Using Toon Boom Storyboard Pro and Harmony, Rauch Brothers Animation is producing groundbreaking animated stories with remarkable speed and creativity.
We all have people in our lives whose stories are inspiring, interesting, or just downright amazing. Though you may know someone whose stories need to be shared with the world, it's the rare occasion that, in a celebrity-obsessed culture, we hear about anyone who isn't an actor, a pop star, or a Kardashian.
Rauch Brothers Animation is changing that with the StoryCorps animated series, produced in collaboration with the non-profit oral history project of the same name.
Dedicated to telling the stories of Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs, the tales are presented in classic character animation, giving a voice to extraordinary folks whose stories would otherwise only ever be heard around kitchen tables, campfires, or over a few drinks at the local pub.
Recently transplanted to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, Rauch Brothers Animation is made up of a distinguished group of seasoned professionals, including -- not surprisingly -- a pair of brothers whose last name just happens to be Rauch.
Mike and Tim Rauch are the co-creators of the StoryCorps animated series, which airs on PBS' flagship documentary program POV, and has already earned a Peabody Award, three Emmy nominations, and two Annie Award nominations.
Tim handles the director/animator duties for StoryCorps, and Mike is the producer/director. The team also includes renowned art director Bill Wray (The Ren & Stimpy Show, The Mighty B!) and the talented and prolific storyboard artist, Rafael Rosado (Animaniacs, Curious George).
To date, the team has produced 23 documentary shorts and one half-hour special with more shorts in production. One of the most recent shorts, "A Good Man", helped to kick off StoryCorps OutLoud, the oral history project's initiative to celebrate and preserve stories of the LGBTQ community.
The StoryCorps series is as ambitious as it is enthralling. The animated aspect of the stories presents time and place with a degree of aspect that is sometimes meditative, often alarming, and always enthralling.
Told in their own words, the series allows us to gain a greater appreciation for the lives of ‘everyday' Americans and their diverse experiences by examining the granular in a particular story through this wonderfully executed combination of narration and animation.
It's no secret that we take a great deal of pride in enabling these kinds of projects with our software. The goal has always been to empower animators to be just as creative as they are willing to allow themselves to be, and this really shines through in the StoryCorps series.
There are eight people on the production team, with more than half working remotely from all across the country.
They begin the process of production on paper, allowing for an immediate and natural means of fleshing out ideas in the conceptual stage. As storyboarding begins in earnest, the process moves to Storyboard Pro.
Mike Rauch explained the process to us in a conversation from his office in Los Angeles.
"When we have an approved animatic, we export all the individual scenes to Harmony— a process that is practically as simple as clicking a single button, where we previously had to spend a day or more in Flash."
The animatic is exported in storyboard panels to Photoshop, providing a rough guide for the background artist to create layouts, a process that is, Mike says, far less labour-intensive and prone to error than it was when working in Flash.
"After the layouts are completed and reimported into Harmony, animation begins, which is a much more enjoyable experience due to Harmony's superior drawing experience."
Using Storyboard Pro and Harmony has allowed the Rauch Brothers Animation team to push the limits of their creativity, something that is always at the top of the list of what is most important at any animation studio.
They've also found relief in the power features of both products. The palette system for paint allows them to begin ink and paint before the final colour markup decisions have been made, allowing the team to quickly and easily make small tweaks during the final stages of production.
Discovery of some of the more powerful features of both Storyboard Pro and Harmony is a continuing and satisfying experience for the team.
"The paint tool's Apply to Multiple Drawings feature simply blew our minds when we discovered it," Mike enthused. "Certain scenes can be painted in a fraction of the time with that one feature. As we continue learning the software, we keep discovering new functionality that is hard to imagine living without."
At the end of the day, what is most important at Rauch Brothers Animation is that they are able to convey an immediate sense of the passion and creative ability behind their work.
As Mike puts it, "We hope they'll think of high-quality character animation for audiences of every kind—especially audiences that commonly get overlooked in the traditional media landscape."
Rauch Bros. Animation creates animation for everything from web shorts to TV interstitials, indie films, and major advertising campaigns. Located in Los Angeles, they carefully craft each frame of animation for excellence in design and entertainment.