This “making of” is about the new interactive website and the animated series for the exhibition at stolenmemory.org by the Arolsen Archives. If you want to know more about the project, have a look at this page.

Every project starts with a research – on the topic and of possible references – and with a brainstorming involving the entire team. And #StolenMemory was no exception. After the scripts were drafted by the copywriter in close cooperation with the creative director, the stories for each movie were first visualized using the storybeats technique and later translated into storyboards. Based on the latter ones all illustrations were made by our illustrator – she made approximately 40 separated illustrations for each fim! – and at the same time the texts were recorded by experienced voice over artists and actors. Thanks to a boardmatic – an animated storyboard with the voice over – we were able to judge the dynamic and the timing of each film. This allowed us to see whether the scenes were too long or too short or if we had to adjust or add extra parts. Meanwhile our sound designer set at work to compose an ad hoc music that could support and enrich the atmosphere of the stories. With the first music draft, the voice over and all ready illustrations we proceeded with the final phase of this first part of the production: the animatic. This is the first stage before starting the proper animation where the client can already get a general feeling on how the final film is going to look like, on how all levels (audio and visual) work together. Upon approval the team started animating. Instead of concentrating immediately on the single details, we decided to animate each film roughly at once and collected feedback within the team before moving to the fine tuning of sequences and elements. This method allowed us to have a better control of process and overall timing. 

Due to the scope of the project, the workload was divided among the three motion designers involved. The films required a huge amount of riggings – known also as Skeletal animation is a technique in computer animation making it possible to create puppets for characters or objects and to be able to move – and character animation.  They strongly express the emotions through their actions. Although we read all the background material, in order to create the proper atmospheres and scenarios, we often needed to go back to the research and dive into the single biographies, trying to imagine how they would behave in those situations. We then acted out these actions and postures and used them as references to create the character animation. 

The lockdown presented another challenge to the team: we had to leave the office and work from home, in the middle of the production. As a team we used to sit next to each other and give feedback constantly. But the corona virus outbreak changed our working system. We had to assign the tasks to each in a very structured manner and communicate intensively. But eventually it turned out well: we did great cooperative work, based on our very transparent communication and full trust on each other.

In a production, the cherry on the cake is the mixdown of the audio track included sound effects and foley sounds that accentuates and underlines specific parts in the dramaturgy of a film. After the three animations –  both in their German and in their English version – were ready, we handed over the files to our sound designer who, following the directions of the rest of the team (especially motion designers and creative director) finished up the work. 

Techniques & Tools

Our talented and skilled team needed of course support in terms of softwares and tools, from organising the general workflow and communicating with each other to the specific programs for illustration and animation.

Basecamp is always our safe base, where everything is posted and documented. Milanote is for us a relatively new collaborative tool that helped the motion team to collect references, ideas and material, to organize the tasks and to keep track of both process and progress. It gave us enormous flexibility and was fundamental when it came to plan the rigging schedule or the preparation of the single illustrations for the animation.  

Each phase had its own tool: for the scripts celtx ; for the boardmatics Boords ; for the illustrations the first sketches on paper and post its (for the storybeats) were then translated into proper scenes with Procreate, Adobe Photoshop CC and Adobe Illustrator CC; for the animation Adobe After Effect, Adobe encoder CC and Adobe Photoshop CC. The use of specific plugins and duplicators played a major role, especially for the rigging part and among the most useful we can mention Joysticks´n Slider, Duick Bassel, Limber, Rubber Hose, Overlord, True Comp Duplicator, Flow and Motion 2. Moreover, for the animations we did small sections of cel animation on PS with the extension Animation´s Toolbar pro.   

And for the Website we used WordPress as the CMS and for the prototyping / UX and Sketch for the final UI.

A great honor

It has been a great honor for us to be part in such a unique and meaningful project, and we hope our work would help #StolenMemory and the fundamental work of the Arolsen Archives to achieve more visibility and therefore being able to return the still missing personal items. And to keep the discussion about the past, political persecution and racism constantly alive. Not only not to repeat history but also to honor people that were hurt.

Credits

We want to thank the Arolsen Archives for trusting us, especially Anke Münster and Dorothee Kaser who followed and supported us in this journey.

From our core and external team we thank:

Andres Alarcon – Illustrator
Angela Schulz zur Wiesch – Creative Director for the Website
Arne Keunecke – Team Lead Website
bleech – WordPress-Agency
Charlotte Klug – UX/UI designer
Cristina Tarpo-Wittich – Script and Copywriter for the animation series and the Website
Dulcie Smart – Voice Over Artist (represented by Speaker Search), English version
Fabian Fenk – Support Sound Designer
Francesca La Vigna – Project Manager films
Kika Klat – Art Director for the films & Lead Illustrator
Leo Rey – Creative Director & Lead Motion Designer
Luise Lunow – Voice Over Artist, German version
Meng Chang – Motion Designer & Support Illustrator
Nikolaus Radeke – Sound Technician and voice recording
Peter Becker – Voice Over Artist (Speaker Search), both versions
Peter Eglitis – Voice Over Artist (Speaker Search), English version
Qian Hao – Motion Designer
Roland Hemmo – Voice Over Artist, German version
Sandra Klitsche – Project Manager Website
Toby Mory – Motion Director & Team Lead Motion, Producer
Uwe Bossenz – Music & Sound Designer