Baseball-based animated music video features great character design

Read how Henrique Barone created the animated characters for Mike Edel's The Closer music promo.

Relating a story about a youthful loss of a baseball game and a parent – and the effect they have on the lives of a young man and his team, The Closer has a minimal, classic feel with fantastic design, animation, lighting and compositing.

Producer/director Jorge Canedo from Giant Ant in Vancouver was set to animate the story behind the song, but decided the scale of the project demanded he bring in team-mate Henrique Barone, an animator/filmmaker from Brazil on character design and animation direction duties.

Read about the animation process for The Closer by using the slideshow controls above and right

“The story about these characters is an amazing and beautiful metaphor about unpredictable events, which shape who we are,” says Henrique. “At the end, it wasn't a song just about baseball. It was a song about life; and so I started relating to the song very much, getting very excited to get in the diamond and pitch that ball.”

Barone said being involved at an early stage meant he had the chance to bring some references, think about the mood and feel for each part of the song and the best shots to achieve that mood.

Mike Edel had a clear idea and offered good descriptions of how he imagined the characters.

As Henrique explains: “His comments like "I feel that this video should have more of an adult feel, not like Saturday morning cartoons that are super jumpy, bouncy and happy' helped a lot to bring the character design to a more adult look, which is different from other things I've done before.”

With Cesar 'El Diablo' Martinez on art direction, layout, and storyboard, Arm Sattavorn on storyboard and compositing and Breno Licursi making up the team on 2D animation, the film went into production with the help of funding from Public Records and a grant from Telus.

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Henrique says the idea was to keep the style very minimal and clear.

“I chose to go for simple shapes that would match this concept and would also be easy to work with,” he explains. At the beginning we had had this idea of playing a lot with negative spaces, making some parts of the characters disappear against some parts of the background. Fe Ribeiro gave a huge hand helping with a fresh approach for the colours and final looks.”

“The change that actually made the design hit the spot, putting the characters in a more adult and serious mood, was to draw them with actual human proportions,” he adds.

The animation was first intended to be traditional frame-by-frame, but the schedule precluded this approach.

“The solution was to bring as much as possible of this look and feel to a more production friendly approach, which involved having the characters broken up into pieces [symbols] and use them based on a traditionally drawn rough guide,” explains Henrique. “Some of the very last details such as the little lines in the arms and legs connections were then drawn frame by frame to help enhance a traditional look.”

“It was a very good opportunity to find that sweet spot between art and production that makes a project flow nicely,” Henrique adds.