Live-Action Reference in Animated Movies

Do you have any idea how much preparation goes in to making animated films?  If you’re not already an animator, then it’s hard to realize that for every second of screen time, hours of work have to be completed.  There are no “second takes” in animation.  Directors have to make sure everything is in place and ready before any animation begins.  It’s got to be right from the start.

One fascinating example of this is a film released by Oh My Disney.  One of Disney’s films, Hercules, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.  It might not be their best film, or even highly celebrated.  It’s still a good film, though, and plenty of people like it.  The video below shows the ridiculous amount of preparation that went into a key scene.

Of course the script had to be written before the above.  The music had to be composed, the lyrics set down, the storyboards drawn.  It wasn’t a spontaneous song-and-dance.  Rather, the point I’m making is that the directors of Hercules, Ron Clements and John Musker, basically made TWO movies.  Sure, they’re credited for Hercules the animated feature, but before that they made an entire live-action movie simply for animation reference.

They had to hire actors, make costumes, choreograph the dances, compose the shots — and then they had to edit it all.  So Hercules existed as a live-action movie before anyone sat down to animate it.

Pretty cool, huh?

It goes without saying that this was a really elaborate video shoot.  The use of live-action reference isn’t terribly uncommon, but this went beyond.  It’s similar to what Disney did with the original Snow White.  In the 1930s, they shot Marge Champion dancing to some of the songs.  The animators (who were then hand-drawing each frame) looked at that for inspiration and reference.

The Hercules movie is like that, only on a grander scale.

Of course, this sort of thing goes on a lot in many animated movies, even if it isn’t on the same scale.  Since it takes so long for each frame of final movie to render, no one can waste time working on things that aren’t going to make it in.  So most animated films are in some sense completed long before they reach theaters.  Of course minor changes happen, things are tweaked, but not a lot of final work happens until the movie is laid out.

Create an Awesome Pitch Video

There are many great reasons to create a pitch video for your animation project.  Say you want to attract new talent to work with.  Or maybe your project is nearly complete, and you want to find a publisher.

Or perhaps you want to secure funding (or other participation) through Patreon, Kickstarter, IndieGoGo.  The better your pitch, the more likely you’ll see results!


Keep it simple, silly person.  Don’t overthink it too much.  Someone good at animation as you are can make a great two-minute pitch video in less than three hours.

And don’t bother to just slap in some video you just found, and expect it to work.  Custom-make a different pitch for every project.  Better cred comes that way.  Looks more legit, too, especially for people who like to dig around behind the scenes.


Keep your script simple, too.   Shoot for a minute, maybe a minute and a half.  That’s enough time to get folks pumped up about what you’re doing.  Your written script should be about one page of double-spaced text.  That translates to about 1-1.5 minutes of video.


Good things to include:  Give some ideas about the inspiration for your project.  Tell people why you’re creating it.  Talk about what you’re looking for from prospective team members.  And if you can, include some artwork to let them into the world you’re creating.


Maybe you’re not as photogenic as the next guy, or you just don’t like showing your face on camera.  That’s cool!  Good voice overs work great, but you’re gonna have to have some visuals to show while your voice is playing.  See the next section for ideas on what to show.


You don’t need anything too fancy.  You can easily get away with using a good webcam and a headset microphone.  Try using Camtasia to edit your material; it records too.  It’s a good program to own, for sure, but if you’re on a budget they do offer a 30 day free trial.


When you’re recording your pitch, be sure that you do it somewhere you’re comfortable talking.  A good place to do it is in private, where you can be comfortable and speak in a normal, conversational voice.  So no busy offices, nothing that will interrupt you.


Want to put music in your pitch video?  Great idea!  There are lots of great sites to get free audio.  If you don’t want that hassle, though, try Audio Jungle.  They have some awesome pieces that won’t bust your wallet.


If you do use music, though, be sure that your music track is quiet enough so it doesn’t overshadow the rest of your audio.  For this video, people really need to hear what you’re saying, clearly and easily.  Music is secondary to your pitch and explanation, so make sure that it’s felt more than heard.


