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Making of "What is Biomod?"

28 May 2014

The Backstory

I met Jason Brown 27 years ago in first grade, so we’ve been doing fun projects for a while. It’s been 4 years since Jason and I created a whiteboard animation called “What is Bionanotechnology?

Last winter we thought it would be cool to make a new animation to explain the concept behind the BIOMOD competition. Just like all our previous projects, it took about 3 times longer than expected, but I’m happy to report that it’s finished!

The Making Of…

The best part of any project is usually the start. We just hang out, joke around, and draw silly sketches and reflect on the fact that the Simpsons writers really have done everything already.

Our initial storyboard.

Building the Team

Our projects have gotten too ambitious for only one or two people to do in their mythological “spare” time. So the first step was convincing folks at the Wyss Institute to give us a budget so Jason could be paid for the work (he now does freelance animation professionally through his company PSM). We also contracted with Leslie & Kevin from C3 Science on initial drafts of the script. Finally, our multi-talented friend Joel Wasko chipped in for the sound design and editing, even coached via telephone our voice talent Dani States, whom we found at voices.com.

What Is Biomod? Script, version 5.

The Tools

Whiteboard animations are everywhere now, so we wanted to upgrade into full-fledged animation. There are some things we’ll probably always use, like the amazing Wacom Cintiq. Or Adobe After Effects (at least as long as we can avoid “Creative Cloud”). For this project we also used Animate Pro from ToonBoom.

The Slog

Jason really did all the heavy lifting on this project… his hours are well into triple digits, and I’ll probably be paying him for overtime well into retirement age. It turns out that puppeteering in Animate Pro doesn’t really work like you’d hope, and traditional frame-by-frame animation is way more fluid. And (surprise!) it takes a ton of effort! Interestingly, the inking process (re-tracing with color) can take even longer than the initial animation! It also takes a while to learn to hit the right keyframes and use the right gestures, and generally animate in an economical fashion. At this point Jason is a self-taught pro.

The Final Product

What is Biomod? (YouTube, 3:20 min)

Making it was the fun part, as usual, but we hope a few people enjoy it as well. Perhaps current and future BIOMOD students will find it useful to share with friends and family in response to the inevitable question “So…. what are you doing this summer? Relaxing on the beach?” :)

cheers, Shawn

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