Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. Last time, we talked about the writing process behind the hit web series Elements of Justice. Now, we’re going to continue to talk about the other production struggles faced by the… Well, production team.
Before continuing, I want to touch on some of the thoughts I had while writing this document. As I’m sure everyone is aware, it’s tough to make a web series like Elements of Justice. A lot of works of art like this tend to take up months, if not years to complete. Why do I bring this up? It’s because of the audience and their possible lack of patience.
Sure, a lot of web series projects have some sort of way to keep fans hyped up and be consistent in the output. However, unlike those other series, EoJ has to create a lot of assets. In fact, it’s one of the most demanding aspects of a project like this. Especially if you consider how many custom assets need to be made for original characters and the like.
I’m sure my readers are very curious about this. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this aspect of EoJ’s development.
Animation is Hard – The Elements of Justice Production Woes
Okay, let’s just get this out of the way. People who say that video editing/animation is an easy task are dead WRONG. Video edition and animation is deceptively simple, but even at it’s lowest level it can be a grueling and time consuming task. Not to mention, it is going to demand a lot of hard drive space from any computer. As video editor Jerboe puts it:
“We first create each individual scene keyframe by keyframe. After we’ve put in everything we can (at least for me), we export the video raw in and each scene is split individually. The reason we do each scene individually is if we were to render one scene all at once it would probably be 150+ GB’s big and that’s too much for the average laptop (in some cases even PC) to handle.”
Jerboe then told me about how the first scene of Case 2 – Episode 1 had to be split into 3 different scenes. This was due to a glitch in the animation program that prevented it from rendering scenes that went over 10 minutes in length. Actually, before we dive any further into this part of the production process. I think it’s better if I took some time to describe the tools that the production team uses.
The Tools of the Trade
It’s important to have a good set of programs that will aid you in your quest to deliver a great product. For example, someone like me uses Pinnacle Studio 24 to create gameplay videos. Additionally, I use Word 356 as my… Well, word processor for my articles. The EoJ team uses a wide variety of programs to handle the production of the web series.
As AlJavis and other people in the production team told me, their main program is Adobe Animate. This program is used to rig and animate the ponies, and for editing the video itself.
“I use adobe animate for the rigs, but used harmony premium for the magic effects. I suggested the use of OpenToonz but there weren’t available resources to use it. There are a lot of puppet rigs already made for adobe animate, but almost nothing for OpenToonz. Even though technically, it is more capable and resourceful compared to Adobe Animate.” – age3rcm (Animator)
Another video editor (The Joker) told me that once they were done with what could be described as a “First draft”; they then would upload a viewable version of it to a viewable platform like MEGA. Then, the project managers and writers would be able to view it and provide them with “Polish notes”. Once the product is polished, it’s sent to post-edition so the audio engineers master the audio and add the appropriate music and sound effects for the scenes.
Ah, but if you think that this is a seamless process. Hoo boy, the development team would love to tell the stories of their many struggles. So… Let’s check some of them!
The Craft Isn’t Flawless
If only we lived in a perfect world where everything comes together as per our vision… I know that at least we wouldn’t have a disaster like Cyberpunk 2077, let me tell you that much. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such world and things can go wrong during the creation process of Elements of Justice. The team told me some of their horror stories they came across.
Let’s start with the minor stuff. Age3rcm told me that there was a time where they were starting to make puppet rigs look 3D like in terms of posing. Because of this, the models began to look like different characters compared to what was seen on the MLP show. Believe it or not, there was a big debate on this:
“Even though I was all for creative freedom, I felt that we shouldn’t deviate too far from the original designs that the show brought. We eventually made a compromise on the designs where he was able to make it to how he originally wanted it and not deviate too much from the canon look. Look at Scootaloo’s rig in Case 2. You may see the subtleties of the 3D space he intended.” – AlJavis
EoJ’s Production Demon
There’s also the “Pixie” incident which is one of my favorites to talk about. During the production phase of Ep. 2 of Case 1, the development team had to fill the gallery with identifiable ponies to make it less empty. This was a good moment to put up some easter egg characters like Wob Niar from Turnabout Storm and MV’s OC. However, as time went on, they weren’t able to find front facing vectors of canon characters.
