Zeboyd Weekly Art! (9/4/13): Brief ‘Making of’ the Cosmic Star Heroine Teaser!

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Sep 042013

Hey everyone, Bill Stiernberg here.

So this weekend we (finally) posted a teaser for Cosmic Star Heroine!  Yay!  It was a project that I had the honor of collaborating with Dean Dodrill on.  Dean is best known for being the sole artist and programmer of Dust: An Elysian Tail.  The fantastic music was produced by Hyperduck SoudWorks as well, who did an amazing job.  Let me give you all a brief overview of how it worked.

First, view the final product!


So the idea was to put together a Sega-CD style “intro” cutscene that we could post as a teaser, and also include in the game. Looking at a lot of old Sega CD intro/cutscenes to see how they did things, as well as grabbing some insight from cartoons/anime, we figured the best way to produce an animated teaser with limited time and resources was to use mostly still images, but to focus on panning, zooming, simple special effects for polish, and limited animation where it made the most impact.

We came up with the brief list of scenes, which focused on the setting and game concept, and a few key characters.  From there, Dean produced several rough sketches of the idea, and put them into a basic “animatic” form – essentially, how and where the cuts would work in a movie, but only using rough sketches.

Rough sketch of scene by Dean

Rough sketch of scene by Dean


I then took the sketch, and produced a colored, pixel art form of it:

Street scene - Pixel art form

Street scene – Pixel art form


Once this was done, Dean added it to the panning, zooming animation, and tossed on some effects like lighting/glow in After Effects.

Another particularly cool scene in the teaser features a magic, gun-wielding character named Chahn.

First, she summons several blasters with her hand.  Dean and I figured a simple animation here would be effective, so I drew 5 roughs of a hand:

Chahn's hand summon animation!

Chahn’s hand summon animation!


I colored and pixelated these, and created the gun images as well as a blue background.  Dean compiled them into the scene with the animation, using After Effects to create a summoning-like fade-in effect for each gun:

Screengrab of the hand scene

Screengrab of the hand scene


For Chahn’s awesome gun blasting pose, Dean sent me this rough:


Chahn’s “blaster” scene, rough #1 from Animatic


To help with the look and angle, he updated the rough with this:

Updated rough of Chahn's blasting scene

Updated rough of Chahn’s blasting scene

So I took this rough and created the various assets for the teaser, in separated layers in PSD format:

Chahn scene, sketch to pixel format

Chahn scene, sketch to pixel format


Dean then added a 3D panning effect using the various layers of the assets, and drew up and added the blaster effect, giving the guns a blaster “kick back” if you will.  The final scene had this really cool 3D quality.


The final scene, where Alyssa smiles wryly at the sniper scope, was pretty interesting as well.  Taking Dean’s set of 4 initial sketches, which looked like this:

Dean's roughs for final sniper scene

Dean’s roughs for final sniper scene


I produced a series of sketches, like this image:


Alyssa rough based on Dean's sketch

Alyssa rough based on Dean’s sketch

And did some quick inking, coloring, then pixelating and cleaning it up to make frames like this:

Alyssa, final scene frame 1, pixelated

Alyssa, final scene frame 1, pixelated

After all 4 frames were done in this manner, Dean put them into the animation, set the same background (with the crowd of fans and flashing cameras), and put a sniper view over the close-up with a neat scope blurring/reflection around the edges:

Alyssa's final scene with the scope

Alyssa’s final scene with the scope


And there you have it.  Basically it was a system of super rough sketches by Dean -> detailed sketches & final pixel art and polish by me -> back to Dean to insert into animation along with his special effects/3D effects.


The final step of the process involved sending the final draft of this teaser over to Hyperduck SoundWorks for developing the sound effects and music to go along with it.  They did a fantastic job!  I love working with those guys.  The end result was super neat, and we got to finally unveil this at Sony’s indie focused event during PAX.

The final movie can be viewed here!


The reception has been super positive!  It makes me feel all warm inside 🙂

We went with a retro look, to reflect the Sega-CD era stuff that this is inspired by.  We also wanted to give it some flare, so there’s a lot of effects going on that weren’t technically possible for an actual Sega CD.  But!  That flare really made it stand out and look great, so nobody seems to mind 🙂


Hope you enjoyed this!  Check out my other art column posts by going to the Categories Tab above, and clicking Art, or by following this link to view all posts tagged Art: http://zeboyd.com/category/art/

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)


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