The Making of The “I Love Awen” Show

   Actually, making this video wasn’t hard at all. Probably because I tend to plan everything to death before starting! I also have to give huge props to my leading lady, Awenbunny. She’s a fabulous actress, she takes direction very well, and has her own input to improve shots and the film in general.

You can get a short version note of this info in-world, including goodies like the photoshoot steadycam, in the “I Love Awen” memorabilia fan pack. It is at Willow Creek Mill (slurl), just inside the door near the other goodies under the stairs. (It looks like the movie poster.) It also includes the poster, and some props from the show. It’s tip-ware, so pay even one single linden and get the pack! Or throw money at the director, however much you like :)

Step One: The Idea

Before any filming is done, you need to know what you want to accomplish. For this, a storyboard is invaluable. (For a music video, it is even more essential!) I started by scribbling fast sketches of each shot in Photoshop, then I dropped them into WMM with the music track. Make sure you drop them in as snapshots, because then you can stretch or shrink each sketch to fit the timing of the music.
The storyboards let you know what you need from the sets, props, camera, and the actors. In a music video, it will also let you shoot out of order and be able to fit clips into the final video without having to wait until you have them all done, and without messing up the timing. You may also find it helpful to share your storyboard snapshots with the actors, so they know what you are trying to accomplish.

Let’s take the opening scene for example. I see I need a doorway set with a door that swings open. I need Ricky to come in the door and pose — so that means I also need his costume. Later in the video, the Mertzes come in and go out the door, so that is another instance I will need the door set. That means I will need their costumes, and a vehicle that lets them run out the door. (Note: if you are in the video, don’t plan on doing a lot of complex acting. It’s not too hard when you’re doing static shots like most of the “I Love Awen” studios use. But trying to move and keep the camera still, or trying to stay still and move the camera, AND act… will be difficult.)

Now put together a list of what each shot needs: the setting, the props, the animations, the sounds (if any), the actors/characters, and what costume they need. Some shots will not need a lot. For example, the closeups only need the actor and costume, and a blurry sort of vague background — easy! On the other hand, the kitchen shots needed a lot of props and scripting: the opening oven, the burning roast, the falling and breaking plates, etc. So organize your shooting schedule so the easiest shots are done first, and those that need a lot of preparation are further along the line, giving you time to make (or buy) everything you need.

Step Two: Filming

Before you start shooting, make sure the setting, lighting and camera view are set up properly. The “I Love Awen” Show only used flat sets. These were set up to face south, given an extra fill light, and the world set to Midday. Also remember if you are using studio lights to turn on Local Lights in your video preferences! Also crank up the detail sliders so your objects look smooth. When you are doing the filming over several weeks, it is important to write down your video settings to keep all the shots consistent. (If you’re like me, you change your video prefs depending on if you are in a crowded laggy area or not.)

Ctrl-Shift-F1 will hide the client interface from your screen, allowing you to film without clutter on the screen. However, this will also make any text completely invisible to you. If your actors have any questions or problems, they won’t be able to get your attention! (Well, I guess Voice still works, if you have that.) At any rate, I created two gestures for filming and stopping: /action and /cut.
The Action gesture directs the actors to get ready, it plays a slate-marker sound (actually, a page turning), and then calls for action! I use the marker sound effect to time the starting of filming.
The Cut gesture yells CUT, and plays the woh-pah! sound effect. If an actor needs to cut, the WOH-PAH gets my attention to stop filming and turn my interface back on.

Another camera trick is to use CTRL 8/9/0. CTRL-8 will zoom out (and widen your field of view, giving a fisheye lens effect), and CTRL-0 will zoom in. CTRL-9 resets your camera. Very handy for when you get dizzy trying to walk around with your camera zoomed in.

If you really, REALLY need to have one camera position for a shot that is to be done in several different sessions, there is something you can do for that. You can rig a camera position for something you sit on. For example, the set. If you sit on it, the camera will always go where the script tells it to. I didn’t use that trick in this movie, but it IS handy.

Tricks of the Trade

Here are a few tricks to make your filming (and acting) easier!

Poseballs are Your Friend!
Almost every shot in The “I Love Awen” Show has the actors on poseballs. The only ones that don’t are where Lucy is having a temper tantrum and crying about being in the show, and the one where the Mertzes run out the door. Oh, the shot with Lucy holding the casserole is poseballess, too. I put the casserole and oven mitts up, and Awen stood behind them. Then I just shot video while she was standing there and not realizing I was shooting. It was just a totally easy shot! Alt click and zoom in. Done!
The poseball allows you to position the actors (and yourself, if you’re acting) in the shot exactly where you want. Much faster than telling them, “Okay, take two steps to the right. No, your other right. Turn two degrees left. Too far. No, that’s wrong…” etc!

