Ever since I saw the awesome 90′s Super Meat Boy commercial by James ID, I’ve wanted to make a trailer or video that had that same sort of vibe. There’s something so wonderfully awful and nostalgic about those old Nintendo and Sega commercials from the 90′s. I grew up on these ads, and looking back on them now, it’s amazing that we took any of this seriously They hold a place in my heart, so being able to make something that parodies that style was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
I first met Kyle Pulver at GDC 2011, and we started throwing around the idea of doing a trailer for his new game Snapshot. I love photography, and this game has a really cool mechanic where you can take a picture of an object in one part of the level, and paste it back into the game somewhere else. About a year went by and the game still wasn’t near release, but I still really wanted to work with him on something…
About a week before Kyle Launched the game, he posted this awesome teaser with a hand drawn fake Super Nintendo box for the game. I fell in love with it, and immediately thought how awesome it would be to do a 90′s style SNES commercial/trailer for it but there wasn’t enough time to turn it around for launch. But Kyle was planning a 2nd push for the game by adding a level editor, to try and get it on Steam. The launch was set for around Mother’s day, so we had plenty of time to start throwing around ideas. After a bit of back and forth, this is the idea that stuck:
[12-03-30 5:01:28 PM]
Kyle Pulver: hahah I imagine this scene of a guy playing the game with the babies flying around
[12-03-30 5:01:33 PM]
Kyle Pulver: so he’s like dodging the babies in reality while trying to play the game
So, now the problem was how to turn those two lines of text into a cool looking trailer… One of the first ideas we had was to use some old Cabbage Patch dolls and have those being thrown at Marlon while he played the game. That would have been cool, but it didn’t totally fit. We thought about putting a live baby in Marlon’s lap, but that might have just been a bit weird…
Creating the Animatic
When dealing with a live action trailer, one of the first things I always like to do is create a really rough animatic or animated storyboard to get a feel for the flow of the trailer. This is usually the point where I freak out and think that it’s never going to work, since it’s hard to look at something in such a rough shape and imagine how it’s all going to come together. That being said, it’s an invaluable step, and really sets the blueprint for what we’re going to need.
So, after throwing that animatic together, this was the rough to do list:
- Find an actor and location to shoot
- Find an awesome voice over actor that sounds like the guy from the old SNES commercials
- Create some plush Offspring Dolls and figure out how to puppeteer them
- Find a knockoff “Super Pretendo” to use for the product shots
- Create a fake SNES cart and SNES box for Offspring Fling and some of Kyle’s other games
- Make some motion graphics that mimic the intro/close of the old SNES commercials
- Create a custom music track for the trailer
Creating the ‘Offspring’ and SNES Game Boxes
So to get all those wheels in motion, we needed to find some collaborators. Alec Holowka, who made the music for Offspring Fling set off on making a custom track for the trailer, based around themes from the game. Kyle started making the custom SNES boxes, and fortunately for us, the wonderful Zoe Quinn was visiting Winnipeg from Toronto, and was already throwing around the idea of making some plush Offspring dolls! We told her about the idea for the trailer, and she was all over it! The dolls turned out awesome, and really ended up making the whole trailer. The shot at the end just wouldn’t have been the same without the dolls, so I’m so grateful that Zoe took the time to put them together!
The other piece of the puzzle was creating a fake SNES cart, pick up a fake knockoff SNES and make some fake SNES boxes of Kyle’s old games. Making the SNES cart was pretty simple. I managed to get an old SNES cart from PnP Games for 99 cents and a knockoff FC Twin SNES for about $70. I found a SNES cartridge template online, printed it off and glued it to the old cart. Getting the old label off was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. They must use some industrial strength glue on those old labels, since it took me about an hour to scrape and clean them off
For the Super Pretendo, we wanted something that looked like a SNES, but wasn’t totally weird. There was a surprising amount of systems to choose from! The red one was pretty cool looking, and has slots for SNES/NES/Genesis games. Crazy! In the end, we settled for the FC Twin. The nice thing about this one is that the SNES cart slot was in the front, so there wouldn’t be this awkward hole in the front of the machine for the final product shot.
