Bill Sneed for Outside Royalty

It’s always pretty impressive when we come across a piece of work that was pretty much single-handedly done by one artist, and done very well. Case in point is Bill Sneed’s latest music video “Ohio” for the band Outside Royalty. The video follows the journey of a camper truck as it navigates through surreal transforming environments.

Long-term readers are probably familiar with Bill’s work throughout the past few years. He has a knack for quirky characters and a unique sense of humor. He spent some time in London working with Bit State and then returned stateside to Los Angeles not too long ago to freelance. Although, considering Outside Royalty hails from London, it looks like Bill brought some of the UK back with him. We had the pleasure to ask Bill a few questions about the project.

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Bill Sneed for Outside Royalty

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How did this collaboration between you and Outside Royalty come to happen?
I’d heard of the band while working in London and, being a fan of their music, contacted them to get the rights to use one of their tracks to do an animated music video. This month, they have plans to release the track, “Ohio,” as a single, we agreed to work on that track to do something in a different direction from their previous efforts. So, I wrote a treatment involving a pickup truck traveling to the moon.

How did you arrive at your concept? Was it tied to the songs lyrics? Was there a back and forth between you and the band about ideas or did they let you just run with it?
The video takes a loose interpretation of the lyrics, involving leaving home without forgetting home. As the camper drives through progressively unrealistic environments, the elements in its surroundings start to come alive and follow along. We used John Steinbeck’s truck, Rocinante, as the hero for the camper’s design, and I was really influenced by illustrators like the amazing Charley Harper, and more current illustrators like Matthew Lyons and Jon Klassen who make me jealous every day. The band gave me a very open field to play with, in part because it was a very different process for them to work, and because I was doing the project on the cheap. But they were really responsive as it came together and I tried to include subtle references to the state of Ohio, from the state bird and the state insect, to the Cuyahoga River, which has actually caught fire a bunch of times.

Since this is nearly all just you pouring in a lot of hard work and love to make this project come to life, how long did it take
you to complete it?
I started production on the video in January, with the naive thought that it could be done in a month or so, but as the scenes developed, it continued through May. I was freelancing at the time with Royale, so the project was a nights and weekends type of schedule, closing me off from society for a while.

What’s your process like knowing that you are going to not only design but animate the whole thing yourself? Do you design it all in 2D then realize in 3D? Did you do previs to block everything then design around that?
The overall process was to just create a ton of illustrated elements, block out the shots, and continuously lie to myself about how much work is left to do. I worked with the editor, Arianna, to develop an edit from sketched storyboards to one of design boards and rough animation before doing the final treatment to each shot. The process of having someone else play with the context of each shot really helped to make sense of it all. As for the animation process, it was all supposed to stay 2d, but plans change, and I started incorporating more 3d elements to give the different sections of the film their own feel. (And early test animations of the bears in After Effects looked ridiculous.)

What was the most ambitious and challenging part of the music video to pull off?
The most challenging part was not giving up and making the last 2 minutes of the video a slide show. But after that, it was  probably the cel animated elements. I’m always trying to find excuses to do more cel animation with work, but I had a lot of moments of trying, failing, and starting back at the beginning to get something that would work. I animated sequences of that goddamned water so many times before finding something that worked well enough for the shots, but it was a really informative process, and I look forward to setting things on fire in the future.

What was the most rewarding part of the project for you?
When working on a side project with a soft timeline, it’s really easy to get lost in the experimentation and development phase. But that’s part of the value of these open projects. And the best part of this process would probably be the surprises that happen out of necessity. A lot of my favorite shots were created in the last couple days before it was done, and the entire process of working with an editor to put it all together allowed me to see the video with new eyes each round, without getting fried.

Any plans for more music videos in the future? What other bands would you want to work with if given the chance?
Not at the moment, but it was really freeing to work with Outside Royalty. I may never find a band that is that trusting again. The next projects I’ve got in the works are more narrative short films, but if Nick Cave or Thom Yorke called me up and said they wanted a video with some cute woodland creatures, I’d push them up the list.

Thanks for your time Bill we look forward to seeing more projects from you soon!

Outside Royalty “Ohio”
Direction, animation, and design by: Bill Sneed
Produced by: Jody MacKinnon
Edited by: Arianna Tomasettig