Your pitch video should be something you can create in one day.  Don’t sweat it too much.  And get something up and online before worrying about things like filming in the ideal location.  It’s better to focus on gathering an awesome team than it is to spend a lot of time on your pitch video.  In other words, it doesn’t have to be a huge project (like the one you’re trying to pitch).


Lots of people are concerned about their intellectual property.  They don’t want to share too much because some people are bad sorts, and might copy or steal your work.  Fair point; that does happen.  It’s easy to tease people enough about this sort of thing to get them excited.
So show people your “B roll material.”  This can include concept art, reference materials, animation tests, model turntables, and first drafts.  If you only have an idea, because you’re just starting, then use art that has inspired you.  Just be sure to credit the original artists in the lower third of your video.


And if you only have an awesome idea to pitch, then get out there and find some concept art!  One good place to find such things is Artella, the animation collaboration platform.  Another is DeviantArt.  Other ways are just a Google search away, should you need more.


When you’re done with your pitch, you need to host it somewhere.  If you have your own site already, you can probably put it there.  You can use YouTube as well.  A really good place to put it is Vimeo.  You don’t have to sit through ads before seeing the pitch, and the quality is really good too.  Vimeo offers free accounts; you’ll need one to upload anything.


Here are some terrific examples of project pitch videos people have made.  Some of these are pretty elaborate.  Remember, though, that simpler is generally better.



How Video will Make You More Money and Increase Your Sales In 2014

by John Onorato

Thinking of the best way to promote your product? Use video. Statistics have shown again and again that it is far more engaging than still pictures or mere text. And it’s no secret that the better created a video is, the more professionally produced, the better sales you’re going to get from it.

The modern company stands to make a great deal of money, but only if it invests in the technology of today. One of today’s most vital technologies is video – who hasn’t seen their kids raptly watching some kind of programming on one of the major services like YouTube or Vimeo? Who hasn’t found an instructional broadcast to help them with a project? More people get benefit from visual learning than from instructional texts, so it’s no wonder that video has taken off like it has.

It’s also becoming apparent that the use of video is becoming a way to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Take your resume, for example. Everyone has sent a piece of paper to a hiring manager, who spends six seconds or less looking at it. Now that most resumes are sent electronically, that six second timeframe starts to look awfully generous.

But what if your resume stands out by having a professional picture attached? Better yet, what if that picture has an arrow on it indicating the presence of a short video, during which the recruiter can have a brief respite, taking a sip of water while they listen to a brief outline of your professional qualifications?

When they get another static slip of paper, another list of keywords – even if there are better credentials in the group of resumes they have to go through, which do you think is going to stand out in their memory?

Right. The one with the smartly produced video. The one with the higher bandwidth of information to present to the recruiter.

Looking at some hard facts about YouTube itself, we see that it’s backed by the might of Google, and is the 800-pound gorilla in the world of video. According to their public statistics page at, YouTube reaches more adults aged 18 to 34 than any cable network. YouTube offers niche programming people want to watch, and nothing they don’t. They’re not tied to the whims of any one network – they can make their own choices.

Thousands of video creators are earning six figures

As of December 2013, YouTube sees more than a billion unique visitors a month. That’s up from 490 million unique users worldwide per month in 2011. Those users spend over a 2.9 billion hours on YouTube in that month – over 325,000 man-years. And that’s counting the main site alone, not on any embedded programming or mobile viewing.

Video is where the money is going, too. Millions of video creators from around the globe are making money from their films, and thousands of those with major channels are earning six figures.

The equations are pretty simple – use of video means that customers will get more involved with your brand and your company. It means they’ll be more immersed with you as a people and a brand, and not just the entity they get their widgets from. Use of video puts a face on your company, which translates to more engagement with your company, and that ultimately means more revenue for you.

Isn’t it time you invested the services of a professional video company like Austin Visuals to create a video for you? We have several top-notch animators on staff, ready to help you out with video-related need you can conceive of. Give us a call at 512.591.8024 and we can talk about your needs and the best way to fulfill them.

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