Hi, my name is Mike Scott. Some of you might be familiar with my previous work for Goldfish. I am proud to bring you the 6th in my Goldfish video series, this time for a fresh funky tune called ‘One Million Views’. It took me around 7 months from start to finish to make this video. Because I gave the project the time it was asking for it’s a deeply satisfying end result for me. Making an animated music video is an opportunity for me to give you an enjoyable 3 and a half minutes experience and possibly get your brain to continue chewing on it after the video has finished playing. What follows is a fairly comprehensive and sometimes technical breakdown of the making of this video. Although it’s presented in a linear fashion the process is sometimes a little more convoluted than this.
Goldfish had the idea for a concept of Live Bands vs. DJs. The idea revolves around the idea that many current successful DJs don’t possess a lot of musical skill and instead their success stems from marketing hype. This isn’t to be confused with ‘turntablism’ which is a separate and impressive skill. We’re concerned with juiced-up DJs that play premixed sets or let the computer do most of the auto-sync work and spend the rest of their time pretending to mix, knob-twiddling and fist-pumping. They’re sometimes in it for the women (or men), ego and fame. This is in stark contrast to skilled yet struggling musos who study music as well as an actual musical instrument for years and far-too-often don’t achieve anywhere near the level of success and fame that their (sometimes) far-less-skilled DJ counterparts achieve.
We could get into a discussion about what defines success and whether a laptop is an instrument but let’s stick with the idea that there are some serious musicians with incredible chops that play to a room of 10 people and some DJs with little or no musical skill that play in massive stadiums to thousands of people and get huge attention for playing other people’s music.
[UPDATE] A fair amount of feedback from the video is along the lines of ‘But you can’t diss Daft Punk, they’re super L33T!’ I’m not dissing Daft Punk. I like their music and I’ve bought most of their albums. As I write this I’m listening to ‘Random Access Memories’. Daft Punk are at DJ School and they film Goldfish playing live music and dig it. Goldfish has a lot of respect for Daft Punk. Fret not my friendlies, your world may still remain intact.
A lot more info after the fold…
I explored various ways of communicating the ‘Bands vs. DJs’ premise.
One idea was a North Korean concentration camp where Live Music is banned and Goldfish start an underground movement to bring Live Music back to people’s lives.Â Another idea was that EVERYONE in the world is now a DJ since all you need is a laptop and some beat-matching software. The world has forgotten about live instruments and Goldfish arrive to return live instruments to electronic music.Â Another idea was to take a page out of The Incredibles and the 50’s cartoon modern style.Â Another idea was to crib a popular TV show.
Sometimes in addition to lack of musical skill another thorn in the sides of DJs is that they achieve personal success by jumping on the coat-tails of musicians that make their own music and feed off the crowd’s reaction to the music. Imagine a projectionist in a movie theatre fist-pumping from the projectionist box and instead of people watching the movie they’d be cheering on the projectionist. It’s a weird idea.
I took my sketches to my good friend and ex-copyrighter-now-cartoonist James Wolfaardt. We went through various concepts and jammed some ideas. He suggested that DJ School was a pretty good avenue to build on and I agreed.
DJ School is run by DeadRat. Goldfish attend this school with a bunch of junior DJs. The school has banned live musical instruments. Goldfish don’t care for the no-instrument ban and jam their live instruments for their mates. This enrages the headmaster and they get kicked out the school for disobeying. However, a classmate records Goldfish’s live jam and puts it online where it receives one million views. This enrages Dog. Later, Goldfish play their live instruments to a huge crowd at one of Dog’s gigs and the audience ends up loving it. DeadRat still can’t comprehend the thought of live instruments in Electronic Dance Music – the thought is enough to explode his fragile mind. Dog redeems himself by getting with the program and playing a tambourine.
