Music Animation Dance Video

5 04 2015

 Animation for the Music Video

     Sometime on March of 2013, Edward decided to add a Music Animation Video with original dance steps to market Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors®, as we needed more products to sell and not just rely on the animation. My (Alstaire Sarthou) uncle – Jhun Anunciacion was commissioned to do the dance steps for the video. Jhun is a disc jockey known as Sparky Comet in the 80s and is now just called Spark. He also won a dance contest when he was a lot younger. He started to do the dance steps together with his daughters Jazzmin and Jarisse and their friend Jasmine around May of 2013.

Jhun Anunciacion

     Jhun Anunciacion

Dance Video Pic

Daughters and Friend

      When Jhun started the choreography, his influence was K-Pop or Korean Pop and the girls added their own spin to the dance. Jhun choreographed the girls’ stage projection, musical timing and execution; while the girls thought of cute and easy steps. They were able to come up with with a complete dance routine in a day. According to Jhun, the dance is not perfect, the interpretation of the dance can still be improved; although as an artist one is never satisfied with what one has created. When they were ready, they performed the dance while I (Alstaire) filmed them. I filmed them four times with some miscues, and I was able to edit the videos together into a complete dance video, which will be our reference for our music animation dance video.

      I had one of our animation supervisors – Warly Santiago, to animate the dance using Jessalaine as the first animation character for trial. The first thing he did was figuring out the cycles in each dance move, so we can just reuse this each time in the routine. It sounds easy but was a bit difficult to execute. Referencing live dances for the animation was difficult because we have to separate the actual dance steps with some of the mannerisms or unwanted movements by the dancers. The animator then would polish the dance steps so it would be easily translated into drawings. More than a month has passed and Warly only finished about 40% of the dance video for Jessalaine’s dance steps and we had four other characters to do. Grace decided to have Warly stop because the task of finishing the entire dance routine would be taking up too much time for Warly, who was also helping finish the television series – which was the priority. It was more than a year later that the production for the dance video resumed. The pictures and images below shows how Warly was doing the animation dance. Warly used a tablet with a Toon Boom Software to trace the dancer and after tracing and detailing the drawing, the live video was replaced with a white screen showing the rough drawing. The drawing then is cleaned-up and colored on the tablet.

001 Dance Video

Dance Video

002 Add Jess ProportionSketch the Proportion of the Character – Jessalaine

003 Add Jess Details

Sketch Jessalaine’s Details

004 Final Animation

Rough Animation Based on the Video

jess_cu

Cleaned-Up Drawing

Jess Colored

 Colored Drawing

Jess Colored w BG

Background Added

      This was our first time in interpreting a dance into an animated music video, and we felt we were doing something wrong on how we executed the animation. So I started to check some animated music videos, this was where I noticed the different camera angles used. The animated music dance videos were planned, so they had a storyboard for it. Our mistake was that we had the live dance video dictate to us what to draw. We were just thinking of recreating the whole dance into animation. Since the live video was done with only one camera angle, we were viewing it as a spectator and not as a stage director; this factor was what made the animating the dance much more difficult. By using multiple camera angles, we were able to eliminate animating the whole body for the dance; we now could separate the scenes into close ups of feet and faces, partial and full body shots. These improvements makes the video more interesting.

       It was only in late 2014 that Grace decided to have a meeting on how we should proceed doing the animation. Carly Calixtro, an animation supervisor was appointed to do the storyboard for the dance, and he would have creative control of the board. Before we proceeded to animate, Edward needs to approve the board so there would be less mistakes. Carly and I decided to start with Jobert, Jessalaine and Tany to start video and at the middle part, Frogee Mercury and Moleth would join them. Edward then suggested something before the start and end of the of the video to improve the animation. Carly finished the storyboard sometime in November 2014 with all the characters in cyber armours. He then made an animatic were we could see if the dance synchronized with the music. While Edward approved this, Carly suggested that we change their attire into dance outfits. He felt that they would look lighter and more free flowing than in their clunky armours. So I asked Edward about this, and he approved the outfits but suggested the cyber armours would still be in some parts of the video. I think that this would make the video better in terms of compositing and effects, while Edward’s thinking was more on the marketing aspect. 

