Case Studies

Case study: RollPlay Balance of Power Live Show

By 19 September, 2016 No Comments

If you haven’t read my breakdown of the RollPlay patreon campaing it’s a good start to get a better understanding why this exists. If you don’t know what RollPlay: Balance Of Power is I’ve actually written a case study on all of the overlays/branding for that as well. This however is that show but taken to a new level with full cast in person (instead of over Skype through xsplit) and this is what became the RollPlay Balance of Power live show.

RollPlay Balance of Power Live show Looped Animation

Looped Animation

Meeting, meetings and more meetings

Normally me and JP just exchange chat messages over Skype and he allows me to work pretty freely. This situation wasn’t normal so we needed to really get going on what was needed for the live show and how things should look. In our first meeting I was introduced to SirScoots since he was running the production on site. We went over the camera setup, I could really tell that SirScoots was super excited about all the things they had ordered in, and we also went over a few things that I needed to start working on.

The main things that we started to discuss here we’re getting started on lower thirds, logo animation/loop, breakscreen and skyscrapers (more on these later). After we had talked for about an hour (I really can’t remember the exact time) we decided on getting going on the next meeting with Adam (Dungeon Master) involved before he want away for two weeks.

During the Adam meeting we added a bunch of set design things that was needed for the show. For instance all of the tokens had to be recreated in Illustrator to match the Poker chips we printed with the logo and the character art. We actually had to order several ones, how many? I actually don’t think I’m allowed to say and I’m also not allowed to say what we’re going to do with the ones left over… but be sure to come to the RollPlay panel at TwitchCon at least. For the regular show we have board that Adam uses to determine the distance between the enemy and the players and that needed to be re-created as well (more on that one later).

I’ll give you the list over the things that I need to create, and this is after the first few meetings and you’re going to see this list grow as we move forward.

[mks_accordion] [mks_accordion_item title=”Logo animation“] With and without alpha channel (transperant background) both a looped version and a regular animated version.
[/mks_accordion_item] [mks_accordion_item title=”Lower thirds “] One for all the players and Adam (left and right side) and a version with Jesse/Pokket and JP/Strippin (this order was important)
[/mks_accordion_item] [mks_accordion_item title=”Skyscrapers“] These are the vertical information graphics that we have throughout the show. We needed one for dice rolls and information about each character (both left and right side).
[/mks_accordion_item] [mks_accordion_item title=”Frames “] Additional frames used for Picture-in-picture feature.
[/mks_accordion_item] [mks_accordion_item title=”Engage lower third “] To be used to explain the board.
[/mks_accordion_item] [mks_accordion_item title=”Board“] Large format print used to show range.
[/mks_accordion_item] [mks_accordion_item title=”Tokens“] Several different tokens both for the players but also for the board to show the attackers on the battlefield.
[/mks_accordion_item] [/mks_accordion]

Almost all of these also needed to be animated so SirScoots could take them into the TriCaster.

Reusing assets and skyscrapers

Since we already have a brand and assets from when I created the overlays and branding for the regular show I were able to use a lot of the same assets for the RollPlay Balance of Power live show. This helped streamline the workflow and to push out all of the graphics a lot faster. I also created those assets in 200DPI and that meant that I could modify and resize them.

You can see this on the skyscrapers in particular as they’re using both the tubing, name tags and profile text background. This is the benefit of building assets that can be used in different ways and get a whole new feel even if they’re exactly the same. That’s the branding that I created for Balance of Power and it’s what’s supposed to be used in these cases. All I did was to look at the guidelines that I set and used them to extend it into something brand new.

I added only a slight animation to the character skyscrapers with some glow. Something that might happen in the future is to actually have the character art animated. It would be enough for the art to be separated into layers and I would be able to animate them in After Effects. Another thing we would hopefully be able to do would be to make the text easily editable, be it through a never version of TriCaster or through the usage of dynamic overlay. All of these things of course adds a lot of development time and adds a larger price tag at the end of it as well.

All of the charachter ones were created from a template and using a text field to make it so the text wrapped automatically around the artwork. This was due to the fact that each player wrote their own text and sent in to us. So it wasn’t until I got all of the texts that I could put them in so making the text field allowed me to easily add the text in without having to worry to much about refitting it into the skyscraper.