From early in pre-production Dog got the job as the Antagonistic douche-bag DJ with the DJ name ‘Dog Is A DJ’ (A crib on Faithless’ popular song ‘G*d id a DJ’). Dog has appeared in every one of my animated Goldfish videos and he seems to attract interest from audiences. People ask who the dog/rat/wolf character is. His general appearance looks like he might be a kind of juiced-up douchebag DJ.
There were many story ideas that I didn’t use. My buddy Anthony Silverston (writer and director at TriggerFish Studios. // ‘Zambezia’ and ‘Khumba’) helped me work through the many ideas I had and to clarify with characters and story. One possible story branch we discussed that I liked involved kid-Dog and kid-Goldfish playing live instruments in a band together and getting caught by the headmaster. Dog pretends to not play an instrument and places all the blame on Goldfish resulting in Goldfish’s expulsion from the school and Dog becoming a successful teacher’s pet DJ. Dog and Goldfish become sworn enemies from then on and only much later would Dog’s musical ability come out of the closet at a Goldfish concert.
As cool as many of these ideas were, the song has a flow and story of its own and I didn’t want to stray too far from that.
We had quite a list of knob-twiddlng culprits (a knob-twiddler is a DJ that pretends to be making a sizeable contribution to the music by touching and twiddling knobs, sometimes not even turning them but just having one hand on the mixer so as to look like there’s not just a premix playing). In the end I went with an eclectic mix of DJ characterisations. To clarify – though some of these characterisations have awesome production skills many of them don’t play a live musical instrument in their sets, rather hiding behind the safety of pre-produced music. Throwing cake and spraying champagne at an audience, or keeping one hand on a single mixer knob and fist-pumping doesn’t really count as a musical performance.
I start off by doing lots of small thumbnail sketches in a sketchbook or on rough paper. I get cheap waiter pads from my local print shop. At this stage I also experiment with digital doodling to get a feel for various styles, characters and locations. ‘Sketching’ and ‘concept’ run alongside and inspire each other. I end up coming up with this rough mind-map of the song matched to the ideas I had to help give the whole project some structure:
I get loads of A6 storyboard cards cut from A4 card. (I can’t find blank pre-cut A6 cards for sale on shop shelves). I like thickish card as it holds up with repeated handling. I’ve thrashed out a load of ideas from the sketching stage and can now graduate some ideas to card. There’s not particularly an order yet, I’m just committing ideas to paper. I get into the minds of the characters and think of the various ways they might perform actions. Sometimes a scene requires a couple of cards to communicate the idea well so I keep these cards together. Its during this stage that weeks of chatting to Dave and Dom and mates about ideas, lightbulb moments I’ve had in the shower or on runs, set pieces I know I want in the video etc â€¦ all get committed to a storyboard card that can be included or omitted from the animatic later.
After this I have lots of cards but little structure. I spread the cards out on a table and start moving them around to try and get a feel for what I’ve got – in a way, solving this large puzzle and seeing how things fit together. This is a particularly important stage of the music video because if I can get it working in storyboard stage it’s got a much better chance of working in animated form.
After a while a basic structure emerges. By now I’m pretty familiar with the song lyrics and structure. I can see possible links from the storyboards to the song’s stages. This is also a process of elimination. Some cards get put in a ‘maybe’ pile, some in a ‘probably not’ pile, some in an ‘intro’ pile, some in a ‘Chorus 1’ pile, some in a ‘Verse 2’ pile and so on. For this particular project I had enough unused ideas to make another music video or two. I then start playing the song and at the same time reading through the story to make sure it ‘reads’ well. Some of the cards were pretty worked over with notes and changes so once I had solidified my card choices and structure I redid some cards, drawing only the most basic elements to signify character position, action and shot type. I also picked the brains of my brother, Anthony Silverston and Stuart Coutts during this stage – they all brought something to the table. I spent a good couple of weeks in the pre-production stage to thrash out the blueprints.