That’s when the team met the stuff of their nightmares, a pink recolor of Trixie (known as Pixie by the dev team). By then, the gallery was chuck full of Mane 6 recolors (like a Blue Fluttershy). It was at that point that – According to Serenity – everyone just gave up and continued searching for vectors.
Ever since then, Pixie has become a production demon of sorts: “She epitomizes how our desperation almost led us to following through on lazy decisions, and nearly sacrificing effort for the sake of getting something done. Nowadays, if we ever feel like we’re getting to that point, we pull out Pixie, and remind ourselves of what we should be avoiding.” Serenity told me.
It’s funny seeing Serenity put up a status on Discord with Pixie’s smiling face right beside it. To most people, it’s just an innocent Trixie recolor. To the EoJ team, it’s a death threat.
The 404 Incident
Hoo boy. Now we’re in for some delicious drama. The 404 incident makes every other incident look tame in comparison. This one had a much deeper impact on the team than others before it. Don’t believe me? Look at what AlJavis had to say about it:
“It almost sounds like something out of Ace Attorney. It got so heated to the point where I had to leave the room and tell everyone I went to brush my teeth, when really, I was crying for a good minute. And now we have an inside joke in the team where if things go wrong and we need to leave for a moment, we would call that ‘brushing our teeth’.” – AlJavis.
I’m pretty sure that some folks over at the EoJ Discord heard a thing or two about the 404 incident but don’t know it in full. Well, we will use this space to talk about it in ample detail.
Chaos for a Deadline
I asked Serenity about the infamous 404 incident. It’s a daunting tale that teaches people how hard the production of a web series like this can be. During production of Case 1 – Episode 3, one of the video files of the project was corrupted. Namely, the 4th section of the 4th of the episode. Hence, the name of “4-04 Incident”.
By then, the EoJ team was under some time crunch to get Episode 3 released. Why? Because it was announced that it was going to release that very same weekend. With very few options, The Joker had to attempt to finish his section of the episode overnight:
“[The] scene had so many issues with it that I had to go back and fix all of them, which took several hours. This has led to a rule I put on myself: NEVER EDIT AT 3 AM EVER AGAIN.” – The Joker
Unfortunately, this effort turned out to be ultimately fruitless. When the rest of the production team went to check on Joker’s progress, they were met with a scene riddles with mistakes:
“The backgrounds were the wrong sizes; the rigs would change poses too rapidly; everything was out of sync; the text boxes had numerous errors; etc. It took us an entire day to fix that scene, but we still had to render it. By this point, it was Thursday evening. The premiere date was planned to be Saturday. Everything else was done, aside from rendering this scene. However, when we went to render it, one section of the video kept breaking.
Suri’s rig would fall apart, and the render itself would freeze. We tried to figure out what was causing the problem, but the video itself looked fine as we watched it. In the end, it took us until Friday evening to find a way to render the video. Not a single one of us slept until we got it done. It was absolute torture. To this day, we have no idea what went wrong.” – Serenity
The team looked tirelessly for any sort of cause behind the 4-04 incident to no avail. Ultimately, the cause of the team’s grief has remained shrouded in mystery. However, it is a painful reminder that even the most organized teams can have a metaphorical wrench thrown into their machine which ruins everything they built up.
Alright, enough of the bad memories. Let’s talk about more positive stuff!… In a later article.
Boo! Another Part?!
Yeah, yeah, I know. I suck because I have to keep you guys in suspension yet again. However, I do promise that it will take less time to complete than last time. At least this month I’m totally not swamped by stuff to do or personal projects that need completion… Right?
Either way, I’d like to extend my thanks to the Elements of Justice development team for giving me this opportunity to speak to them about this fantastic project. There’s still a few more tidbits of information I feel shouldn’t be left out. However, I also don’t want to super stretch this article to the point it’s hard for you to keep up.
On the next part, we’ll talk about a few more production shenanigans and also know the history behind the production team itself! You’ll get to learn about the history of the team in the Brony fandom and what they’ve worked before EoJ!
What do you think about this part of the interview? Do you know of any other teams who faced their own “404 Incident”? What’s your favorite part of Elements of Justice? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. In case you missed it, we talked a bit about Bioware’s recent developments. So, make sure to tune in to see them!
I like it a lot and I’m on the case
i knew animating was hard but… i hope things go smother for you guys and i know how some animating can be, (i use source fimmacker every now and then)