4

8

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Sample of Storyboard for the Dance Video

dance_clothes

Suggested Dance Outfits

color model

Tentative Colors

sc 10

Final Colors

sc 8-9 01

sc 01 186

Group Shot-2

Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors® Music Dance Video      sc 39-40 012 (1)

sc 39-40 035 (2)

sc 39-40 230 (1)

sc 26-27 067

sc 52 14

Group Shot Armored (1)Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors© Music Dance Video

      The production officially started sometime on January 2015, with 67 scenes to finish. Additional creative designs for the outfits were added by February 2015 by Edward, so these were incorporated on the finished animations. We had to choose animators for doing the dance because it was a bit difficult for our trainees. Other problems was we had to slow down in our regular work since November 2014, so it forced us to remove overtime work to save on electric bills. Motivation on working for Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors® was another problem, as the rate for Jobert has always been lower compared to other production work. Although we offered the the dance video at a higher rate, some artists were not that enthusiastic in working on the project. We also have 10 artists who resigned to pursue other jobs for various reasons last March. We have new trainees but they are still rough on the edges. So some of the work had to be pulled from the resigned artists and given to new artists. Some trainee works were reworked by Carly while Warly helped in animating the difficult scenes. This has been a constant problem ever since we started on the television series; seasoned artists moving on to new pastures, while we trained new artists to take over. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carly Working on the Music Video

     The production of the dance video was paperless. As a director, Carly did not have the dancers in the animation video dance simultaneously, as this will appear too boring to look at. Carly slightly delayed the movements of the dancers from each other as it will give a more natural and human look and not like machines or robots. This was  where Carly experienced much difficulty, as it would have been a lot easier if the dancers were to move simultaneously.  Alstaire took over in the panning and focusing of the dancers’ faces and other body parts, as Carly was less experienced in using camera angles to highlight scenes for better story or video presentation. 

     Alstaire showed the final video to Grace for comment. Grace did not like the look of Jessalaine in the video, so some corrections to the face, neck and the legs had to be made to correct it. Shown below are just three samples to make Jessalaine look better. While Edward was not satisfied with the choreography but could not do any more changes but he commented on the many seconds shown on the bouncing breasts of Jessalaine while she was dancing, this was quickly corrected.

1 - Jess Face revision

2 - Jess Legs revision

3 - Jess Neck revision

Search for a Male Singer

   Sometime late on late November 2014, I (Edward) called our musical scorer – Mr. Diwa de Leon to look for males singers who can re-sing our theme song. As there were some errors that could not be overlooked if the song will be marketed. I was already satisfied with the way our former singer – Mr. Froilan Miras, who sang our song many years ago, but he had some errors that I did not notice until a few months later after his recording. There were some errors in pronunciation, diction, grammar and use of a different word.  After noticing the errors, I called Grace to call the former composer; as Grace was the one who had contact with him. Somewhere along the way, the composer insisted on redoing the  song months later with a band, but I didn’t like the output. Although Froilan was there, he could not seem to reach the high notes as before and the band lacked the power, emotion, character and energy as in the first song – in short it was kind of flat. We gave the composer a free hand in the first version and he delivered, so we didn’t think the second version would turn out not so good. With the substantial  amount of money I already paid for the two versions, I just left the errors to be corrected sometime in the future – this was one big mistake on my part. Not long after that, we approached another singer – Mr. Rommel Carrera who was happy enough to do his own version of the song for free. So we used that song for our first introduction, until we changed the official introduction a few years later with just a narration. 

     I was confident that Diwa would be able to find a suitable singer, as he was in the industry and he knew a couple of singers in his circle. But sometime in early January 2015, he emailed me that he could not find any singer after many weeks of searching. He explained that the singers he knew were mostly middle-aged with low voices and they would sound too operatic or too ballad like. So he threw the ball back at me regarding the search for the singer, but he suggested a particular music school that I should try to contact.