Once I’m satisfied with the storyboards I scan in all the cards, separate them in Photoshop and arranged them in Toon Boom Storyboard Pro. I import the song and start arranging scene ideas along the song’s timeline. I then play with the scene timings and get a feel for scene length, what kind of action might be happening, whether there’s enough time to fit in the actions or whether the scene needs more time, whether it works alright with the song’s structure, etcâ€¦ I also make notes by drawing or writing digitally on top of the cards. After adding and subtracting scenes, playing with timings and being worked over a few times the animatic start running smoother. If I can get something to work well in animatic form it’s got a much better chance of success in the animation stage. Any problems not fixed here are likely to become exponentially problematic later on and cost me time and energy.
Here is the final animatic. Please note the animatic uses a lower quality work in progress version of the song:
With a working animatic complete I’m keen to get a really nice pleasant look to for the video. Early on I start experimenting with a 50’s style look, something Dave & Dom initially suggested. I have a book from Pixar with a lot of behind-the-scenes artwork from The Incredibles that is very inspiring for this particular look, so I study these references. I carry on experimenting and end up siding with a look not too far away from the original ‘Soundtracks and Comebacks’ video – characters have a fairly bold black outline with flat colour fills. I test various line widths in Photoshop and end up making a custom pen nib based off one of many Photoshop brush presets I bought from Ray Frenden (I can vouch for Ray Frenden’s brush presets, they’re great). I create turnarounds of the characters and put them in a lineup to distinguish height differences so that they remain consistent throughout.Â After much experimenting it becomes clear that simpler is sometimes better.
I’ve done some tests for a background style but decide to focus instead on character animation and decide on backgrounds later.
1. Rough and References
I import a storyboard card into a 3000 x 3000 pixel Photoshop document. The final video size is 1920 x 1080 but I like having extra space on the sides and top and bottom to paste reference images.
I decide on the action happening in the scene and for how many beats the scene lasts. The song is at 125 bpm which works out to a very neat 12 frames per beat at 25 frames per second, so if a scene is 4 beats I knew the scene will last 48 frames which gives me a good indication of how much action I’m able to include. I start thumbnailing rough poses and character positions.
I often acted out the motions for reference and take pics and video to base drawings off that. Dog ends up having quite a human skeleton because a lot of his actions are based off my own reference pics. It is also why his muscles are so big joookes.
I use a SmudgeGuard glove when using the tablet. It’s a small piece of equipment but it makes a big difference. It helps reduce friction and heat when drawing. I used one of Ray Frenden’s blue and red pencil presets for the rough drawings. If I’ve taken reference photos or video I import the photo or take a snapshot of the video and create a new layer and draw the skeleton structure and rough shapes over the reference. I draw subsequent frames to make up the animation, sometimes based on little thumbnail sketches on rough paper where I’ve planned out the animation poses. Then I resize and reposition the rough drawings if necessary. I then use Photoshop’s timeline window to loop drawings and see how the animation is shaping up and make any further changes. Once I’m satisfied I create new layers and draw the black lineart on top of the rough drawings, and then add colour from my swatches panel.
I then clean up the file by deleting rough drawings and unused layers and organise the various drawings into groups.
3. Character Animation
I create a new 1920 x 1080 pixel / 25 frames per second scene in Anime Studio Pro and import a click track. I create a click track in the free program Audacity and then save different lengths of the click; a 2 beat, 4 beat, 8 beat, 16 beat, 20 beat and 4 minute version. From the animatic I know how many beats any given scene is. The click-track helps to visually land action on the beat so that the action synchs to the beat of the song and also helps to visually cut the scene to the correct length of beats. For scenes where lip-synching to the lyrics is required I find the matching section of song and save just that clip, import it into the scene and lip-synch the mouth positions to the vocals.
Now it’s time to import the Photoshop file. I do that and convert some groups into switch groups. In Anime Studio switch groups only display one drawing at a time which is good for frame-by-frame animation, groups of mouth positions or different facial expressions. If I’m doing puppet-style animation I add bones to the drawing which let me bend drawings around, useful for legs and arms.
