From Thin Air - Making a Promo (Part 3)

Happy Saturday, anyone who’s reading this!

Welcome back for part three of our "Making a Promo” series where you’ll find out everything that goes into creating beautifully designed and drastically underwatched promotional videos.

Today we’ll explore a short animation test of our lead character, Tom.

An animation test of our leading man, Tom. You know, as in Thomas.

Step 6 (we think)

Testing out your animation is important not just to decide how your character moves but also forces you to be more familiar with them. We started this animation as just a round red ball with a face and stem. But after animating Tom, we know that he is a single father with three kids and a golden retriever puppy that gives just too many kisses! His job as an account manager at a struggling small business isn’t fulfilling enough so he works as a paid extra on weekends.

This video was created with several different design/animation programs. First we used Autodesk Sketchbook (which just went entirely free - so get it, it’s honestly the best digital drawing software) to design the character. You can go as far as you want in terms of completing the character: thumbnail, line drawing, shaded, inked, or even fully rendered (our preference).

Then when we find a character we are happy with and ready to animate, we export the drawing to ToonBoom Harmony where we build an animatable character. Depending on the style of the animation, the construction of the character can vary widely. Tom, however, is very simple so we went for a basic character rig (shapes with pivot points).

ToonBoom Harmony interface

ToonBoom Harmony interface

With Tom’s basic animation finished, we exported the animation to a PNG sequence for later use.

Next we went back to Autodesk Sketchbook to create a background for Tom to sit on. We cheated a little bit and built an environment within Blender which we then used Sketchbook to paint on top of. Isn’t it magical how you can use so many different bits of software for just one project?

From Blender to Sketchbook

From Blender to Sketchbook

Once we were satisfied with the backgrounds, we imported everything into Adobe After Effects for compositing. We also added sound at this point (which is basically stealing sound effects from YouTube and talking into an iPhone). True, you can add sound in Harmony but we’ve been using After Effects for so long that the workflow is just ingrained at this point.

Next up, we might try a few more animation tests with our other characters (Enis the Tennis Ball or White Guy the Tennis Player) but what we’re mainly focused on now is creating the finished animation.

Keep an eye out for that next bit of behind-the-scenes fun!

Best Buddies Spotlight

Obscure&Co. (along with talented Lizzy Fay) had the opportunity to visit a grade school outside of Chicago to experience the Best Buddies organization firsthand.

Best Buddies is a non-profit organization that pairs a buddy who has an intellectual or developmental disability with a friend or mentor. Unfortunately, those that were handed a disability often find themselves on the outside when it comes to socialization. Best Buddies has been changing that for the last 30 years.

We met with teachers, students, and parents of some of these buddies during our visit while filming a spotlight on one very special friendship: Anna and Fiona.

Best Buddies Anna & Fiona

If you ever get the chance to help out with a Best Buddies organization or event - make sure you do in some way or another! It’s a truly rewarding experience!

Donate now at

From Thin Air - Making a Promo (Part 2)

Step 5

So we’ve got our characters figured out. We’ve spent hours upon hours making sure the mouth is just the right distance from the eyes and we are just too tired to continue any alterations. Now comes a little thing we’ve found to be very helpful: the Animatic!

The animatic is your storyboard. The only difference is that you can add motion and sound to get your timing right. Doing this now is so much easier than altering a high-quality animation down the line. Saving time and sanity is essential in animation since every other aspect of it can be soooooooo so tedious.

Check out the animatic for our Tomato promo video below!

Test animatic for a promo video starring a tomato.

To be Continued…

We’ve got our story, our characters, and now even our timing and sound down. After you’ve sent your animatic to your mom and she’s told you how wonderful you are, it’s time to get down to the dirty work of animating your final version. Whether you use ToonBoom Harmony (our favorite) or the corner of your Sociobiology textbook, animation is not for the faint of heart.

So please, if you have any existing heart conditions, consult your doctor to see if animation is right for you.

You've Got the Pieces

We decided to make this little promo to illustrate how every company has a story. A story told in the wrong way, however, doesn’t help anyone.

Think of any of Dr. Seuss’s books. Without his wide vocabulary of non-existent words, we’d be left with a typical nursery rhyme — and I can’t remember ANY of those. Or what if Mozart had written all his music on a See ‘n Say? I’m not even sure how he would do that but he might not have been so memorable.

At Obscure & Company, we want to put your pieces together for you in a way no one will forget!