Recently I saw Sam from the great band Cheem talking about the difficulty of producing good music videos right now on Twitter (or is it X? lol I want 2 d*e) and in the mentions of the tweet, the DC-based DIY rock band band Two Thumbs Down shared their zero-budget video for the song "See You Later." WHOA, I thought. This is SICK. It features dynamic hand-drawn animation traced over live footage of the band (through a process called rotoscoping) and the scrappy and organic visual style pairs so well with energy of the song.
I DM'd Austin, the vocalist/guitarist for the band, and asked him about the behind-the-scenes process of making the music video — check out our lightly edited conversation below.
Had you ever taken on animation/video-making of this magnitude before?
No, not at all haha. I’ve made videos at this scale before — filmmaking was my creative outlet before I pivoted to music! — but never animated anything beyond, like, 10 to 15 seconds. For this video in particular I actually edited the whole thing from the source material first to get the timing down, and then I traced everything from there. Since rotoscoping is obviously tracing over stuff as opposed to animating from scratch, I figured it would be easier and more achievable. And it was! But it still took FOREVER.
Not that I didn’t have respect for animators before, but having never made anything like this before, after 8 months of tracing/drawing on printer paper over my laptop screen, scanning the frames in one by one, and then lining it all up, I have so much more respect for what they do. That shit can get so tedious!
Holy scheisse. Is there anything you can do with rotoscoping to make things less tedious?
I wish there was, haha. I’ve got nearly 2000 sheets of paper in a folder somewhere. I did a lot of it out of order to preserve my sanity. I started with the sequence at the end where there’s lots of quick cuts, since there’d be more variety of things to draw, but I’d also switch to drawing a different frame or different part of the video when I’d get burnt out on any one specific section. So I’d kind of hop around; to keep organized, I numbered all the frames (corresponding to the frame of the video it was) so I could easily keep track of everything. I also used lots of markers in Premiere to mark parts that I wanted to come back to or that weren’t complete or were missing frames.
Another thing I did to stay sane was take advantage of the inherent scrappiness of the video and just change colors and stuff when I got bored while drawing. I was kind of going for a sketchy vibe where not every frame had to be perfect (because that is truly out of my skillset animation-wise, given this is the only animation I’ve ever really made lol) which freed me up to kind of get looser with it when I got bored. The flip side of that was, especially while drawing the same frame of me playing a guitar or something for the hundredth time, I would get burnt out and could tell my drawing was starting to get sloppy. In those cases I would just pivot to a different part of the video, or working on one of the (mercifully short) sections that I decided it would be a good idea to do in full color lol.
Parts like that I definitely spaced out, because I would start coloring in the whole drawing and then it would sink in that I had eleven more frames of the same thing to color in too. I’d also sometimes just pivot to scanning in pages if I was getting too burnt out from drawing. It was kind of like assembling a puzzle very slowly and out of order, and also you have to draw on all of the puzzle pieces.
That's incredible! Wow, a huge undertaking. I think the multi-color / theme thing ended up working great. Where did the underlying footage come from?
Thank you!! I’m glad you think so, haha. A lot of the underlying footage was just various videos from shows from our first year or two of being a band. We started the band in our last year of high school and wrote the song right before our last show before Will and I left for college that August of 2019. So it’s footage from all throughout 2019 and early 2020, pre-pandemic obviously. I mixed in footage of live performances, but also just footage of the three of us, footage from the road (not on tour, bc we didn’t actually ever truly tour in that iteration of the band — literally just footage from out the side of the car lol), and other misc. stuff. We also each recorded some videos on our phones of us singing along to the song so that I could trace over them.
The biggest inspiration for this, to that aspect specifically, was this rotoscoped Mrs. Magician video that Derrick from mega64 co-created:
So this has been a long time in the making! Is that trippy to see that many years of work culminating in this video?
For sure! Though the video itself only took eight months, it was certainly cool trying to capture that whole first period of being in this band. Especially not being able to play or go to shows during Covid meant a lot of looking back at all that old footage, so I was glad to find a place for it in one way or another.
Awesome. And what's up next for the band, anything you are excited about?
Yes! We just recorded a new record in Baltimore with Josh from Combat at his college’s recording studio, which I’m super excited about. It’s seven tracks and the highest fidelity we’ve ever been recorded in thus far — I think it’s (hopefully) really gonna blow people away, we sound like a completely different band! Even if it doesn’t, I’m regardless very proud of the songs on it. I demoed them pretty extensively, but Max and Holden and Tommie and my brother Christian brought a lot to the songs with their playing and additions and general shredding that I think made everything ten times better and I’m super excited for people to hear it. It’s a lot darker and weirder and more like Joyce Manor + early Weezer than our previous stuff.
Hey, I hear "early Weezer" and I'm so there.