I used poseballs that had a stand animation instead of a sit animation. Then I had them listen on channel 8 for… well, anything. When the actor typed in “/8” the extra animation played. So that’s how Lucy turns and holds up the shirt, how she scolds Ricky for playing maracas, and how everybody who has to “EEK” eeks. Cheating!? No — creative problem solving!
There are also shots where the actors sit (stand?) on poseballs and play a gesture or animation normally. Like the Tinymatic waving hello, like the TAO2 crouching/bending at the stove, etc.

Some poseballs are more complicated. The “Everybody Manbo!” poseballs turn on with the /8 command, and then they start rotating left and right in synch. If you watch the credits (and stop reading about that egomaniac Bloodsong on them all), you’ll see Lucy and Ricky doing a sort of can-can turn while playing the maracas.
For the opening sequence, the poseball used a walking animation, and the /8 opened the door AND moved the poseball inside. Then it stopped the walking and played the vogue pose. Scripting is your friend!

Flat Sets
I searched the web for images of the “I Love Lucy” show sets. Originally, I was afraid we would have to build them. But a Lucy fan had shots from the I Love Lucy museum that didnt have obstructions. I had to erase out a coffee table and a kitchen table in Photoshop, but that was all.

The photos were placed on a half cylinder background with a very shallow curve (probably would have worked the same with a flat square background). I also took a sample of the foreground rug as a tileable floor texture. The actors don’t stand on the actual floor (well, they’re standing on poseballs anyway, but… :X ), there’s an invisible floor above the rug texture the actors stand on to appear to be “in” the set. Plus one studio light on the upper left corner.
If I had through about it, I could have put a shadow under the poseballs, to anchor the actors more firmly on the floor. But I think it turned out visually convincing even so.

The only fully built set was the door set. Luckily some offwhite and beige-greyish rectangles made up most of it. I just copied the photo. There’s no hall behind the door, just a black rectangle. The door opened or closed on the /8 command, or via click.

Tip: Selection Beams are NOT Your Friend
If you need to activate something by clicking, you will probably get a selection beam in your shot. Ctrl-Alt-= turns off particles so you don’t see those. If you need OTHER particles, you can turn the selection beam off to your viewer in the Preferences.

Tip: Camera Aim Points
If you need your camera to remain steady during a shoot, it might not work so well if you click and frame on an actor that is going to be moving. Or you might click on the background to get a good line up, but then your head looks away from the camera. An invisible prim between the actors and camera can help. You can aim at that, but it won’t be visible in the shot.
  &nbsp  &nbsp You can also use the scripted camera position as mentioned above. Just hit ESC to settle your camera.

Trick Shots: The Mertzes Escape
I extended the side of the doorway set to shoot at an angle. The door was shifted on its hinge so it started open and then clicking made it close. And lastly, I made a vehicle so Awen could drag me around the set while I was filming. This was based off my vehicle scripts for the sleighs and all, plus the running animation. And I must say, Awen has good aim! She never crashed into the wall on the way out!
We had to do two takes, because I jumped the gun and clicked to close the door before we were halfway through it :X

Trick Shots: Falling & Breaking Plates
The kitchen scene was by far the most complicated one to do. Originally, we wanted the oven door to open and the roast to slide out, but we didn’t have any way to contain the smoke from it. So… we made do.
There are two types of plates. The first was a stack of six or so; each made of a flattened dimpled sphere. On touch, they delink and turn physical (AND temporary! Very important to remember this part). So Awen sat on her poseball and did the bend animation, and I clicked the plates to make them fall. (Funnily enough, in Havok 4 physics, if you turn a pile of plates physical, they tend to bounce off whatever they were sitting on :X ) Another odd thing was, they only fell well the second time. The first time you dropped a stack of plates, they all fell uniformly as if they were wired together. If a bunch were still lying on the floor, the second stack would fall more randomly. On top of that, they didn’t fall the way I wanted, so I ended up sticking an invisible wedge on the table under them.

The breakable plates are different. Each one is made up of duplicates of the same sphere, but path cut into wedges. On click, they turn physical (and temporary!), and then on collision, they delink. I just set up the camera aiming at the floor, scooted the table into the shot, put out two plates… click click, and there they fell and broke. Cool!

