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The Making of the Book Trailer for THE RAVEN BOYS

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I honestly thought that a making of the Raven Boys animated trailer would be a straightforward blog post, but it turns out that you cannot make a straightforward blog post about a non-straightforward-process. Or, you can, but you have to remove all the non-linear and disastrous bits, but that makes it inherently untruthful.

I like being truthful, so this is going to be messy. And long.

I knew right off when I started the Raven Boys trailer that I wanted it to be a stretch for me — well out of my comfort zone — or I just didn’t think there was any reason to do it at all. If I’m going to be committing 60 or 100 hours of my life to a creative project, it had better leave a mark in the very fibers of my creative being or at the very least result in me having a statue of myself erected in a village somewhere.

I need to tell you right now that there was probably a better way to do all this. I understand people learn how to do this the right way and it is an efficient and beautiful process. My animation schooling involves paper cuts and glue fumes, and I am not sure I recommend trying this at home.

So, that said, I have always loved traditional, 2D animation, and I used to make my living as a colored pencil artist, so I wondered if there’d be a way to combine the two. The only problem with this plan was that colored pencil is a slow medium. Even I, who had become fairly speedy, took an hour or three to finish small pieces. When you’re animating, every second of on-screen action eats anywhere between six and twenty-four frames. In colored pencil that is . . . a lot of hours.

Which meant that my first hopeful step was to see if I could digitally reproduce the look of my colored pencil work. I could work way faster on my Wacom tablet. But my digital Gansey just did not look like my colored pencil Gansey.

Colored pencil it was.

Oh, and I wanted to try voice-over. I’ve always been intrigued by the pleasures and pain of syncing animation to voice, and I figured, if I’m going to experiment, I’m going to EXPERIMENT.

So the next step was to mock up my trailer. Well, kind of. I sort of worked on finished images and mocked up at the same time. I told you. It’s not really . . . linear. Anyway, this was an early mock up, with some finished art, some not, music from Zoe Keating and from Blood and Chocolate’s soundtrack acting as placeholders. Yes, I am in fact doing all of the voices in this one, and I understand that it is hilarious.

As you can see, it wasn’t working. The entire structure of it was just a giant mess and it was on its way to being about ten minutes long, which would take the rest of my life to animate. I restructured. (Still hilarious)

I was doing most of this in iMovie, iStopMotion, Photoshop, and on my kitchen table. I was doing my sketches with my Wacom tablet (that was the source of the digital Gansey), tweaking the movement when I could (altering the frames just slightly) in Photoshop, and then sequencing the frames in iStopMotion, before exporting the tiny movie sequences to be pasted together in iMovie.

YES. I’m aware there are easier ways, Stiefvater. But I could never do my algebra in the correct order, either.

By this point, I had a lot of frames laying around the house, and everything sort of smelled like pencil dust and orange solvent (click to make anything bigger).

RB Ronan Declan RB Adam  RB arms RB Ronan parts  RB spirits RB Blue expression RB Blue Mouths RB Blue Face and Mouth RB Gansey face  RB Camaro RB Gansey threat    RB mouths
RB Henrietta
RB kiss

All of those mouths and arms and stuff are because I would paste those onto the frames digitally in Photoshop and then animate them later, to keep from having to redraw the entire frame.

At some point I started plugging this into a better mock-up. With music from Transformers, because I’m classy that way.

At this point, I began inflicting this thing on my family and friends for peer review. Did this bit make sense? Was it interesting? Would music help? Should I change the font? Should I change this voice?

And I also failed a lot. I animated the title sequences with little gritty bits around the edges; it wasn’t obvious enough and I ditched them. I made the colored moving bits in the kissing sequence more colorful; it looked like the scene took place under a disco ball. I had to redo the fight sequence four times until my editor stopped laughing when he saw it.

I spent loads of time on things that you can’t really see. The gun, for instance, at the end — it’s multiple frames with slight motion, because when I used the same frame more than once in a row, it instantly looked out of place with the constant movement of the rest of the trailer. Blue’s face is a late addition in the bit where Adam is staring up through the forest leaves with Wonder. Before, it just sort of looked . . . unbalanced. I redid the landscape pan twice because it just looked goofy. Partway through the process I just went insane and went back in and animated about half a dozen blinks. In the end, the thing that nearly broke me was spelling Jessica’s name wrong in the credits at the end — I had to pull out those frames and re-export the video after Photoshopping a brand new end credits. I was about ready for the nice men in their clean white coats to come take me away at that point.

Which left only the music and the voices. I hit the studio and after that had to tweak once more (“making of” post for that HERE).

Anyway, in the end, I ended up with:


The next one, Maggie says confidently, will be better.

  • Anonymous

    I love seeing your process. What patience you had! It is quite brilliant, actually. And a lot of fun to watch. Transformers music was great with it….Loved every moment of it!

  • Wow it’s so interesting to see how you made the trailer, I didn’t realize how much time it took. I’ve done 2D animation before but only on the computer on programs meant for animation, much simpler. I LOVE your trailer by the way, can’t wait for the book!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Wow that was Ah.Maze.Ing. Great job.Had no idea that it took so much patience.

  • Beckie

    Maggie that was amazing!
    The texture around the edges of the words gave it a great rustic feel. The skull on Gansey’s face that kept flickering in and out of view was such great foreshadowing of his possible fate and the light on them when they kissed in the trees was so natural. The music was exactly what I would have expected for this type of story!
    Well done and even more points for having the determination to see it through to the end!

  • I love to see artists’ processes, whether that means book-writing, video editing, or artwork in general. Thank goodness you weren’t sent to an asylum. What would we do without your books? – We’d end up in there with you!

    By the way, what was the music title for the transformers piece of music? I don’t think I’ve heard that one before.

  • Gansey drives Loki?!

    That’s awesome. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    hi,i am really cool with your animations.i have got really nice stories too. i hope to become a famous writer like you in future.

  • Dakota

    I really had to say that in the second last video with the Transformers music, the “Adam, NO!” at the end made my day! haha so thank you for that! 😀

  • mayra

    you should make a movie!!!!

Maggie Stiefvater
Hi, I'm Maggie Stiefvater

Professional novelist by day and artist by night. I live an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, and neurotic dogs. I’m the author of the Books of Faerie (LAMENT and BALLAD); the bestselling SHIVER trilogy (SHIVER, LINGER, FOREVER), and THE SCORPIO RACES.

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Copyright 2012