     After the letter, I was in a stump, as I knew no other contacts who had contacts with male singers. I thought there would be many singers out there as we are a nation of good singers. I didn’t know back then that there were no available singers or talent agencies who can provide a singer who can do the singing job I was asking them to do based on my budget. At first, I offered a minimal amount to singers who are interested in singing the song, as it is more for credit and exposure for the young artist rather than the money. It took me almost three (3) months to find the right singer for the job and Diwa took about a month before he gave up, so overall the search took about 4 months.

      I went back and forth trying to search for the singer by writing to vocal or music schools, looked at Internet ads, asked Youtube cover singers and wedding singers, engaged the services of a talent agency and asked a known media company. I also asked Grace who knew an animation studio who knew a band, but she received no replies. I was really hopeful in making contact with new people, but many did not reply back or did not meet our expectations. Four people tried out with demos of our song, but their voices lacked the body and power compared to the original singer. The four singers came from an ad I placed on the Internet, a referral from a Top Peg artist who was a choir member before, a music studio owner and a talent agency. Two of them just used the cellphone to record their demo tape and as for the studio owner and talent agency, I  would also think they  also just used their cellphones. Although the four didn’t pass, I’m very grateful to them for giving it their best shot and for seeing the value in doing the project. I guess they had more to gain than to lose in trying out the song. I’m also sure that their voices will suit other types of songs.

      About a week after Diwa emailed me, I started calling and writing to music schools if they have any male singers. A couple of the schools had only young boys and most of their students are girls. One school – the school that Diwa suggested had notified their branches of my search, but there were no replies at all even weeks after. I did not bother to contact formal colleges with music majors, as I needed to contact the deans. So I had to look for vocal schools with ads on the Internet; eventually I was able to find an owner of a music/recording studio who was accommodating and interested in the project. The said owner also had formal voice and music lessons at one of the local universities known for its music program. I was confident that he would be able to find a suitable singer as he knows what he is looking for. But after a few weeks, he too cannot find a male singer; as he had more qualified female singers. He said we need a young male tenor around 16 to 22 years old who can hold a B note, as older singers tend to have lower voices already. After talking to the owner, he promised me that he would produce a singer and the demo would emailed to me. At first I thought it was a student, because he stated that he knew a 22 year old student who was interested before, but after talking with him further, he admitted it was he himself who sang the song. He explained new singers would find it hard to sing such a difficult song. He was okay, but his voice didn’t fit our song and there were some issues to correct also.

      In another case, I was asked to write a formal letter via email to the person in charge of a singing school that have produced some known talents. After having no replies for more than two weeks, the person in charge texted me: re: ur inquiry for male singer? Naturally I was offended, as the reply took too long, it was very informal and he wrote as if he didn’t know what I was looking for. So I texted him back thanking him for replying back and that we already had a singer. The singer then was the try out from my ad placement and I was hopeful he could do the job as he was a natural tenor in his early 30s and he could sing an “Air Supply” song well for his demo tape. He explained that he has a natural high voice without the need to use a falsetto. But his voice did not also fit our song as it was too high in the beginning and other areas of the song but he couldn’t bring it down any lower as it would not sound natural.  In fact, he wrote that he can sing even higher than the original singer’s highest note, but he’s already controlling it. A few weeks later, I contacted the vocal school he went to but I did not receive any replies.

      There was an endless search for other alternatives, like other free ads in the Internet saying they are lead male vocalists for hire or hire celebrities (for a budget amount) which I didn’t know were 99.9% fake ads, especially the ads that had no real pictures, voice samples and addresses. I called about 30 of the said ads (some of them at least twice) and the cellphone numbers or land lines were all out of service or just kept on ringing and if there was a person who answered they will all say I got the wrong number. I was really infuriated because I didn’t get the logic of placing fake ads to fool people – what for? There were other sites for singers and musicians but I did not find any potential singers for our project. Another site was an association of overseas musicians, which I doubt would have any interested parties who were right for the project. 

