I say acquisition because I know what my strengths are, and mesh modeling isn’t one of them. I can do it adequately, it just takes forever and isn’t much fun. I’m better at seeing the potential in existing models and adapting them to fit my needs. The mummy wrap came from a modified ninja outfit, for instance. Some of the other assets like the Egyptian temple and spaceship were used with minimal refinement. For these models and most of the others, I’ve got to give a nod to “Daz 3D” for their vast and inexpensive high-quality selection of 3D assets. Honorable mention goes to Turbosquid.
cebas: What cebas software did you use and why?
I’ve got most of your product line at my disposal: finalRender, finalToon, volumeBreaker, ScalpelMAX, finalDOF, etc. For this gig, I relied on finalRender to achieve the realistic backgrounds but then decided to add a touch of finalToon so they would tie-in nicely with the finalToon-only foreground elements.
cebas: How did you use our software to achieve the effects?
The backgrounds were rendered separately in a single pass using the AQMC/HarmonixGI method. I like to keep my lighting setups simple so for the opening sequence inside the house, for example, I only used two lights: an omni light on the inside and a direct light projecting in from the outside, both using fR-Area shadows. For the GI solution, the “Single Frame” setting with the “Reuse” toggle checked delivered great results even with camera movement, so long as the rendering wasn’t interrupted. Yes, I knew the solution would be lost in a network situation if I didn’t collect the solution files first like you’re supposed to, but I was too lazy to set it up right. Fortunately, it only bit me on the backside a couple of times.
cebas: What features in particular helped you achieve your goal and how?
I particularly like the flexibility of finalToon. finalToon is the primary reason I decided to commit fully to cebas’ product line. I love it for too many reasons to list, but here’s one of the biggies: you can set the line thickness to automatically scale down with camera distance. You can set this globally or on a per-material basis, same as with most other finalToon settings. Without that ability, your scene would otherwise become a blackened mess the further away your camera got. But what if, say, you only animated your camera’s field of view to be wider, wouldn’t everything “appear” to be farther away without any reduction in lineweight? Yes, that’s true, but by animating the Global Scaling parameter in the effects panel, you can easily compensate for that situation and get the proper results again for all objects in the scene. Pretty cool!
cebas: What was the most difficult aspect of this project and how did you solve it?
The most challenging parts were the mummy-into-particle effects, then steering the particles to go where they needed to go. I blocked the whole thing out of my head until the day arrived to address it, and then like most challenges I ever face, I trusted that my intuition would find a way. And thankfully, it did.
cebas: What was a step-by-step breakdown of a typical shot/image/sequence?
I’ve discovered the one thing I obsess over more than anything is proper camera work. And what I mean by that is not some pedantic preconceived notion of what’s right or wrong, but rather I’ve got to wrestle with it, and massage it until it “feels” right. And feeling right means it has to feel right in conjunction with the previous camera move or cut, and the next one. It’s a chicken and egg scenario, but probably the most satisfying zen-type thing about filmmaking there is for me.
Once I lock all those cuts/pans/trucks/zooms down with the rough action the story is already told, and the details just fall into place. Duck soup from then on.
cebas: How did the cebas tools perform for you and how was the experience of working with them like?
Learning the ins and outs of animation is like learning a musical instrument: once you get past the initial awkwardness, you find yourself doing things subconsciously, and then one day you realize you’re making music. Learning finalToon or finalRender is like adding an extra string to your guitar. It will give you a richer sound… but not until you go back through the same stages again.
cebas: What was the most fun or rewarding part of this project for you?
Pushing it out of the nest. That always entails a mixture of elation and trepidation. Mainly elation.
cebas: What do you wish cebas software did that it's not currently doing for you?
Hmmm. a dedicated fluid dynamics system would be nice to see. Also a dependable and affordable hair plugin that gets along with finalRender would be welcome too.
cebas: What new projects can we expect from you in the future (if you're able to tell us)?
Until I figure out a way to kick-start my big pipe dream project (aka “The Cymbals of Love”), I have another animated music video in mind for an obscure Charlie Rich song. Pretty random granted, but he is one of my favorites, and the song will break your heart. This music video would be a significant thematic departure from the mummy one and accomplishing it would give me the necessary nerve to kick in the aforementioned doors!
Bobby, thank you so much for your time...we certainly love everything about this interview :)
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