Bat Storm Episode 2 Coming Soon to GoAnimate

Bat Storm meets Pain.
This past fortnight I announced that I had begun work on Episode 2 of Bat Storm by releasing two and a half trailers. I say a 'half trailer' because the third one I released was a re-creation of the second one using different software - more on that later.

The truth is I actually started work on Bat Storm Episode 2 way back in the second half of 2011 (around September I think). Which is when I made the first few scenes of the first trailer I released last week.

Bat Storm Ep2 Coming Soon by etourist on GoAnimate


This airport scene was never part of Episode 2 - not even back then. It was just an idea I had which was triggered by the scene in Superman Returns where Superman catches a crashing plane. I had the thought what if Batman had been there in that scene? There's really nothing for him to do.

You could suggest that he would use his 'smarts' to tell Superman to save the plane but really, does Superman need Batman to prompt him - like some air head muscle guy with no ability to make that connection himself?

The scenes outside the airport were done during the weeks before I published the animation and feature a first look at some Super Charge custom actions (flying and holding up) that I created in Koolmoves.

As I mentioned, I did actually start brainstorming for Episode 2 late last year but at the time I had a very enthusiastic co-creator feeding me ideas for Bat Storm faster than I could think of them. Somehow I got caught in a rut of trying to make those ideas fit into where I wanted to take Bat Storm and it ultimately killed my enthusiasm. I decided to put it all to one side and went on to make a successful second series of my Men In Black parody with Barack Obama and Rashy the Sock Monkey.

I've been listening to a lot of Superhero podcasts of late, such as Batman on Film, Modern Myth Media and Kevin Smith's SModcast shows. Many of which are filled with discussion of the soon to be released The Dark Knight Rises movie. This, of course, has gotten my interest going again for Bat Storm.

The new villain in TDKR is Bane. Since Bat Storm is a parody, and I had used the Joker (The Jokester) in Episode 1 I thought it would be cool to once again parody an actual villain from Nolan's movies. You can see the first image of him at the top of this article. I'm calling him Pain.

Bat Storm's next villain, originally was going to be Cat Woman, for which I'd made a character for before I'd even finished Episode 1. She still may be in Episode 2 but, since I'm still writing it, I can't say for sure.

As I started to write Episode 2, I came up with an opening scene with Bat Storm, like Batman, standing on the ledge of a very tall sky scraper, surveying the city. You've seen this scene in Nolan's Batman films. Batman standing on a high ledge and the camera does a kind of fly around.

I wanted to see if I could recreate that in GoAnimate without going to too much effort which is how the second trailer came about.

Bat Storm E2 Trailer 2 by etourist on GoAnimate


Initially the background for this scene was actual video footage of a camera panning along a city skyline but I had so much trouble with the footage not starting with the animation and not exporting with it either that I had to try something else.

Then I realized I could achieve exactly the same thing just by using a photograph panorama shot and moving it and the building Bat Storm is standing on. (In case you're wondering... that's a view of Melbourne, Australia in the photo).

The end result looked pretty cool. I then had the thought, how cool would it look if, after that long panning shot, Bat Storm jumped off the building? I already had the perfect jump action which I had custom made in Koolmoves back in 2011, so I tried it. It looked so good that I couldn't wait to show it to someone - hence this very short trailer. (For the record, at this stage, I haven't written any scene where Bat Storm jumps off such a high building but you never know).

Regular readers of this blog will know I've been trying to teach myself how to animate with Crazy Talk Animator Pro. I've read many tutorials and watched a lot of tutorial videos and even started work on some Office People characters but haven't made an actual finished animation with it yet.

I looked at my second trailer and wondered if I could recreate it using Crazy Talk? I pretty much had all the components ready made, except for the building Bat Storm is standing on.

That's how my 'half a trailer' came about - since it's really just a recreation of Trailer 2 done in Crazy Talk with slight differences such as Bat Storm doesn't have crossed arms, he's standing on a different building and the colours are brighter overall.

Below you can watch the Crazy Talk version of the Trailer followed by a little behind the scenes explanation of how this animation was constructed. It took me the best part of a Saturday afternoon.



This particular trailer is inspiring me to give Bat Storm Episode 2 a completely different look to Episode 1. I like the cinemagraphic feel of the trailer and I'm thinking maybe using photographs for more of the sets.

I'm also planning to do a lot more custom flash work, not just with actions for the main characters but also with new props as well... such as Bat Storm finally gets a vehicle to drive (but I'm not telling you what he buys with that reward money from Episode 1).

My goal is to make this episode even more like a real cartoon (and possibly even a hint of a feature movie feel too). My tentative release date for the first part of Episode 2 is late August 2012. Which means I should probably get back to writing the script!

GoAnimate Introduces New Anime Theme

GoAnimate's new Anime Theme.
This week drag'n'drop animation site, GoAnimate, launched its new Anime theme (sample image pictured above). The theme represents the most significantly different new style added to the site since the launch of their 2012 Election theme mid to late last year. (Note that I'm excluding the Business Friendly theme because that's only available to business users).

