Patrick Murphy Talks Annoying Orange
From web short sensation to hit Cartoon Network TV show, Dane Boedigheimer’s Annoying Orange may be blazing a trail for the future of topical issue - social network driven television productions. Like South Park, Annoying Orange has always been driven by the immediacy of fan reaction to characters and stories as well as from reactions to real-time events in contemporary culture. Unlike South Park, Annoying Orange blends live action with animation, which requires an even more sophisticated integration of production disciplines to achieve fast, cost effective and high quality episode turnaround. And while complete shows are not yet turned around in a single week, such a production goal is not outside the realm of possibility given the direction the production is currently headed.
One of the key artists helping design, build and refine the show’s production pipeline is VFX Supervisor and Animation Director Patrick Murphy, who along with other talented personnel at Burbank post-production house Kappa Studios, is currently at work producing 40 episodes for the show’s second season. By building an integrated in-house production pipeline within Kappa, based on key Adobe technology, Patrick has enabled the show’s writers and producers to exercise tremendous creative freedom free from many of the common, costly technological restraints that make this type of production so difficult to sustain. Patrick’s background as a senior visual effects artist on shows like Avatar, Clash of the Titans and Prometheus has taught him many important lessons about reigning in production costs and implementing proven tech tools to better enable artists to be creative rather than waste valuable time grappling with inefficient pipeline tools and procedures. I recently had a chance to talk to Patrick about his work on the show, how he has integrated Adobe’s Creative Suite 6 and other tools into his pipeline and how his experience has helped producers make a less expensive and better looking show.
Dan Sarto: Can you tell me a bit about the show’s production? How are you and Kappa Studios involved?
Patrick Murphy: Annoying Orange originated on the Internet as a YouTube sensation. And because of that one of the things Dane Boedigheimer, the show’s creator, did regularly was create and craft the content of the show in response to what the viewers were saying about the previous episodes. He setup this social media interaction dynamic that Cartoon Network wanted to continue for the television series.
Furthermore, what that also meant was a lot of the kinks in the pipeline for creating the web series had already been worked out. The goal here wasn’t so much to try and reinvent the wheel, but to enhance it and create a larger world for Annoying Orange and all the other characters. So from the artistic side, those were two of the parameters that we had to meet to be successful. Of course, we also had to look at production schedules. For TV, they of course are longer [than for a webisode]. But that really also means the producers want to have greater production value. So the biggest thing, when you look at all she show’s different requirements, is whether or not we have all the infrastructure required to pull it off.
One thing that’s particularly interesting about Orange, which is probably the most obvious, is that we have live action mouths that are composited on top of art assets or photography. This is very similar to a show from the 60s called Clutch Cargo, where they used a technique called Syncro-Vox. Syncro-Vox is really just an optical printer designed by this guy Edwin Gillette where I believe they just took actors mouths and put that on top of traditional cel animation. Whether on purpose or not, Dane essentially was mimicking a process that was born out of the need to produce a show with a very small budget in a short amount of time.
So using the parameters the executive producers gave us, looking at the entire show, I asked the question, “What’s the best way to pull this off?” And the first answer was that you want to have flexibility. But flexibility in this particular instance was not just about the animation. It was about an entire set of production resources, from scripting to pre-production, the onset shoot, the initial post-production, animation, visual effects, editorial, color correction, sound, the whole gamut of all the services required. The reason we needed such flexibility was that at its core, the show is supposed to grow and change in response to the opinions of the viewers.
So, Kappa Studios in particular has been poised to offer all of those services in one turnkey solution, I know that sounds like some kind of cheesy marketing piece, but it’s true. We have camera rentals here, we have offline editorial, online services, color correction, duplication, even third party QC in the same building, which is really, really helpful when it comes down to the wire having to deliver a show.
Basically everything is in one house. So for the producers as well as myself, it allows for a truly organic type of workflow. When I say “organic,” I mean organic in the sense that animators are getting up, walking away from their desks, going into an edit, talking with an editor, possibly changing the edit, getting it approved by the producers who are across the hall and suddenly, we are off running in a new direction.
I don’t think you can get that organic responsiveness anywhere out there. Everything requires phone calls, emails, change orders, all that other stuff. We need to do away with all of that. Throw all of that away and really have what I call an organic and flexible type of workflow that can respond to the needs of the client, the demands of the network or the demands of S&P, whatever the issue may be. So that’s what we’ve been building with this pipeline. We wanted to make sure that we had access to every single aspect of production throughout the production schedule. That’s one thing that Kappa has really done phenomenally well and that’s ultimately why we’re back here again for Season 2.