      I also contacted one Youtube singer with lots of hits and had Alstaire through Facebook contacted two more Youtube singers who did covers of popular songs with lots of hits also, but none of them replied back. I guess they have more to lose by re-singing a song of an unknown local singer. After months of fruitless search with no leads, I was becoming discouraged. So I tried to look for the original singer and composer, hoping if I find them all will be well but there was no contact information for both of them on the Internet. Although Froilan could be seen in Youtube; I could not contact the person he is currently involved with, as that person also had no contact details. Froilan also have a Facebook account but it was last accessed 2012. Alstaire wrote to him on Facebook, but there was no reply.

       I was becoming desperate, so I called a wedding singer from an ad and sent him the sample song. When I followed him up, he said the song was too high for him but he’ll refer me to other singers he knows. After that, I called a talent agency doing shows, events for companies and others and I was very hopeful they can do the job. Their fee was steep, at least five times my budget, but it’s still cheaper compared to having a disastrous public relations campaign with a flawed product.  Eventually they sent a very short sample of the demo song, but I immediately knew it did not pass our criteria as the singer had a personal interpretation of the song and the voice lacked the power of the original among other issues. I told the talent agency that I wanted them to follow the original singer as faithfully as possible as we are satisfied with it and any deviations could spell disaster as we are doing an animation dance video for it. The talent agency said the artist was the best they got; a known singer in their roster could almost double the price. I said there was no need for a known singer as it won’t make a difference for us, besides I think the said known singer’s voice would not fit our song. They said they will still be looking for a singer. 

       Another talent agency only handled female singers. Another one was just newly established last November 2014 according to the web. I was hopeful because it was called Alcasid Talent Agency founded by Ogie Alcasid – a veteran and respected local male singer. But as of March 19, 2015, the said agency still has no website or contact numbers. Before that I contacted a known media company that was very hard to contact. But eventually I was able to reach it and was referred to their Audio and Recording (A&R) head who promised to attend to my written request the next day after two days of no replies. I was hopeful since the A&R head said they have some unknown male singers in their roster, so followed up the day after his promise and received no replies thereafter. I also contacted the secretary of  concert producer who may have unknown male singers in her roster who can do the job, but I also received no replies after some follow-ups.

      After the concert company, I contacted two other wedding singers with websites offering double the amount I offered previously but I also received no replies. This was the last straw that I gave up the search for a male singer in the country. But I still placed free ads again in the web for a higher fee, but there were no inquiries any more.

      At first, I thought the singers and schools were just having some kind of attitude problems common to artists; until I finally realised there is no commercial entity handling unknown singers for special projects -like in my case, in the country. I finally understood that the vocal schools, wedding singers and Youtube singers gave no replies, because its not their job to do special projects or they can’t really sing the song among other reasons. As for the talent and media companies, it can’t earn from people like me; I have to get known singers for the project and pay a big sum to be worthwhile for them to entertain people like me. Its risky for producers to take a chance even for talented singers, as the market is very hard to penetrate, the cost to develop singers is high and the demand from independent producers and song writers is very small. Most unknown singers will just have intermittent jobs in local bars, weddings and other local or overseas events, but a few of them sometimes get a big break by being discovered by known personalities abroad.

       During the long search I came across Pure Vocals, a musician-for-hire portal based in the US. I took a look at it and listened to some of their session singers. At first I just let it go, as it was really something new for me, it was a foreign outfit and I did not hear the voice I was looking for. But I kept coming back to their site, thinking of the convenience to people like me looking for singers for a one time job. After the futile search locally, I decided to give Pure Vocals a try.  Pure Vocals acts as an intermediary to the artists, so we don’t get to communicate with the artist/s directly. I wrote to them but was undecided between two singers but eventually I chose David A. Saylor after searching for both singers on Youtube. I was very grateful and relieved that Pure Vocals responded the following day after I wrote to them. When I did not email them back to fill up the questionnaire and contract during the weekend, they were the one who asked me if I received their previous email. One of the draw backs is you have to be very sure what you want as there is no or direct contact with the artist when you need to adjust what you want immediately. If you don’t get exactly what you want, there just have to be some compromise.