Unlike the 2012 Election Theme the new Anime theme comes with it's own character creator and, in the future, it is planned that you'll be able to buy action packs too (just like the Lil' Peepz themed characters).

As of writing this the Anime character creator is limited to just a few different facial, hair and head features and doesn't yet include outfits. Though you can buy ready made characters with different outfits which you can modify the head, hair and facial features of.

The characters themselves are classic Anime style and seem to centre around school age characters and outfits. Their animation is a little bit choppy but, then again, this is Anime, which often employs lower frame rates to traditional American, Disney style animation.

What's really great about the theme is the large number of backgrounds initially released with the theme (drawn with correct perspective rather than isometric perspective used in the Lil' Peepz theme). Again, a lot of the backgrounds are school interiors but a considerable number are general city locations like parks, street corners, bridges and more.

Initially the theme was released as a GoPlus theme only but GoAnimate seems to have had a change of heart after many basic users were disappointed at being over looked yet again for a new theme release. Anime theme is now available to everyone but you'll still need a lot of GoBucks to access much of it. All of the characters (after the free supplied characters) cost gobucks as do about half of the backgrounds.

I have to say that, initially I was very excited to see a theme that was in a definite animation style that is widely used not just in animation but comics and other art too. It felt like GoAnimate is finally starting to 'grow up' as a serious tool for animation.

I'm hoping they'll develop the Anime character creator so that it is at least as versatile as their Comedy World Character Creator but hopefully they'll push the bar right up to the versatility of their original Lil' Peepz character creator.


I'll be watching to see how the theme is added to over the coming weeks. Especially in terms of action packs and further development of the character creator.





How to Improve Your Interview Animations on GoAnimate

A popular type of animation to make on GoAnimate is Interview Shows. Seems easy enough right? Send a bunch of questions to your guests, have them record their answers then put the whole thing together like a standard, TV talk show.

I've watched a lot of these shows on GoAnimate and a common technique is to send off the same list of generic questions to every guest. Things like...

  • Why did you start using GoAnimate?
  • What is a favorite animation of yours?
  • Who is your favorite animator on GoAnimate?
  • What is your favorite animation on GoAnimate?

There's nothing wrong with these type of generic questions in themselves and it's not wrong to ask them. However, when you get a whole list of these questions in a row and you ask them of every guest, it makes for a very impersonal interview. Especially if you have more than one guest on the same show. It makes the interviewer appear lazy.

Interview shows are all about giving the viewer a personal experience with your guests. They want to see you connect with your guests with questions that draw out information and really tells them something specific about that person. Your viewers will especially enjoy your interviews if you get insights about your guests that they've never heard anywhere else.


Research!

The most important part of your interview show is researching your guests before sending them any questions. If you're interviewing a creative person such as a GoAnimator a good structure for your research is:

  • Early work
  • Popular work (Look for which animations have the most views/recommends)
  • Current work

As you watch examples of their work think about questions you would like to ask about each. Try to be specific. For example, if you look at my very first animation, it's an unsuspecting cat getting squashed by a giant foot (hilarious right?). Perfect opportunity to ask one very generic question but personalized to me..

  • Your first animation was rather unusual, what inspired it?

To which I might answer...
Yeah, it was a cute cat getting squashed by a giant foot... I made that animation really just to try out creating and importing my own props. I'm a huge Monty Python fan so I tracked down the image of cupid's foot, that Monty Python used in their show. 
They used to just randomly drop the foot into a sketch as an unexpected joke ending - which is what I did, kind of, with my animation. It's funny because it's silly. Like a piano falling out of nowhere onto a protagonist- which is a classic comedy joke.
Hopefully you get the idea. Look at what your guests have created and ask questions relating to specific work that they have done. Ask smaller questions so you can get to the detail quicker. For example, instead of asking me...


Why not ask...

  • Of all the characters on GoAnimate, why did you choose Happy Bunny to be the one behind the Complaints Desk?

There's nothing wrong with the first question but I can only speculate on the answer. However, the second question I can give you a specific answer because I know exactly why I chose Happy Bunny.


What to Ask?

Interview shows on GoAnimate are typically short, usually 3-5 minutes. Although you can try, it's pretty hard to cover someone's entire body of creative work in that time. Especially if you want to get good answers of more than a few words.

Not only that but you, as the interviewer, may have no interest in your guests early work - or even their latest work. Which is okay. Ask questions about what you find interesting about your guests (based on your research).

If you're a fan of just one animation or animation series then focus all your questions around that. Ask the questions that you always wanted to ask. Just let your audience know first that your interview will focus on that specific body of work.

Your show will come across as more interesting and personal if you have a genuine interest in your guests rather than asking everyone the same questions like a robot.

How many questions you ask depends on how much time you have. I'd recommend a minimum of five questions to make an interview worth while.


