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Captain America – Animated Fan Film

March 5, 2014

Neil’s Blog Entry

Note from Laura:
Neil has just finished a little side project he has been working on since last April. As a fan of Captain American, he decided to do a fan film using all his awesome animation skills. I asked him to write a post about his process for this labor of love.

Captain America: A Brother in Arms is a graphic novel by Paul Jenkins and John McCrea. I first read this book back in 2010 and I loved it instantly. I have always been a fan of Captain America – he is the perfect blending of my love of comic books and my odd fascination with anything military – but this book in particular struck a chord in me. So I knew this was the story I wanted to bring to life.

The first part of the process is designing the characters and environments. I wanted a low poly (chunky and blocky) look for the characters. I knew the story I wanted to tell was very serious and at times very emotional, so I thought the contrast between that and the almost cartoony look of the characters would be compelling. And the fact I suck at character animation made me want a style that was a bit more forgiving when it came to the nuances of realistic human motion.

Once the characters and environments are designed, the script needs to be written and scenes planned out for animation. I decided that I wanted to do a simple voice over with no actual speaking parts for any of the characters. This enabled me to get started on animation right away as I didn’t have to wait until voices were recorded. It also helped because I suck at character animation.

My friend Evan, with whom I work at Lightborne, was a great help throughout the whole project. Evan rigged most of the characters – meaning he gave all the 3D model bones and joints so that they would be able to move. He also explained the process of rigging to me about a hundred times as I kept on forgetting how to do it because I suck at character animation. Evan also animated some of the key scenes where a more subtle hand was needed.

All of the scenes were animated in Cinema 4D over a 11 month period starting in April of 2013. We animated on slow days, weeknights, dies between projects, etc. And once we were happy with the animation, everything was rendered out and dropped into After Effects for compositing. Smoke, fire, explosions and other elements were added in to give the scenes some life. Gun shots came to life by adding in muzzle flashes. And finally I gave the whole piece a deep and moody color treatment.

My friend Dan – who also happens to be my daughter’s history teacher – agreed to play the role of Captain America – at least in voice form. I wanted someone who had the voice of an “everyman” and I thought Dan was perfect.

I was searching around online for music to accompany the video. I am a huge fan of movie soundtracks and I wanted the music to be really, really good. I found the website of Kevin MacLeod and was very impressed with what I heard. His track “Americana” was the first track I heard on his site and it quickly became the main theme for the film. Amazingly, I found every piece of music I needed on Kevin’s site. What a great resource to filmmakers everywhere!

So that – in a nutshell – was the process. I hope everyone enjoys watching the film as much as I did making it.

Still with no pithy catchphrase,
Neil

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