Thursday, June 21, 2012

CLIENT PROJECT: Star Wars Parody Animation for M7 Global Partners - Synergy 2012



A not so long time ago, I created this "Star Wars" parody animation for M7 Global Partners (M7GP) in association with my client, Ray Cruz, from E-Bytes Inc.  M7GP is a group of 7 different IT service firms who have teamed together, and the animation highlights one of their recent client case studies about South Shore Medical Center (SSMC) in Boston, MA.

The animation debuted at the M7 Synergy 2012 event that was held in May at the Ruby Skye nightclub and special events venue in San Francisco, CA.  (... I didn't attend, but it sure looks like fun!)

M7 Synergy 2011 event at Ruby Skye (San Francisco, CA).  Source: M7GP on Facebook 

I previously worked on a similar animated short for the M7 Synergy 2011 event using stock Flash animation art that my client provided from cartoonsolutions.com -- these elements were then customized to suit the case study's storyline.  Last year's event theme was "Superheroes," and so, we established the M7GP CEO's as a team of buff, spandex-wearing, technology-wise professionals.  A fast turnaround was required, so my creativity was challenged; however, everyone enjoyed it enough to offer me a wider involvement in this year's animation.

For Episode II, my roles included: titling & writing the animation's script (rough draft PDF link) based on the SSMC case study, creating a storyboard and video animatic, designing animatable caricatures of the M7GP CEO's as well as custom backgrounds and other art.  As mentioned, the annual Synergy events are theme-based, and so, being a lifelong "Star Wars" fan, this project was extremely fun to work on!

Rough Pencil Sketches of the M7GP CEO Caricatures
Animation Storyboard Sketches by Mike Cope
To keep the project within budget, we reused some of the original stock art, including the exterior and interior M7 Headquarters backgrounds.  Early on, I suggested we dress the M7 CEO's in Jedi robes, but their company logos needed to be clearly identifiable, so the superhero tights stayed, and I recoloured them to resemble Rebel pilot suits.

Below is the earliest video animatic that I did for this project.  This allowed me to not only visually demonstrate the script to the client, but also tweak the overall pace and scene timing before working on the finished animated scenes.  I'm a terrible voice actor, but my verbal sound effects are funny enough!



...Thankfully, we agreed in the beginning that the final voice tracks would be done by Ray!

The following is an updated video animatic that includes the finished dialogue tracks, commercial free sound effects that I found online as well as a rough music track.  You may notice a female saying "Preview" in the background, because, at the time, I hadn't purchased the rights to use the "Sci Fi Phenomenon" music track from Opuzz.com.  That was certainly taken care of for the final product.

Speaking of rights... With the animation's theme in mind, my utmost priority was to respect Lucasfilm's "Star Wars" copyrights, so as tempting as using John William's Main Title may have been, I didn't want Stormtroopers chasing me across the galaxy :)

The opening crawl text was also been added ...



And finally, here are some of the custom background designs I developed for the animation...





In the interior SSMC shot above, the four characters, purple textbook, potted plant, and computer printer are from cartoonsolutions.com, but I created the wheelchair and other elements in Adobe Flash... Okay, I didn't paint Starry Night :)

You may notice that there's no potted plant in the SSMC reference photo.  I added this so that something obvious could fall down when the USB flash drive robots attack.

The finished scenes were animated in Adobe Flash CS5, and I edited everything together in Adobe Premiere Pro.  The final exported video was 1080p resolution with H.264 compression.

A life-size cardboard standup was also created for this year's event ...


... The Force is strong with this one -- Or is it the steroids?

From what I've heard, my client is now interested in hiring me to create a series of these animations with more customized content for use beyond the annual synergy events.  I wonder what the next theme will be?  Perhaps we'll do a James Bond spy style? an old Spaghetti Western? or a Film Noir?

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope