(Page added 2/2002)
No toy is complete without its advertising. I had considered making a commercial for a long time, but I wasn't sure how to go about it. The site launched in February of 2001, and I started working on the animation just right after the first 500 hits, which was pretty much overnight thanks to the newsgroups and word-of-mouth. (thanks everyone!) First I'll let you check out the commercial, then I'll show you how I made it. As of 4/2003 I've updated the format choice for your viewing pleasure: Windows .avi file encoded in DivX, or Real Video. To view the DivX version you might need a decoder, which if you watch any kind of video on the internet you'll need it anyway. You can save the videos by right-clicking and choosing "save target as." For the smaller Real Media files You will need some sort of Zip extractor and Realplayer (www.real.com) to view it. If the files become unavailable, try the mirror sites or if they're down, try again later. Enjoy!
I started all this by researching on how animation is made. I found some good general info and history sites, but nothing that showed a good way of being able to do this at home. I decided to try and make the individual frames in Photoshop, then bring it all together in Premiere. Much like the rest of the project, I based it on the Transformers commercials I could find from the '84 and '85 season. Sort of cheesy effects, lots of action, and a 50-50 split for animation/live action.
The first run of the animation portion was AWFUL! I mean embarrassing. My drawings were sorta ok, but the motion just wasn't there. Bad resolution for full screen, low detail, etc. Plus there were a lot more characters in my original storyline, and I couldn't really concentrate on any of them. I never even got to draw Steelskin before I gave up on this. Above are some frames for you to enjoy or laugh at, but I'm not posting the "animated" bits. Also above are 2 storyboards I made for this first attempt. Now you can see where this was going.
A few weeks passed, and eventually I got my energy up for some more animated abuse. I came to the realization that I wasn't under any deadline, and I certainly wasn't going to make it happen before Botcon 2001, so I relaxed a little. I started practicing my drawing, made detailed pre-sketches of the characters, and knocked it down to a quicker storyline with just Steelskin, Soundwave, and Buzzsaw. I started my animation template with 150dpi and 800x600 so I would have more room for detail. I organized my templates to have a background layer, and each element would have its own layer in Photoshop, so if something didn't move I could copy it to the next frame, hence no wasted footage or unnecessary redrawing.
The first scene I decided to make was going to be the hardest. I figured if I could draw a moving wall, road, Buzzsaw, and a Transforming DeLorean, the rest would be downhill. That scene took about 2.5 months to create, working at about 1-3 fully colored frames a day average. Much of that time was spent adjusting and organizing, since it was a new process to me. Each moving element in this scene had its own set of frames that had to be animated separately, then separated over the span of the scene.
I worked on the rest of the commercial pretty much in order, and it got easier and better looking as I went along.
(Getting up on soapbox...) Now, I'm not sure how many of you ever had a Packard Bell, but I know you know somebody who did, so you've heard how much they sucked. My 6-year-old computer is pretty much a foot rest; that's to be understood. My original PB monitor died about 3 years after I bought it with a 4 year warranty, and they replaced it with a refurbished one with the logos sanded off and no manufacturers stickers. Well, that started acting up, and eventually stopped working - JUST out of warranty. With my not having a job at the time a new montior was out of the question. I had to borrow an OLD 13" monitor, and the viewable space was 7" x 9". Take a moment to measure that out. I couldn't work on anything, so the project was put on hiatus again. On another note, I'd like to give two thumbs up to Wacom (www.wacom.com) who makes a fantastic drawing tablet. Without it this project would have been impossible. Mine is a 4x5 Intuos. I recommend it highly.
I went back to school for a few months, got some computer certifications, and finally got a miserable tech support job and then moved out of my dumpy apartment. Staying alive by selling Star Wars stuff on eBay and eating my savings wasn't much fun. I didn't have a lot of free time anymore, but I found a way to re-film my live action sections by dragging my whole computer and monitor into the backyard (see first pic). The reason I re-did the live action part was that the animation at this point far exceeded the quality of the previous live action attempt, and I wanted to have the whole thing up to par. I filmed about 5 minutes of footage and out of that I got about 20 seconds of good footage, which I whittled down to 15 seconds. My little webcam, made by 3Com, worked wonderfully for this purpose. It's been well worth the price since the day I got it. Of course, 3com doens't make or support them anymore. Figures. Eventually I got enough money together to buy a nice new 19" monitor and got Windows XP Pro from work, so now I can easily edit with lots of room and no more crashes. For those of you who haven't worked with Adobe Premiere, here's a screenshot.
For the audio I just basically used Sound Forge XP (not associated with Windows XP) and the 3 audio tracks in Adobe Premiere 5.0. Yes, that is my voice in the end, tweaked and distorted a bit. Some effects were taken from PC games, the show, the Movie, and some I had to make from scratch. Balancing the sound with the music was a little tricky but I think it came out ok.
So, that's pretty much it. Time compressed, the entire thing probably took about 3-4 months of actual work. With life and goofs in the way, it took over a year. This is intended to be the final phase of Project: Steelskin, unless some company decides to start producing them in quantity.