Frame by Frame: Putting Together a Trailer

Today we wanted to show a bit of behind-the-scenes work for Norse Noir: Loki’s Exile, highlighting one of my favourite aspects of our art process - Our rotoscoping techniques!

Rotoscoping is an animation technique dating to the early 1900s, invented by artist Max Fleischer and used in some of the most popular classic silver screen cartoons of the era -  Superman, Betty Boop, Snow White & the Seven Dwarves, and many more. The technique is still used to this day in both feature films and games alike, with titles such as Prince of Persia and Flashback both owing their smooth animation and realistic graphics to use of rotoscoping.

As we’re currently working on our final trailer for Loki’s Exile, which will include both gameplay and animated cut-scenes to be used in the title, we figured this would be a great time to show off some of our art, giving you an idea of what to expect in our trailer.

In creating a video like this, what is essentially a mini-movie, the first step is to draft a script and outline, and then have both the writers and the artists sit down to discuss the script and come up with a brief storyboard for the various scenes within. Once the team has a firm grasp on how the scenes should look, work then begins on filming.

For this particular scene in the trailer, we needed a shot of a mobster looking menacing and threatening, so we put our coder/sound guy/all-around cool dude Thomas in the appropriate attire, tossed him in front of a camera, and told him to give us his best Wolverine impersonation.


Yeah, that’s about right.


Notice that while the positioning and the angle are both right, some parts of Thomas have been chopped off in the shot; to compensate for this, the artist has added a small border to the outside of the frame, to give them enough space to draw the missing lines & details, as well as allowing our film editor additional edge space for cropping & positioning.

After this footage is shot it’s sent off to our artist Freya, who then begins the work of drawing over the image. In the old days, this was accomplished by projecting an image of the frame to be drawn over onto a glass slide or table top; these days we have the joys of Photoshop, and can simply paint in multiple layers or tweak transparency as needed to get the best result. This also makes for a much less cramped workspace overall.


This guy looks like he knows the pain of stubbing your toe on a drafting table.


In using the filmed reference model, drawing the line art needed for the character becomes a much faster prospect, freeing our artist up to move on to the coloration and shading part of the process much sooner. Typically a set of flat, basic colors are chosen first, used to fill in the general areas of the line art, and then both highlights and shadows are painted in as additional details.


I feel… pretty.


And there we have a frame! From here the frames move to our artist OJ, who drafts and adds in the backgrounds for each frame as needed, typically taken from the same areas used and explorable in the game.


A pawn shop and a mobster just fits, somehow.


Once the background is added, this is now a complete frame and ready to be added into the trailer. Each frame has varying amounts of complexity and takes differing amounts of time, but in using techniques like rotoscoping we not only gain in time spent but also create a style for the title that harkens back to the era of its setting.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this small preview of the upcoming trailer for Norse Noir: Loki’s Exile - Make sure to stay tuned for more news and information coming soon!


All done!


    1. We haven’t settled on an exact date yet but are aiming for a general “Winter 2014″ release, so hopefully soon. Thank you for your support!

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