The boxes were probably the funnest thing to create, even though you can’t really see any of the extras in the final product shot. Kyle made awesome box art for Verge, Jotyobots, Bonesaw, and Depict 1. The boxes were so cool, I couldn’t not show them off, so here’s some images of each of them:
Shooting the Trailer
Shooting this trailer was pretty fun Marlon was nice enough to let us use his apartment as the set, but we had to wait until pretty late at night to get started. Marlon’s apartment gets lots of sunlight, and we wanted to artificially light the set to make it look as cool and dramatic as possible. We started shooting at about 8:30pm and shot for about two hours. And of course, I did a little time-lapse of the shoot too
Shooting the final product shot with the Super Pretendo and the game boxes was a lot of fun. The hardest part of the whole thing was figuring out how to light the scene properly to give it the same sort of vibe as the live action footage.
As for the mirror, I found it sitting in someone’s trash in the middle of a snowbank. I knew I needed this thing, but I had no idea what I’d use it for, and it literally sat in my shed for about 2 years before it was pulled out and cleaned off for this shoot. I’m so glad I kept it around, I’m sure it’ll come in handy for something again someday…
To get the nice little camera move in the shot. I did the camera move super slowly, and somewhat jerkily moved the tripod head as I moved it back on the slider. I was never going to get this camera move perfect on set, so I stabilized the shot afterwards, and re-introduced a nice smooth camera move in After Effects.
Editing the Trailer
Editing the trailer was pretty straightforward using After Effects, my weapon of choice… Overall, this wasn’t the most complicated project since it didn’t have as many visual effects or crazy shots as some of my other trailers…
I’ve kind of changed up my workflow over the last few trailers, by moving basically 100% over to my Macbook air. I love this little powerhouse of a machine, and it specs just as fast (processor wise) as the PC I used to use. But since this machine has an SSD drive, I find the responsiveness of working directly with the .MTS files from my GH2 totally acceptable. On my PC, I took the step to transcode all of the .MTS files into Photo JPG quicktimes, but for some reason on the MB Air, I don’t need to take that step. All of the lagginess that I was experiencing before is totally gone on this system. It’s really a joy to use, and it’s also a great conversation piece, when most people assume I’m working with some crazy PC rig.
One of the subtle cool little effects we did add was reflections of the gameplay in Marlon’s glasses. It was pretty straightforward, but involved some subtle colour correction tricks to get it just right.
After editing everything together, one of the last steps was to find a real voice actor to replace my temp track. I searched for a while, and stumbled upon Geoff Allan. He’s awesome, and more importantly, his voice is super awesome, and sounds just like the voice overs from those old commercials that we were trying to emulate. I have to thank Geoff again for his help since without it, I don’t think this trailer would have had the same impact and vibe
The 80′s VHS Dub VersionLike the Card Hunter trailer I did last year, we played around with making the trailer look a bit more genuine by giving it that VHS look. There’s a cool After Effects plugin out there called Chroma Subsample that sort of does this but the effect isn’t as heavy as doing a true VHS dub. So, the easiest way was to literally burn a DVD of the final video, then dub that to one VHS deck at super long play, then dub it again to a second VHS deck at super long play, then transfer that final VHS back to DVD and rip it back into a movie file using Handbrake. It’s a bit labour intensive, and I had to go to my dad’s to use his PVR to copy the final VHS dub back to DVD, but I think the results look pretty cool.
In the end, we decided to not go with this as the main version, since we felt that we got across the 90′s vibe with the editing, pacing and the rest of the trailer. The other thing is that a lot of people seeing this trailer will have no idea what VHS is supposed to look like, and it might just add confusion. So, in the end, we decided to go with the high definition clean version for release, but you can check out the 80′s VHS version below: