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Is this the best “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” parody ever?

Tags: Storyboard Pro Animation Film Harmony Customer Story Tips and Tricks Hobbyist

While the December 15 release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” may seem far, far away, the force is already strong among the fandom. From conjecture that it is Finn, and not Rey, who is the titular last Jedi to theories about the colour of Snoke’s lightsaber, the online community is buzzing like a swarm of TIE Fighters. Lifelong “Star Wars” fan and self-taught animator Jason Venus skipped the speculation for something spectacular: an animated parody of the film’s trailer. 

 

While Venus’ “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” trailer parody is in sync with the original’s music and voiceover, he replaced the imagery with his own animated humorous homage — created in Toon Boom Storyboard Pro and Harmony software.

Toon Boom caught up with Jason Venus to discover what inspired his “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” parody, how he did it all in 100 hours and what he has learned using Harmony every day for the last four years. 

jason-venus-toon-boom.jpgSource: Jason Venus.

Hi Jason! What inspired you to do this Star Wars parody?
JV: As a child of the 70s and 80s, I grew up with “Star Wars”. I remember being taken to the cinema, where what seemed like thousands of people were outside queuing to get in — the atmosphere was electric and left an impression on me.

When I have time to work on a personal project, a “Star Wars” parody is usually at the top of my list. If there’s a chance to animate a lightsaber firing up or create artwork based around the “Star Wars” universe, then I’m pretty much first in line — it all just looks so damn cool.

What fuelled the creative direction and comedy of you parody?
JV: I have two creative requirements when planning a parody. One is I want to create something fun to watch, throw in some silly ideas and add elements of humour — as you would expect from a parody. Second is I want it to look really, really cool. This often means I have to sacrifice one to feed the other, and throughout production I am torn.

lightsaber-jason-venus-toonboom.pngSource: Jason Venus.

With this particular parody, my main goal was to keep everything timed to the music while still deviating from the official trailer as I felt it was lacking enough cool moments with lightsabers. In my book, you can never have enough lightsabers! I also used this as an opportunity to show how Rey’s lightsaber-wielding powers could look.

How long did it take you to do?
JV: The storyboard itself didn’t take too long to put together, but even by my standards it was rough. That said, it was enough to get my initial ideas down on paper and motivate me to start animating. After a morning thinking about the approach, drawing up a rough storyboard and doing some initial character concepts, I was ready to dive straight into Harmony to finalize the characters.

All character artwork from this point onwards was created in Harmony to give me maximum control. In total, the project took around three weeks to complete — I would say it must have been at least 100 hours of work.

jason-venus-star-wars-toonboom-harmony.pngSource: Jason Venus.

The animation is very strong. Did you do it by yourself?
JV: All of the character design and Harmony animation, which makes up around 80 percent of the project, was done by myself with assistance from my work colleague Paul Ainsworth on post work. Over the years we have developed a really efficient way of working together, bringing our own unique skills and expertise to what we produce.  

Can you give some details on how you used Harmony?
JV: A majority of the effects like the lightsabers, glows on the floor, and shading and highlights on the characters were all done in Harmony using various nodes such as glow, shadow, peg transformations and blending. In particular, I used a textured image and the blending and mask nodes to give the background artwork a bit more grit.

How did you learn how to use Toon Boom so well?
JV: At first glance Toon Boom can seem quite daunting, but if you focus on one particular task things start to make sense. The biggest mistake most first-time users of Toon Boom software make is they dive in with something like a walk cycle and expect magic to happen. Rather than trying to learn it all on day one, I learned enough to do the job I needed doing. Instead of moving a whole person, I created an arm and played with the different ways I could animate that. Once I got comfortable with the arm, I worked on a leg, then a head, and before I knew it I was able to piece together a full body with reasonable proficiency.

toon-boom-harmony-3d-star-wars.pngSource: Jason Venus.

What features do you like most about Toon Boom Harmony?
JV: Without a doubt the coolest feature is node view. The way it allows you to structure and control your scenes and characters makes working so efficient. The blending node is also great for overlaying textures as it has several options to choose from, each giving different effects — I mostly used ‘overlay’, but ‘multiply’ can also be really useful.

What advice would you give to a young animator wanting to create fan content?
JV: Soak up as much knowledge as possible. Understanding more about the various softwares available means you can make more informed decisions as you develop your skills in the industry and you will find it easier to see where you want to eventually set your focus.

star-wars-the-last-jedi-toonboom.pngSource: Jason Venus.

When thinking about what to create, a good place to start is subjects you already love. I make no secret of being a “Star Wars” fan, so if I have spare time, I naturally lean towards “Star Wars” or sci-fi subject matter.

Also, with short form content, it doesn’t have to be perfect. That said, I keep telling myself this, but time and again I find myself getting carried away and spending far more time than was necessary.

Have you used Toon Boom Harmony to bring your fan creativity to life? Let us know in the comments below or email pmak@toonboom.com about a blog feature!

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