Trick Shot: Awen, Bloodsong, and Awen again…!? ————————————————-
So if Awen is playing both Lucy and Ethel, how does she hold up the casserole and stand in front of it eeking!? Haha, that’s a cheap easy trick. I just put the casserole dish and oven mits there in the set, sized them up, and positioned the camera so the rest of “Lucy” was offscreen. But it appears as if she is standing there holding it out to them.

Timing is Everything, and Rehearsal Doesn’t Hurt, Either
Now, despite most of the animations being triggered via poseballs… don’t think it doesn’t take some skill and timing to act! The hardest shot to time right was the final end-gag. I studied the laugh animation and saw a characteristic head twitch that signalled the end of it. When Awen saw that, it was time for her to activate her mackerel. It would have been easier, had I not previously been in a deformed avatar, and Awen couldn’t see my head because it was off somewhere…. :X

Sequences of actions also take timing. Like where Lucy shakes her finger at Ricky playing the maracas, then sighs. We both needed to practice the timing for the ‘Carmen Miranda’ scene. Awen plays the temper tantrum from the Tinymatic, then cries. And then I sigh. I think I was a bit quick on that one, too, but it looks okay. And then I had to time eek-ing after she turns and shows the burnt-through shirt.

We also had trouble with her bending to get the roast, and me clicking the plates when her tail hit them. The action is just so fast, there is a reaction delay. So what I did was attach a sound effect to her animation (a cannon shot). When I heard that, I clicked REAL fast! And that way, we were able to synchronize. She couldn’t click the plates herself without turning her head, which is why I had to do that.

It doesn’t hurt to rehearse a shot before filming. That way, you can see how the actor moves, how long animations take, etc. You can also tell them faster or slower, or less head-bobbing and typing, or whatever. If you don’t have to keep turning your camera and interface on and off, it goes more quickly.

If you use my storyboarding tip, you can immediately take the film you just shot and drop it into your video. If you need to synch it to music, you can find out if the timing worked out that take, or if you need to adjust and re-shoot.

Step Three: Editing
As mentioned, I set up my scribbles to synchronize with the music track. Therefore, I knew exactly how long each shot needed to last — I just hovered over the clip and it told me how many seconds/frames. Now for the close-ups talking, or the dancing, all I had to do was drop the filmed clip in before the scribble version of the clip, and adjust the sliders to trim it down to size. Dancing was a cinch. The talking bits I had to finesse, and copy bits, clip out bits, to make the ‘head bobs’ try to match the words.
The action sequences were more difficult. Though sometimes I lucked out. The Mertzes’ hasty exit was about exactly as long as it needed to be. Also my laugh gesture was as long as Ricky’s laugh on the sound track. The casserole shot was too long, so I set it to 2x speed and it was perfect.
Sometimes, I had to take a short piece of a clip and repeat it to get the timing I wanted. For example, the shot of “Little Ricky.” I had a clip of the blinking baby possum, but I wanted the eyes closed and then to pop open and blink. So I shrank the clip to the 12 frames or so of eyes closed, copied, and then shifted to the eye open frames. Then I alternated and stacked them until I had the timing I wanted.

I also had to cut middles out of some clips. In the “Carmen Miranda” outfit scene, when Awen was on her soapbox doing all those animations, we had me shaking my head during some of them. I decided to take that part out, so I clipped it out of the middle. There’s a slightly noticeable jump when it cuts from one to another, but I smoothed the action as much as I could.
After the soapbox ranting, I wanted Awen to use the Tinymatic tantrum and crying. It didn’t work while she was on the soapbox because it kept sinking her into the rug. She had to stand up to do that part. Well, naturally after standing up, she wasn’t in exactly the same spot she was before. So that’s when I inserted me shaking my head from another clip. When the camera cuts back to both of us in the living room, you don’t notice that she’s not exactly in the same spot, so it looks like continuous action.

I shot the credits scene and the end-shot on different days. And, heh, I couldn’t line up the background heart with the credits shot. It looked absolutely horrid. But I rescued it with a godawful heart-shaped wipe. As the heart-shape blooms out, the jitter between the two backgrounds isn’t as noticeable.

The worst thing about WMM is that it can’t keep its timing. If you do your entire music video, synch everything, get it perfect… then add credits on the beginning of your film? OMG, it doesn’t move the soundtrack back with your clips. I tried doing that once, it was a disaster. So remember, if you want an intro screen or starting credits on your movie, put them in first!
Also, if you want captions, make sure you add them ON the selected clip, not before it. If you choose before, you will get a break in the flim like the old time silent movie caption screens.