Robots, Lasers, Zombies and 8 bit. Ident Done.

Well, I was speaking the other day about the ident I’ve been working on, which I blogged about a few weeks ago. Effectively it started out as the Sci-Fi Channel, but I came to the realisation of why they rebranded last year, to the universally panned ‘SyFy‘ moniker. As a kid, channel flicking, I remember seeing it and being confused at the variety of shows that extended out of the genre of science fiction, which made me curious as to why the channel was titled this at all. The idea of the SyFy rebrand was to maintain their current fanbase whilst deviating enough from the science fiction label they’d earned. But the actual execution of the concept did it no favours, being bland and void of personality, a plain white logo adorning preset effect idents. It’s nevertheless worked financially for the channel, but I feel there are even better solutions out there.

Hence why I invented Nerd Network. This rebrand focuses less on the content of the channel but the assumed demographic – assumed by the general public at least. This could alienate people who don’t consider themselves particularly nerdy, but adding humour into the mix the geeky aesthetic feels more palatable and universally relevant. ‘Geek’ culture has a fantastic sense of community, and it felt only right to draw from and utilise that. For example, the character design is from spritesheets adapted from Final Fantasy 2 (the PSP version) by community-based spriters. The music is also drawn from community sources, where 8-bit composers are thriving currently, like the artist Spamtron, featured in the idents.

I shot using the university’s photography studio, not initially meant for use with video, but nonetheless it made for a decent enough venue to shoot onto solid-colour backdrops. We encountered a few issues though. I’d never even thought about how to utilise lighting, so we had a few issues in terms of evenly lighting the screen, made even harder by the limited space we had to work in. It was effectively a green screen cupboard, where space is a luxury.

At this point I should thank Dawn Malcom, for helping with shooting, lighting and just about everything whilst shooting. Also major thanks to Ali Dawson and Fergus Cruickshank for starring in the video in multiple roles. It was a really great day shooting, but as I say, difficult to nail lighting. Additionally the robot’s reflective surface caused unforseen keying issues. Ideally we should have stepped Ali, in the robot suit, forward from the screen to reduce reflection, and light him more independently. Luckily the videos were all going onto relatively solid colour light backdrops, which made keying issues relatively invisible.

I’ve spent all of today editing the final soundtracks. Once again I drew from the vast 8-bit fan community for sound effects, finding a library of fantastic samples which suited the aesthetic perfectly. The largest issue in editing was making the footage consistent with the 8-bit animation. I might be able to post an image later of how inconsistent they looked on top of one another, particularly when the character interacted with footage directly. This is why I adopted the vintage TV look, a look I’ve worked with before, on my Thought Bubble project. This time, however, I had no access to an actual TV or VHS player to create such an effect, so attempted to do the whole thing digitally. When seen in motion it actually looks and feels aesthetically pleasing, if not convincing. This effect tied both the footage and character together enough to create and overall unified, consistent style to the idents.

Additionally it harks back to an nostalgia element which is strong in the geek community, hence the prominence of 8-bit fandom currently prominent online. There’s a passion for retro video games, and a general appreciation of video game history and culture. This is true with most geeky areas of culture. True science fiction fans will not only love films like Moon or Super 8 but also recognise films like Forbidden Planet and Metropolis.¬†This appreciation of history within the sub-culture felt worth referencing.

Overall the product at the end of this weeklong After Effects marathon is 5 relatively small idents, and a slightly longer combination of the 5. Originally I only planned and storyboarded one ident, but as I hit the editing process I found that each section of the ident lasted roughly 20-25 seconds in its own right, compared to the recommended 30 second limit. So it felt worthwhile to split them into seperate idents. This made for a hefty workload, but it felt worth it considering all the footage was already there. I managed to condense the compilation of all of these idents to about 45 seconds.

I’ll be uploading the ident when I’m more sure there are no tweaks to be done to the videos. I present the whole thing to the tutor tomorrow, so hopefully he likes them and doesn’t feel it’s quality over quantity in any way. Fingers crossed I guess. Now time to run off and start the next project – Newspapers.

Listening to: Night Of The Pencils by Tubelord

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