The Concept

About seven months after the release of Late Night Work Club’s first anthology Ghost Stories, an email popped into my inbox from Scott Benson announcing that a second anthology was in the works. The theme for the new anthology was announced in this initial email: STRANGERS.

The height of technology in 2006 from DATASTREAMS
from Life 2.0 (dir. Jason Spingarn-Koff, 2010).
Edward Snowden in Citizenfour (dir. Laura Poitras, 2014).
“I see you” Avatar (dir. James Cameron, 2009)
The #1 influence for the film: The ballroom dance FMV cutscene from Final Fantasy VIII
The Secret Door
Inspiration can come from anywhere (Titanic, dir. James Cameron, 1995)

Pre-production

The first step I always take after writing an outline is to do a visual pass of the entire film in less than a day.

First storyboard pass in a crappy notebook.
Selections from the first animatic pass.
Storyboards getting closer to rough animation keyframes
Early logo for the Mosaic browser, inspiration for the functionality of the door.
Costume designs by Isabelle Aspin
Final costume designs
Shii’s Song, one of the best early Flash films, featuring the Giko cat! I dare you to watch this and not cry.
A surprisingly late addition to the film, the resident skybar cocktail master: Doggy T. Husk
New storyboards being drawn on the fly inside a shot late in production. As the film got further along, it felt like getting to the final stages of completing a puzzle, the pieces you needed to complete the image becoming more and more apparent.

The Live Action Shoot

Live action shots that were cut from the final film

The Interface

This sequence was one of the most fun I’ve ever worked on, and was locked in place within a month of the start of production.

The giant block of chat text in Flash

Download the .PSD and .FLA assets for the OS interface

The .FLA containing the text can be opened in any version of Flash, but works best in Flash CS6 (for some mysterious reason).

Uploaded under a fake name in case the video came to haunt me

The Look

In my previous film Hopkins & Delaney LLP, I had tried to get as much of the finished look as possible in Flash. In the intervening period, I learned a lot more about compositing, and wanted to allow the Flash elements to remain as flat, simple and “Flash looking” as possible. I would take these elements as raw material that allowed for a lot more flexibility to find the real look later in post. I also wanted to lean in to the idea of a much more digital aesthetic, without a lot of nods to analog textures, as that felt more appropriate for the subject matter.

Two very different types of movement for two characters
Rough animation on a complicated shot with lots of layered limbs
Lifting and tracing to make complex inbetweening much easier in four easy steps
Final “raw material” animation coming out of Flash

The Technique

The following section is a tutorial that mainly focuses on the pipeline between Flash and After Effects, and some of the compositing techniques I used to achieve the final look of the film. At the bottom of this section are links to download the Flash and After Effects files that are detailed in the tutorial. Open it up, rip it apart, copy and paste effects from it onto your own project, it’s all fair game!

Animating really big, planning the camera move in Flash with a white 1920X1080 rectangle
Balcony background — Flash view
.swfs dropped into After Effects with a blown out background
Giant raw photo background
Reflections are added into a single comp that is flipped with reduced opacity
How the final look should appear in the After Effects panel
Fully illuminated with a light blue overlay
Magic Bullet Looks — Diffusion control panel
Smeary light effects to augment firework explosiions
Noise and texture added to create the final image
Watercolor texture on “overlay” across the entire image

Download the entire project folder here

Includes .FLA and .AEP files, as well as all dependencies All files are formatted to the most current version of Adobe CC. If you need an earlier version, write me an email. I’ve also removed the Holy Grain files as they are both large and proprietary. A simple replacement for this is to use the “Noise” effect.

The Music

When this project was still just a kernel of an idea, I knew that music was going to be a huge part of it. I really liked the work that Skillbard had been doing, particularly on Alex Grigg’s film from the previous edition of Late Night Work Club Phantom Limb, and a whole bunch of other amazing films. I wrote them a message and pitched them on the idea, which at that point felt really weird and out there and not even remotely formed (I described a lot of the reference material and images from the time period that inspired me). Skillbard responded recommending the film could have an Enya style waltz, and that they were on board. I felt right then that this was a perfect match and that I had really lucked out.

The Release

Lovestreams was originally released as part of the second anthology of films from Late Night Work Club titled “Strangers”. I’m a big proponent of using the build up to a film release as an excuse to get creative. It can be extremely hard and grating to self-promote too much as a single independent artist, but if you’ve worked this hard on a project and really given it your all, why not give it the energy it deserves in trying to get people to watch it? No one else will fight for your film as strongly as you. This may all be a justification to myself for spending so much time making a bunch of extras little goodies, but hey, it was also fun to do!

AIM profile for SumrEvryDay
50 Smiley Portraits
A sampling of some of my favorite Smileys
The Official Lovestreams Keyboard Decal

The Conclusion

Putting this film together had its moments of fun and gratification, but it was also really difficult struggle a lot of the time. When I first started, I was working full time on the animated sequences in the documentary He Named Me Malala. I would rush home after work and try to put in a few hours of work on Lovestreams before bed. I found myself getting really frustrated: not only was the work I was producing cheap and sloppy, I was just completely outside the head space to dig in deep on a big project like this. Breakthroughs usually come for me when I’m fully immersed in something, and only finding the time for little bite-size hobby chunks never let me really wrap my head around the film. It was stalling big time, and for the final four months of Malala production, I completely stopped working on it.

Unlisted

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Animator based in California / Programmer at GLAS Animation Festival

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Sean Buckelew

Sean Buckelew

Animator based in California / Programmer at GLAS Animation Festival