Now it’s time to animate characters and other objects along the animation timeline. I add new groups for characters and create keyframes for these groups, moving them around in virtual space. Generally I’ve roughed out a gameplan for how I plan on timing actions to the beat before I jump into animation. After many passes of the character animation I add camera movements. If I’ve positioned various layers within the Z-space for depth I can achieve a 3D multi-plane depth effect when the camera trucks in or out, so that I create the illusion of depth. I used the multi-plane effect in the large 3D crowd scene. The layers are 2D but they are positioned in 3D space.
Here’s a montage of screen-recordings I took during drawing and animation. Most clips are sped up, some are real-time:
After the character animation is complete I move on to backgrounds. I experiment with a fair amount of styles until I decide on a suitable look that doesn’t clash with the characters.
I start by using my Wacom Cintiq 12″ for the backgrounds. The Cintiq has a screen that is drawn directly onto. The Cintiq and Intuos yield different results for me – the Cintiq produces tighter-looking work which isn’t always what I want. The issue I currently have with the Cintiq is that it is not an ideal working position for my back as I use it hunched over and also that I use it in mirror mode so my iMac’s usual high resolution gets knocked down to the highest Cintiq resolution – much lower than the iMac’s, so I switch back the Intuos after a time. The Intuos is a tablet without a screen and the sitting position I use it in is kinder to my back (sitting for hours in an odd position is not a great idea).
I import a screenshot of the character animation from Anime Studio to get a general idea of character’s positions. I also import to Photoshop any reference images I’ve photographed or found online.
Unlike the consistently opaque round black outline I use for characters, I use a painterly brush in Photoshop for the backgrounds. The pen pressure controls the stroke’s opacity.
Sometimes I create separate background elements on their own layers to be able to place them in 3D space in Anime Studio for multi-plane scenes.
I then import the Photoshop background into Anime Studio Pro and make any adjustments to character’s positions, camera moves and anything else I think improves the scene.
At a later stage I also give characters shadows by creating vector ellipses, lowering the layers’ opacity, setting the layers to multiply, adding a blur to the layers and animating the layers independently to match character positions.
Some of the scenes happen only over a beat or two so I make sure the backgrounds aren’t too distracting to the viewer. I want the viewer to be able to read the scene easily.
5. Rendering and Compositing
I render out the separate scene elements with Anime Studio’s batch renderer. Generally characters and backgrounds are rendered out separately but if a scene has many layers I may render out many separate elements. This gives me more control later to add and manipulate coloured gradients on top of the backgrounds.
I create a new 1920 x 1080 / 25 frame per second project in Adobe Premiere (the same settings I use in Anime Studio). I import the 4 minute 125 bpm click track I made earlier and arrange the song to it so that the click and the song play together in synch. The reason for having a click track is that it helps me lay down scenes and trim them accurately to the beat. I also import the animatic and overlay it at the top right hand corner of the screen as a guide for scene placement.
Now it’s time to import all the rendered files from Anime Studio.
I create a few gradients in Photoshop and import them into Premiere. I place a gradient over a background, change the gradient’s opacity to around 25% and change the gradient’s blending mode to either ‘screen’, ‘colour dodge’ or ‘overlay’. This breaks up a flat background and gives it a warmer feeling. This also helps separate characters from the background making the scene easier to decipher.
A lot of the scenes have room for improvement so I make a host of changed and re-render character animation and rework backgrounds if I think it improves the scenes.
Over time the project grows with some scenes comprised of multiple video layers.
Towards the end of the project Goldfish make a few changes to the song which include a longer intro and a shorter breakdown and some ‘eep eep’ voices throughout the song. I find the shorter breakdown requires cutting some scenes out of the build-up. Here are the animated scenes I leave out:
The longer intro and addition of the ‘eeps’ allows me to introduce a new character – the ‘eep eep bird’. He is a hit with the people that preview the video and Dave & Dom and I like him so I include him in a few other sections of the video where the ‘eep eep’s’ occur.