Contacting Your Guests

The beauty of an animation interview show is that nobody has to leave home to create them. Questions and answers can be recorded separately when it's convenient for each person and then compiled together in the final show.

Keeping in mind that your guests are going to have to take time out of their day, and maybe even set up some equipment to record their voice (if you want their actual spoken answers), be sure to invite your guests to be on your show politely.

In your contact message you should introduce your show, perhaps list some guests you've already featured, and ask if they would like to be on the show. Send along the questions you want answered and explain what format you want the answers (as text or recorded voice).

Don't get upset if they decline. People are often busy, don't like recording their own voice or they may not want to answer your questions. Whatever the reason just accept it and maybe ask them again at a future time. Who knows, you may have just caught them in a mood or with an exceptionally large work load and little time.

Note that all audio for your show should be recorded as MP3 files. You'll need to provide an email address or some other means for your guest to send you their recording as an attachment or download.


Mic Check - Audio Fixing

Sound quality is quite important on an interview show. With all your guests using different microphones and environments to record their audio there are a few things you can do to get better audio.

The ideal way to get good audio is to record it under the best circumstances possible.

Encourage your guests to record their audio in a room that doesn't echo (generally a room that has carpet floors and closed, material curtains) with little to no background noise. Ask them not to position the microphone too close to their mouth. Ideally the microphone should be at least 2-3 inches away from their mouth. More if it's a particularly sensitive mic.

After you have receive the audio break out your audio software. I use Audacity but the two effects I'm about to show you can be found in most dedicated audio software and even some video editing software.
Audacity's Noise Removal tool.
The default setting will (shown)
usually do the job quite well.

Before doing anything else with your audio (such as cutting it up into separate answers) open the files in Audicity.

Look at the sound wave in sections when your guest isn't speaking. If the line isn't for the most part flat then this indicates background noise has been recorded. It could be the hissing of the microphone or the sound of a fan (if the audio was recorded on a laptop microphone for example). You can reduce this noise to almost zero by using Audacity's 'Noise Removal' Effect. The default setting usually is all you need.

Audacity's Normalize Effect.
Default settings should do the trick.
The second Effect you should apply to all of your audio is 'Normalize'. Again the default settings are usually all you need. Normalize is particularly effective at boosting the volume on quieter recordings to a more acceptable level but is less effective at reducing the volume on louder recordings. As a result it's better if your guests provide you with low volume recordings rather than really loud, mic right up to their mouth, high volume recordings.

Normalizing will help all your audio sound like it was recorded at the same level. Incidentally these two effects are good to apply to any voice work you do where your microphone isn't of the best quality.

Once you've applied these effects, save out the files, with a different file name (never save over your source files). Now you can start chopping up your improved files into manageable chunks to upload to GoAnimate.


Creating the Show

How you put the show together is entirely up to you. If your guests have their own avatars available you may like to use them. If they normally use a character they've created in one of GoAnimate's character creators you may, if you have the funds, like to recreate that character.

However you represent your guests, be respectful as they've given up some of their time to make your show possible.

Watch any interview show and you'll notice that the camera's view is constantly changing. Never is it one single view for the entire show. There are three standard shots you can switch between to keep your show visually interesting.
  1. Medium Close Up of the Interviewer - use this shot to focus attention of the question being asked.
     
  2. Two Shot - This shows both the Interviewer and Interviewee. Can be used whilst the interviewer is asking a question and/or to show the Interviewee reacting to the question as it is being asked. Can also be used to show the interviewer reacting to an answer as it is being given.
     
  3. Medium Close Up of the Interviewee - use this to focus on the Interviewee as they give their answer.
You can also mix in other shots such as an extreme close up of the interviewee's face - which is used if they are telling a particularly personal story. You could even add extreme wide shots if your animation includes an audience.


The Finished Interview

Below I've created an example animation which is by no means the pinnacle of interview animations but it does incorporate much of what I've mentioned above. I have used Text To Speech (TTS) voices and would recommend you choose the clearest voices if you're going to use them too.

Super Charge Interview by etourist on GoAnimate

Animation Software - Powered by GoAnimate.

Things to notice in the above animation...

  • The interviewer demonstrates he has researched his guest by asking questions that include information about the guest's background and work.
     
  • The interviewer's questions are specific and focus on details about his guest.
     
  • Use of slides to enhance questions and to add visual variety.
     
  • The interview is kept visually interesting by mixing up camera shots. It never holds one camera shot for too long. As a result the two and a half minutes fly by.


Conclusion

Hopefully you've stuck with this rather lengthy article and picked up a few tips on how you could improve your own animated interviews.

Once you do the research and decide what questions to ask, a GoAnimate Interview show is relatively easy to put together. The one I created above I put together in only a few hours (made easier when you're interviewing a character from your own animation - feel free to try it with your own characters).

By not sticking to generic questions that everyone asks and taking some time to make your show visually interesting will make your Interview Show stand out from the rest.
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