Behind the Scenes: “Trace & Bake” | Overwatch


When you’re a kid and you are playing with action figures, and you’re imagining you’re a character from a video game or a comic book, there’s a special magic
that you have as a child that… …the only place
I’ve been able to really apply it fully is stop-motion animation. It’s so exciting to see puppets I made
moving like they’re alive. I know exactly how it happens. I still can’t believe it. My role at Blizzard is CG animator. Every day I go to work and I am telling stories
for all the different titles. Blizzard Academy contacted me. “People have been asking for a stop-motion
class forever here at Blizzard. Would you be interested in teaching it?”
“That would be awesome!” Also, what an excuse I can use to finally
bring one of these things to life. I had just received the Overwatch Collector’s Edition, and it comes with this beautiful Soldier: 76 statue. I hate sitting on the sidelines. And the story basically came from walking around this campus at night, seeing amazing statues, but the lights are off because not many people are in there, but it felt like… “These statues come to life at night. I bet you they play Overwatch.” And I thought that would be the idea for the test that I’m going to show the class. That video took over
three-and-a-half weeks, four weeks, but I was working non-stop. After showing the Overwatch team, they said, “OK, come up with some ideas
for these specific events, and we’ll see if something lands.” The Overwatch Anniversary
popped out at me, for sure, because it just seemed so celebratory. The idea of puppets coming to life and being excited about their anniversary
was really fun to me. Do you know what today is? Leave me alone. Trace & Bake was made by me and my wife Shel, and a few of our friends. It was a five-person team. Shel handled the sets and the puppets, and I handled the animation
and the directing, storyboards and stuff like that. Blimey! I’ve got it! First, there’s the concept. And we love that part. It’s really fun working together. We just brainstormed, then drew some sketches
and came up with some ideas. And then there’s making storyboards for an animatic for it. We had a rough edit, then brought in
Blizzard editor Jake Patton. He did a really great take at it and brought a lot of humor to it. Silly me! And then we start doing research
for the puppets. Each puppet has its own unique challenges, so we research how to make hoods, or how to make capes, or how to paint. And then we make the molds and we do the silicone paint. We make the armatures. We put it all together, pull it out,
and then there’s a seaming process, because the puppets will have a line
where the molds met. This is a beautiful, beautiful pull. Yes, it is. We built this in our garage, in our living room, in our kitchen, on the front porch, on the back deck. Our house has been Trace & Bake for the last 12 weeks. We have two very different sets
in this film. We wanted a really cool gamer’s desk, then a very normal suburban kitchen. OK, so, we’re transforming
this corner of our garage into a kitchen. Shel built this amazing kitchen. And these are totally fake. These walls all come out
so I can get under there. So, I’ll go through
and drill actual holes in the set. Shel puts these little bolts
in all of the toes of the characters. It will allow her to balance and stand, and hold different unique poses. Tracer’s Blink
was actual blue medical tube. We cut them into short pieces
that we could stop-motion replace. All the candles are wired to the dimmer, so when Justin’s animating
he can turn them high, then down for the next frame, then high for the frame after,
so they flicker. Tracer was spinning
around the cake, making it, and we had this idea, at the very end she was just going
to launch up and throw a candle down. And we said, “Why don’t we have her launch
all the way up to the front of the camera? She’ll throw it and zip out.” After the animation, there’s giving the shots
to our compositor, Cam Leeburg, who’s been wonderful, and he delivers the shots to Blizzard. Then we get to put a big “D”
on our tiny little big board that says that shot’s delivered. Not bad. I saw that! My personal goal
from the very beginning of this is to pay respects
to these amazing artists at Blizzard. To do justice to these amazing characters that clearly people
have put so much love into creating. The worlds we create
are larger than just games. I do think we’ll be doing more of this
in the future. Happy Anniversary, Overwatch! Are you kidding me? Hey, good show, Reaper. It’s time to get back in the box. Oh, come on, man. Dude!

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