Originally written in 2009 and titled “Doing It Like Columbus”, This story was about the simple idea of humans seeing ourselves as an extremely intelligent species. However, what if we’re somewhere near a potato on that spectrum to other “alien” life?
After a couple months of development, there was just something missing in this story and it took a 7 year hiatus, but it was never forgotten.
With some changes in story and discovery into how to tell this story in 2015, “Only Human”, was born.
As with all internal projects, the goal is to tell a story in an interesting way that pushes us to become better artists and to express the ideas important to us.
An unfamiliar idea to “Only Human”, was that those old ideas that didn’t work out in the past, can be picked back up and re-purposed to make an idea so good that it HAS to be finished.
The primary inspiration for “Only Human”, was the initial story developed in 2009 but with newer references like “Interstellar” and the writings of Neil deGrasse Tyson.
The initial story was about how humans heroically travel to Mars in search for alien life, only to get there and realize a technical flaw such as the camera only being able to turn 45 degrees made it impossible to see a giant alien city just a few degrees rotation out of frame. Once development on this project got started, it was important for the main idea to stay the same while being more open than previously with how it would be executed.
This story was driven by 2 main questions:
1 – What if aliens have come to this planet but left because they believed we were useless to them?
2 – What are we missing everyday with our heads stuck in our phones?
Early on with this project, there was a lot of experimenting and discovery. Everything from stop motion animation to hand drawn cel animation was tested, but what would be the best way to tell this story? After compiling some reference and doing some tests, we landed on something more playful. Yes, this is a relatively serious idea, but let’s show some humility by understanding and admitting that we’re not always as smart as we could be.
To get that more playful feeling, we went with a rubber hose character animation style and a flat design that resembled the stitching of a quilt to represent a child-like quality of this cautionary tale.
Design & Storyboard
Once the story and design were decided on, it was time to interestingly tell this story in a way we haven’t explored in the past. We’d have separated shots with cuts much like a movie. We’d also use more depth, cinematic composition and meaning in these shots as well. In film, it’s important to make sure every single shot has meaning to the overall story by paying attention to details.
The animation for “Only Human”, was developed as a compliment to the design and story. Rubbery, smooth, quick actions with small motion details in the environment make the simple designs feel like a complex world with playful interactions. Those playful interactions are what we relied on in this piece to determine the tone.
Sound is one of the most important elements to every animation. We were able to create a more complete experience for our viewers combining both the video component and the audio. All the audio for this piece was created specifically for “Only Human”. The initial discussions lead us to the intersection of anything Dreamworks, and the soundtrack for Interstellar. Something triumphant but still playful to hold true to the tone of the overall piece.
Sometimes, during projects, you realize the need for something new to be made to help you tell the story. In the case of “Only Human”, we needed a font that just didn’t exist yet. So, we made it. This was just one of the many side effects to this project. Others were less visual like process improvements.
Overall, we’re really proud of this piece. Internal projects don’t often go quickly, but it’s the struggle and perseverance that makes each project release like winning a major battle.
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