As you can see the dice version is slightly different and due it being a vertical skyscraper (not that I think there’s such a thing as horizontal skyscrapers) it created an issue with how to fit in all of the explanation. What I did was first to re-create all of the dice symbols and shapes in Illustrator (try finding them in high resolution on google) and after that using the lines going from dices down to the explanation for them. This in turn allowed me to fit in all the text without having to make the text smaller. This was needed to explain to new viewers (we expected there to be new ones tuning in to the RollPlay Balance of Power live show) how the dice rolls worked at least in someway, previously we even had a (for the regular show) even had a video recorded that explain the dice rolls.

RollPlay Balance of Power live show Breakscreen

The breakscreen went through a lot of changes and even some miscommunication between SirScoots and JP. The very first idea that I had was to create an animated breakscreen with transparency so that you could see the players blurred out in the background as the show is about to start. It would have added a lot to the show and really give it a “this is live” feel. For that we also decided to have SirScoots being able to add in a time on his own through the TriCaster. All that was needed for this was a short looped alpha version and one without alpha (in case something went wrong and SirScoots could cut to that instead).

These breakscreens of course had to be slightly animated so I created a preset for the glow that you can see around the character portraits. After yet another meeting it was decided that we needed to have rotating text below the countdown (#CheckOutPat) and that resulted in a few issues with the TriCaster. The TriCaster can only take in 500 frames when it comes to targa files (was needed to get the alpha channel into the TriCaster). That meant that I had to export out several smaller files for the alpha channel version of it but the regular mp4 version could be a loop for the RollPlay Balance of Power live show.

About 3 days ahead of the show I got a message from JP about adding two additional breakscreens. One that was 15 minutes and one that was 3 minutes long. I really had no idea why these we’re ordered but I created two new ones with no alpha and rotating character art with a hard coded countdown on all of them. However the problems didn’t end there… as I wake up on the 16th September (a day before the live show) I get the message that the TriCaster that SirScoots had there couldn’t do animated text from the countdown plugin (this TriCaster was a different model to the one he had at home) and that I needed to create full 5 and 15 minute countdowns for the show. The problem is that the 15 minute countdown is a 4 hour render and additional time to render it to a mp4. However on the 17th I wake up to yet another message saying that they need yet another version due to a spelling error (not my fault). Luckily I had a quickly render out a short alpha channel version of the updated text and use Adobe Premiere instead of Adobe After Effects to cover the old video and render it out with Adobe Media Encoder using CUDA to speed up the render by two thirds. Short deadlines and working under pressure can be extremely stressful but luckily this is nothing new when you’re putting on shows like this where there’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of details that needs to be looked over.

These type of switched, changes and tight deadlines is nothing new when it comes to these type of productions, and trust me that they become even more frequent when there’s higher budget and even more people involved. We got lucky that nothing really major happened and even for our small production (but big in terms of Twitch) we still ran into a few issues for the RollPlay Balance of Power live show.

RollPlay Balance of Power live show Lower thirds

After our first meeting I went to work on these right away. The reason behind that is since I knew that they where probably going to need a lot of animation but also that they wouldn’t need to have too many different moving parts.

RollPlay Balance of Power Live show  Lower third early version

Click to show full animation of the first version

We had a few different options as we started out. The first thing I put together was a completely animated lower third that both appeared on screen and animated away. As you can see this has a lot of moving parts with both the energy swords sliding in (the very first version they actually swung down) and the portraits animating on.

After testing it out we realized that it would  be a better idea to have SirScoots have control over the length of the in and out of the animation. That meant that I had to remove the animation on the portrait, name and slide in. While it all would have look a lot better in the production to have it animate on and off we at the end of the day had to prioritize the limits of what SirScoots could do as the director.

Instead I added moving glowing lights that still gave the whole thing an animation instead of being all static, and of course SirScoots used a slide in effect from the TriCaster. All of the lower thirds had to be rendered out on both sides and as companions as doubles for both sides of the table. In Adobe After Effects I nested  bunch of animation to be able to easily drag and replace things like portraits and animations instead of having to create new animations each time. This also gave the benefit of me being able to only change the source composition and it would update in the rest as well.