I make an animated 8bit intro but we decide to leave it out as it doesn’t really integrate with the rest of the video:
I make an outro with Goldfish’s website and my website credit,and my brother David (aka The Kiffness) makes some 8bit music. Getting an 8bit mix of the song done by The Kiffness is something of a tradition with my animated Goldfish videos.
7. Colour Correction
Now the video is running the way I want it to. Dave & Dom give me their feedback which is useful and I make the relevant changes. I send a preview of the video to my experienced animator friend Marcus in Germany. He also has useful feedback for me and I make further changes. My brother also has some good suggestions so I make another round of changes and I also notice room for improvement in many scenes so I continue making changes until I’m satisfied with the video. I do some colour correction tests and notice that the colour can be improved with tweaking so I try various settings. After a lot of experimenting I like the look I achieve from a combination of manipulating the RGB curves to crunch the shadows and highlights and using another effect to further increase the contrast and saturation. It feels better and with some A/B comparison I can clearly see it removes the slight dustiness from the video’s colour palette. You can see a comparison in this animated GIF:
8. Final Render
Now it’s time to render out a web version which is an H264 1080p 25fps 7mbps file that ends up being around 200MB, and a much larger Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) 1080p 25fps TV version that ends up being around 5GB.
*** ODDS AND ENDS ***
Some of the extra stuff that doesn’t really fit into any of the previous categories. A keen eye may have spotted a couple of these little easter eggs. There are even more connections to previous Goldfish videos that I haven’t written up; some fairly subtle.
In Goldfish’s bedroom there are some posters – one is of St. Germain’s ‘Tourist’ album and another is a ‘Miles Davis’ poster. I’m a huge St. Germain fan so when I first heard Goldfish’s ‘Caught in the Loop’ album years ago that featured a similar mix of live instruments, jazz and electronica I was an instant fan. Dave & Dom often mention Miles Davis as an inspiration. I’ve only recently acquired a Miles Davis album of his and I like him music. There’s also a pic of Goldfish’s Octopus mother, the Goldfish-mobile from my ‘We Come Together’ video and Mr. Baggage from ‘Get Busy Living’.
In the classroom is a poster that reads ‘We All Press Play’. This is a reference to an essay written by DeadMau5 bemoaning the current state of button-pusing DJ’ing. The essay is here.
‘Now that’s what I call ED(a)M’ is an idea Dave had. Apparently ED(a)M is a new buzzword in the electronic music scene. EDM stands for ‘Electronic Dance Music’ but the new trend is referring to it as ‘Edam’.
There’s some graffiti on the bathroom stall. The lawnmower, log and saw and boat refer to the various actions Dog performed in previous Goldfish videos.
Dog has a poster of his favourite band above his bed. Milli Vanilli are infamous for having their Grammy revoked after it was discovered that the lead vocals on their album weren’t those of Milli Vanilli. They’re also infamous for using backtracks during ‘live’ performances while pretending to perform. One time their backtrack skipped and they ran off stage. As such they’ve becoming poster boys for musicians that ‘pretend’ to perform. Dog also has a ‘knob-twiddling’ degree from DJ School.
– One point perspective
I used a one point perspective guide for some of the backgrounds. It features a single vanishing point and lines are drawn outwards from the vanishing point to be used as perspective guides.
– Surfboard / Skateboard / Hat Fly / HappyLand
Dom and Dave both skate and surf but mostly are obsessed with surfing. I gave Dave a longboard and Dom a fish surfboard. They use this in various parts of the video to move around. As a kid Goldfish hasn’t graduated to using his headphones yet and instead has a propellor hat that allows him to fly around. The hat is based off a HappyLand Short I made where a character also has a propellor hat. We once made a limited-edition Goldfish longboard in collaboration with a Canadian skateboard company, one of which hangs in my brother’s music studio.
I referenced a few Internet memes here even if they weren’t immediately obvious.
