This past Sunday we showed the third animation video in the Jonah series. This one illicited the most laughs yet. The version we showed was still not a final cut, but that will come in due time.

When I started to storyboard and script out the video I knew it had the potential to be the most fun. A key component to the video was who would do the voice of the King of Nineveh. The voiceovers had been crucial to the success of the animation so far. I scoured the list of staff and thought through congregants who could pull it off, but instead went a different route. When I thought of him I thought it would be perfect, but would he do it? Others, surprisingly, had not been interested and I really had no other idea as to who could do the roll. Luckily, Joe Darago agreed to do the part.

For those of you who don’t know, Joe is currently planting a church in the Phoenix area. He use to be on staff at CCC. I didn’t get to know him until he was long gone. We shared mutual friends and when my former “partner in crime” (cohort) Jared moved down to Phoenix to help Joe with the church plant we each started to get to know the other better.

I emailed Joe and Jared the idea and the script for the Nineveh King. I think I had the digital file emailed back to me within 48 hours. I was stoked. (Jared, thanks for your assistance in recording, editing and emailing the audio.) Joe also enjoyed some of the pop culture references I worked into his part. I think he was one of the few people ahead of time, who saw the script, that thought the script would work. That was reassuring later on.

The third chapter of Jonah has opportunities for imagination with the script. From the city to animals wearing sackcloth I thought we had multiple chances to entertaining adults and kids alike. First up was the cityscape. Of course it would be the Omaha skyline. Why? Well, as you know from reading these entries I’m proud of my city. Also, though, the subtle thought was any city, even a good one like Omaha, can fall under the judgment of God. (Perhaps some of the west O and Elkhorn residents would think “good riddance!”) We could have a non-descript city, but having the view of Omaha from the Gene Leahy Mall just added a new element.

The first shot of the city would be a reveal as Jonah is walking. The added detail was instead of having the big O! we had the big N! in the forefront. Then we had the ConAgra buildings, First National and the Woodmen Tower. The next scene cut to Jonah walking in the Old Market at the corner of Howard St where it proclaims the start of the Old Market. Of course, along that corner are numerous painted ads for local shops and restaurants. I wanted to mimic that but instead mix the past and present with the store ads (Zio’s Bakery) and have a few inside jokes (The DHARMA logo from the show LOST).

When writing the script and drawing the storyboards I was working with Greg earlier on in the process. His daughter was just barely a week old and we had barely managed to get the Jonah 2 animation together in time. I wanted to make sure we had the time this week. He, along with Christine, looked over the storyboards and script and thought they could do the illustrations in time. They started to work on it. However, we came upon a huge hurdle when the blizzard hit and we lost an entire day of work on Thursday. In one sense, it was nice for Greg and I to have the respite, because it meant long hours the rest of the way.

On Friday, Christine, Greg and I were working feverishly on the project. I was trying to track down my personnel to do the voiceovers. I had planned on Thursday, but that was snowed out. I tracked down Tim Marsden and Lee Westphal made a trip into the office late in the day to do vocals. In the rush to get it done we didn’t get the best audio, which we will rectify later. Still, we had the vocals done.

Friday afternoon, though, as Christine, Greg and I were going through what we had left to complete a question arose as to the line I had written for the Nineveh King. I had written, “Let us all be covered in sackcloth, including the ligers.” Now, I didn’t want to make light of the scriptures, but for some reason I was confident this line would kill. I had a hunch people would laugh and not be offended or question its inclusion. Most on the Comm Team seemed skeptical about it being used, because really it just sounds more spiritually mature to question the line. I understand. I even wondered about editing out the audio, but I remembered Joe had liked the line. I stuck with it. I had to convince some people that a liger is a real animal so they’d be on board with it. Once I showed them the Wikipedia page for liger, and they saw and read it was real, I kept the line in. Because who is to say there weren’t ligers in Nineveh? (An argument that can’t be proven or disproven.)

Greg and I worked late Friday and touched base about Saturday. We knew we’d be pulling ridiculous hours that day. Greg had already pulled some long nights. We arrived at the church early Saturday afternoon and started working. I began editing and mixing the audio and Greg was animating as fast as he could. We’d often collaborate on what was the best with a scene or audio and then get back to our piece of the project. We took a break around five and then came back for more work. I brought in dinner from Whole Foods and had Naked Juice to help us out. (Plus, I was energized by Creighton’s win that day.) In this marathon stretch of work we had a number of great ideas we wanted to implement into the animation, but couldn’t because of time.

The animation was taking longer than expected, the audio was difficult because Lee’s vocals weren’t that great, and we were tired. I was recording my own fx to use in the video and trying to mix other tracks at around 10:45 in the evening. I was just about gone. Greg relieved me of my duty by saying there was nothing more I could do. I got him every available track we could use and headed out of there sometime around 11:15. Greg worked through the night non-stop.

I woke early the next morning and dragged my family off to church early so I could relieve Greg and burn the video to dvd. Greg was still working when I rolled in. For some reason we still decided to tinker with the script and animation at this point when we should have been trying to wrap it up. It was tough because while we like the end product we also see so much more we could have done to it to make it phenomenal by our standards. (We’ll get that opportunity.)

We stopped tinkering with it just after 8:30. This left us less than thirty minutes to export it and burn to dvd. I had just burned one dvd when Greg and I both thought we liked a different audio file for one of the lines. So we scrapped the just burned dvd and started anew. We were cutting it close and people would just have to trust us with the product we handed them. Luckily we had proven ourselves with the first two videos. We handed the videos off to the two venues with five minutes to spare. Greg headed home to crash. (He has yet to see any of the videos in a service.)

I was in Access for both services to watch the video. The audio sounded better than I thought it would with Lee’s part. A good sign. When the Omaha skyline was revealed people started chuckling. It built throughout the video as people laughed at the scenes and script. When the line was delivered about the ligers? It worked. Even the ending scene of God giving Nineveh the thumbs up, while cheesy, worked. It was a success.

Afterward I had a number of people coming up and encouraging me on the video. I was bummed Greg was home to miss out on the congratulatory words. I also hoped that Christine was getting thanked as well since she helped out. A number of people started asking about purchasing the videos. I got a bit ahead of myself, but it was an idea I already had, and said we would try to put out a dvd that people could purchase of the videos. Why do it? Greg and I wanted to keep working on some of the scenes and improve the overall quality. I also wanted a dvd so I could show Liam someday and also show my nieces and nephews.

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