Besides the lower thirds for the players and Adam I also created a few information lower thirds. These we’re in the beginning supposed to be created over a static PNG file but after SirScoots tested it out it didn’t look as good as the animated lower third so I created new ones with logos and text instead.

RollPlay Balance of Power live show lower thirds

Final lower thirds (click to see animation)

RollPlay Balance of Power Live show Engage

RollPlay Balance of Power Live show Engage

One thing that didn’t make it into the show that were supposed to be put on screen to explain the board a bit better was the engage key. This was only slightly animated with a glow around the RollPlay dice symbol. This goes to show that when you prep for a live broadcast there’s always things that might not always show up in the final version. This can be due to director decisions or that it simply was forgot but that’s just how things work sometimes.

Prints/set design

RollPlay Balance of Power live show tokens

Poker chips – Photo by SirScoots

We decided to use custom printed poker chips as player tokens so that’s actually the very first asset that was created in the entire package. This was simply created by looking at the specifications needed to get it printed. Using these specifications I created the tokens in a few minutes and got them to JP that very same day. Besides the player tokens we also needed regular tokens to show movement and distance on the board. All I had was PNG files of the icons on these so I had to trace them in Illustrator and put them on A4 sized sheets that then the crew on set could print on cardboard at the printers and cut out themselves.

While this was one of the first things we talked about during the meeting with Adam it wasn’t until the day before the broadcast that we could finalize it. I knew I was going to need the measurements for the table so I could get the proper sizing of it. From there I re-created the board that Adam uses on the regular show but instead of being a low-resolution PNG file I created a vector file that we could scale up.

We ran into an issue and that was that we needed some sort of board. Creating a vector border would take a long time so instead I re-used the tubing asset as a border. So far everything looked good and with an added triangle background (vector as well) we got a nice texture instead of being plain white. This was supposed to be printed down at the printing shop the day before so it was put on hold until Adam arrived on set so I could approve the final design.

One of the last minute changes was to add in more border, portrait, name, strain and wound. These also became the markers for where the automated cameras could catch the shot of the dicing rolling for each player. However I got this message in the morning of the show so that meant that it would be pushed out quickly. One thing that was missed was that the board sizing had changed as well and now needed to be wider to accommodate the player boxes so that change had to be made quickly to get it all done for the deadline for the RollPlay Balance of Power live show.

Logo animation

This is something that never really made it’s way into the show (among a few other things) and it’s the full logo animation. This was supposed to be used to start the entire show (and might still end up in the YouTube version) and was created by using the logo that was created by Zooc. Similar to what I did with the Court of Swords logo (you can see it at the end of the shows on YouTube) I deconstructed the PSD file into seperate PNG files. Now I could have imported the PSD file and animated the groups each by themselves but I didn’t want to run into issues with the layer styles (something that tends to happen from time to time).

RollPlay Balance of Power Live show Full Logo Animation

Full Animation (click to see animation)

After I had exported all of the PNG files it was only a matter of reassembling the pieces into the full animation. With all the pieces in place I went piece by piece and created an animation for each part. To make the workflow a bit simpler I used the shy guy to hide the layers as I kept working on each new layer. On top of this I also used a 3D camera to simulate it moving ever so slightly through a star field. All and all there’s 24 layers in the project file that makes it all move together. The final thing was to switch the button for motion blur to get a more realistic feel and that combined with ease in and easy out it all comes together.

The one you saw in the show was the looped version of this, and it’s actually slightly updated from the reglar overlay version. The reason for this slight update was that I noticed a few new options to make the electricity feel and look a bit more as part of the logo. Since I had already created a long tail on the more animated version (both with and without alpha channel) I was able to take out the last part and extend it out to 5 second loop that could be used in the TriCaster.

RollPlay Balance of Power Live show  Looped Animation

Looped Animation

I can’t really talk about what happened behind the scenes during the show since I was at home here in Sweden. Maybe next time I’ll fly out to be on set to help out a bit faster instead having to have the 5-6 hour delay on the development of assets. All and all working on this project was something new and exciting and sure there was stress and tight deadlines but that’s something you have to deal with in this line of work.

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