I was recently asked by activist, playright & DC radio host Kymone Tecumseh Freeman to create a short, impactful animation video that would highlight the painful and too frequent violence in the streets of present-day Chicago. Kymone wanted to focus particularly on the recent murder of Hadiya Pendleton, a young 15 year old girl & Chicago resident, who was gunned down senselessly in late January (pictured right).
Kymone needed the video to set the stage for a broad, grassroots effort to raise awareness about violence of this kind and get involved in the “Fight Against Violence!” #FAV. I was asked to use the iconic painting “The Problem We All Live With” by Norman Rockwell … somehow manipulate the painting to create an animation sequence, tying in with Hadiya’s tragic murder.
I accepted the challenge and I was proud to have been called on to participate.
The painting depicts a young black girl being escorted to school by suit-clad men, Deputy U.S. Marshalls. She’s dressed in an all white school outfit surrounded by her protectors, heads out of frame. A recently hurled tomato has its guts splattered on the wall and floor. The wall also has ominous writing “K.K.K.” and “Nigger”, heightening our understanding of the tension, danger and context around this girl’s commute. She and the four men seem undeterred by this. Together they walk … onward to school, to peace and to progress.
HOW TO DO IT – using Adobe Photoshop & After Effects
To morph this still image to a moving animation, I didn’t want to change very much from the girl and men who are frozen in walking stance. In order to get this to work, I would have to elongate the picture somehow. In Adobe Photoshop I extended the canvas in either direction and had to copy and paste segments of the wall and floor on the extension. I used the “clone stamp” and “blur” tools to get a fairly good extension of the wall and floor so the new picture was a full 3x as wide as the original.
The next step was to import the picture into Adobe After Effects, apply a few color corrections, import a camera, create an optical flare light source, cut out and duplicate the men (to create the effect of several more Marshalls) and place all of these into a simulated 3D space.
At this point, with the elements separated, I can move each of them separately and coordinate a scene that resembles walking, with some Marshalls nearer to the camera walking briskly, while the girl has alot of men surrounding and protecting her. With some tweaking, I added some beautiful pictures of Hadiya, sound effects, music and pictures of mourners. Each choice, from the speed of the camera moves, to the color tint, to the sound effects and music had a profound difference, I found, on the impact and “feel” of the final video.
The final video had 2 versions, set to different music: Marvin Gaye’s – Mercy Me and Gary Jules’ – Mad World.
Please share these videos as the “Fight Against Violence” movement is an obvious one that we all can get behind … and they need your support.
Learn more at the Fight Against Violence Facebook Page.
“Mercy Me” Version
“Mad World” Version