Creating Animation from Still Paintings
The video for Rob Thomas’ “Ever the Same” is anything but the same old
music video. Instead it vibrantly intertwines watercolor animation and
live action to create a magical urban environment for Thomas’ crooning.
To reach this end, director Phil Harder once again called on his
longtime collaboration partners at Pixel Farm to create the look and
feel for the video, combining a myriad of digital, and analog, effects
to create an animated watercolor world.
Working with watercolor paintings by LA-based illustrator Greg Ruth,
Pixel Farm developed the style of the animation. Harder then developed
the concept of Thomas as an observer in this illustrated cityscape,
looking out a window at man with a pigeon coop, whose carrier pigeons
make connections with various people throughout the city.
Harder and DP Afshin Shahidi shot 24p HD greenscreen footage of Thomas
and the other principals, the key props, including the pigeon coop and
flocking pigeons, and a stunt woman falling.
After a rough cut by editor Jolynn Garnes of Jagged Edge, Minneapolis,
illustrator Greg Ruth made watercolor paintings matching the
perspective of the live-action shots. Those illustrations were then
sent off to Pixel Farm where they were composited all the elements with
the greenscreen in Discreet Fire.
“It was a lot of work just getting the compositing done, with hundreds
of layers,” said Pixel Farm senior designer/partner Kurt Angell. “As a
straight composite was still pretty video-looking.”
To give it a more organic feel, every other frame of the video was
printed out as individual frames onto paper. Pixel Farm took sandpaper
and a sponge to each of these paper stills, and then shot each one in
sequence with a digital camera and loaded them back into the Fire and
extended the piece by 2X to match the original length of the video. The
reassembled video was again color corrected in Discreet Lustre to add a
more saturated look. Pixel Farm used Apple Shake to stabilize the
The final touch was added by artist Janet Lobberecht, who painted
watercolor over the white pigeons and added subtle swirls in the sky
and over some of the transitions.
“It comes out looking like something one guy spent a year working on,
but we had to crack it out pretty quick but still were able to give it
a real nice look and feel,” said Angell.
Rick Fuller, partner at production company Harder Fuller Films,
produced the video. Fuller, Harder and Pixel Farm also recently teamed
up to create the new video for Hillary Duff, "Beat Of My Heart."