      I was confident that David could do the job as he has demonstrated his versatility in the demo reels at the Pure Vocals website and he has many years of singing experience.  But I was not sure what was the best vocal style for our song. If the song could be improved, I was open for it. I was not sure this time of the type of voice needed  because I knew David was versatile, he may be able to improve the song with his inputs. In one of the questions in the questionnaire: I answered that I was satisfied with the original singer, but I did not specify to exactly copy him. In another question, I was even thinking if its possible to mimic the voice of John Secada (power, emotion, inflection) or Enrique Iglesias (Escape song), but I’m not sure if their voices will fit the music. It was quite a coincidence that he worked with the said artists as I asked for a picture and brief biographical description from Pure Vocals for this blog a few days after David finished the song.

      When the first demo came, there was some adjustments needed to be made at the beginning of the song, so Pure Vocals relayed the problem to David. After that, I paid their reasonable fee – about the cost of two pairs of good running shoes; and the full song with three separate vocal layers was submitted within four days to our satisfaction, but its not an exact copy of the first version. But I still like the voice and interpretation of the original singer, so I will include his version at half the price of the official song when its loaded and distributed by a digital music distributor worldwide. 

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        The pictures above and the brief career highlights of David A. Saylor was provided by him through Pure Vocals. After a few weeks of weighing the risks, I decided to have the song translated into Spanish, as I may never have the chance to find a singer who can sing our song in Spanish –  finding a singer in English is hard enough.  David was born in Norfolk, Virginia, USA but was raised in Ibiza, Spain as his mother is Spanish and he can sing in Spanish as well. Having lived in the United Kingdom for many years, he is a British citizen and is based in London.

       Taking the required Spanish classes in college (12 units) didn’t help, as I have forgotten all about it. I have no clue how to translate the lyrics to Spanish except through Google translate. But I’m sure Google translate will not be accurate in its translation, so I had David translate the song for an additional fee. Searching through the Internet, there are some differences between Spanish and Latin American Spanish, so I asked to have it just in regular Spanish.

       Here are David’s comments regarding my concerns in Spanish: “Regarding the accent from Spanish to Latin American Spanish, there are a few differences in sound, the main one being that the letter ‘C’ is pronounced like an ‘S’, having worked and produced many Latin American artists over the years, I would suggest that we record the Spanish vocal with more Spanish Castillon sound, by that I mean a Spanish (Spain) rather than Latin American twang, they will understand it perfectly over there. I had 2 Latin top 40 hits in the US and South America, and my accent is Spanish from Spain. Hope this isn’t confusing you ha ha. Maybe if this song is mainly for release in Latin America and US, I could pronounce the ‘C’ in the words with the ‘S’ effect like I mentioned, this would kinda be splitting the difference a bit. Either way it will work.”

       The experience in the search for the right singer was very enervating; if I only knew then what I know now, I would just go right straight to Pure Vocals. One of the most important things I learned as a producer is to get the right people for the project – this is actually one of the hardest things a producer with a small budget has to do. It’s almost impossible to find the right people for the job, the way I want it to be done. So there will be some compromises, sometimes even a lot of compromises. The right person with the talent who can be relied on is like looking for a needle in a haystack. So far, aside from Pure Vocals, the only person who is on schedule with the quality output expected is the writer for our e-comics (UCCW trilogy) – superb plot and storyline and delivered on the time as promised – so far he is currently doing the storyline for the second e-comic. Another important lesson as a producer from my experience is try to do it right the first time, which means plan out and prepare as much as possible before starting the project. This is what happened for our mobile game, at least we won’t correct a lot of errors when we finally start the project. Grace had some consultations first from an industry practitioner before we even started, so we learned a lot of things the should be done first that we never thought of before starting the programming. This story will be in a future blog.

       I’m not a techie, so its hard to navigate the digital world in terms of marketing and distributing our future products. The digital world is moving so fast but I’m kind of slow to understand and adopt to the new technologies and popular applications in e-commerce. Everything is new to me, as I never imagined myself to be producing a music video, mobile game and e-comics for the ecosystem of our animation which really involves a lot of computer software technology.  But we’re learning slowly, hopefully we’ll be able to finish our first e-comic and mobile game in a few months before marketing our animation. 

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