– 301 views
Once a new YouTube video reaches around 300 views the view-counter freezes until YouTube’s algorithms can determine whether the views are legitimate or counterfeit. After a while (and if the views are deemed to be from real people and not spam views) the view counter unfreezes and a more accurate view count is displayed. Sometimes a very successful new video with hundreds or thousands of comments or likes displays only 301 views for some time.
– Ron Burgundy
In Goldfish’s video ‘Soundtracks and Comebacks’ there’s a line of the song that says ‘Ron Burgundy is everywhere’ so for the news anchor for ‘One Million Views’ I used a characterisation of Ron.
– Kiff-Land / Dorp / Breakfast Included
Before Dave & Dom started Goldfish, Dave used to be in a band called ‘Dorp’ and both Dave & Dom used to be in a band called ‘Breakfast Included’, both bands successful in their own right. ‘KiffLand Tattoo’ is a reference to my brother’s band ‘The Kiffness’. I used to play drums for ‘The Kiffness’ but found it tricky to be both a gigging musician and animator. It hasn’t slowed my brother down nor hampered ‘The Kiffness’ success.
This scene references the song lyrics “I better get some tattoos”. Our heroes get tattoo-moustaches from KiffLand Tattoo to avoid Dog’s attacks. Goldfish gets a Salvador Dali moustache, Dave gets a Ron Swanson moustache and Dom gets a Borat moustache. This is enough to confuse Dog.
– Penny-farthing Cyclist
This helpful character originally appeared in Soundtracks and Comebacks and later in Fort Knox.
‘Shedding wood’ refers to spending considerable time at a real or metaphorical woodshed honing one’s musical skill. In this video Goldfish have a secret woodshed in the forest where they craft their new album.
All the characters entering the club are from my ‘Soundtracks and Comebacks’ video. The club’s bouncer has appeared in other Â Goldfish videos.
I referenced my Mackie mixers for Dog’s mixer. I got one of my Mackie mixers second-hand from Dave from Goldfish. It’s a sturdy machine.
– $5 for followers
Some unscrupulous musicians buy themselves fans on Facebook and Twitter, which further weakens their credibility. There currently exists a website where you can buy 1000 fans for $5. Dog is the kind of character that would help run a service like this. This character with yellow arms has appeared in a couple of previous Goldfish videos, and Mr. and Mrs. Baggage are from the ‘Get Busy Living’ video. The Stormtooper Cats were the antagonists of the ‘We Come Together’ music video.
– Bru & Boegie
My own characters Bru & Boegie have made guest appearances in a couple Goldfish music videos. I’ve been drawing Bru & Boegie comics for over 10 years now and have recently started creating self-contained Bru & Boegie animated shorts. Here they are in the crowd dancing to Goldfish’s performance. Boegie also appeared in the Solitaire scene but he was hidden from view.
– Push Play and Fist Pump
This is Dog’s mantra. This poster appears for a single frame in the music video. It is based off the popular WWII poster ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ that has found its way into popular culture.
I originally had these two characterisations in the lineup but the decision was made that they’re actually part of the good guys.
I asked a couple buddies to provide their thoughts about the ‘bands vs DJ’s’ debate to which they kindly obliged:
Stuart Coutts (who also did the claymation outro for ‘We Come Together’):
I think electronic music is better when the technology is treated as an instrument. Digital media gives us the power to create as fast as we can think but also poses the question of whether the artist even needs to be at performances when so much of the act can be automated.Â So I’d love to see a performance where the artist is still an important part of the music’s creation … I like to see that the sounds will somehow be unique to that performance because of the way the artist reacts to the audience, and vice versa. That’s what makes it a performance, regardless of the props.
My brother David Scott AKA The Kiffness:
I think people like watching live music because it’s not perfect – it has that human element. What’s the point of listening to live music when you can just listen to the cd?
My buddy James Wolfaardt:
“God is a DJ” – Faithless
“We’re more popular than Jesus” – John Lennon