Girl Music Video: Pixel Art

Pixel art time! I was lucky enough to work the music video for Lionface’s great new song, Girl. I wanted to share some of the work that went into it, but first check it out:

You can buy this song:
LionFace Girl/Stronger on Bandcamp

The inspiration

It’s hopefully obvious enough from the final video, but they wanted a Streets of Rage / Street Fighter-esq side-scrolling beat-em-up with the girls featuring as characters in the game.

I took a lot of inspiration from Final Fight (a personal favourite) in the gritty scenes and the generic goons to fight against.

Backgrounds

I started with the background scenes as it was emulating a side-scroller I knew there would be a lot to do here.

I needed to create distinct ‘good’, ‘ok’ and ‘bad’ areas to match the theme of the song.
The ‘good’ area had well-lit restaurants by the river, the ‘ok’ area was a residential area, and the ‘bad’ area being a slum.

For majority of the buildings I started with a hand-painted approach and tweaked them to fit a pixel-art style afterwards. I found that when I jumped in pixel-art first everything ended up being too perfect and square, so it’s nice to have a more organic feel – even for buildings, as it adds some character to them.

From left to right: Rough sketch, Freehand painting of the scene in greyscale, reducing colours and applying dithering to fit the pixel art look, finally adding colour and detail.

While each area was visually distinct, I was able to reuse many elements to save time and build up a scene from these pieces. After creating a number of objects, it was a case of setting the scene with these objects.

Character artwork

Once the scene was set, I started working up the artwork for each of the girls. They already had an identity in place to match the live footage in the video, so I had to create pixel versions of each of them.

The purist in me kept to the classic Street Fighter restrictions of using only 15 colours – 16 if you include transparency, as this was just the limitations of the technology then. This was to ensure it felt authentic enough, although this technical limitation really doesn’t apply as it was a fake game.

For each character I started with a hand-drawn sketch, reworked it in pixels and adjusted where necessary along the process.

You can see from the initial sketch to the pixel outlines that her legs and arms were beefed up as they looked a bit too skinny when scaled down to such a small size. I also adjusted the head to be side on as it had a stronger look at this small size.

Once that’s nailed, I find I only go back to sketching for key poses, or particularly tricky frames. When working with pixels it can be hard to see what you’re doing, so it’s sometimes best to take it back and work on paper for a bit.

…Then wash and repeat for a few hundred frames!

Palette swaps

Keeping it true to fighting-games of yesteryear, I had to include some time-saving palette swaps for additional characters. A palette swap is simply changing the colour of existing artwork to save creating more characters.

Of course the generic goon had to have a palette swap. I adjusted the head on all frames and removed the ripped sleeve:

The same animation used for both bad guys. If I had time I wanted to include a fatty as well – there’s always one fat bad guy

Then these two background characters all have a heavily borrowed walk cycle from Holly’s walk:

The original artwork of Holly is on the left. The other two were reworked from that.

And for the invincible scene we had all girls running. Ideally they would of had their own characteristic run, but with time against me I had to be inventive here. I created a base animation of this grey girl and built all of their separate animations on top of this base:

A simple trick to make them feel different here is to make sure they all start on a different frame, so none of them are running at exactly the same time. It’s harder to notice the matching pattern if they’re all out of time.

Probably my favourite animation of the set – probably because I love the outfits!

The final video put together by the band is awesome and I’m really proud to of worked on it. Of course there’s tons of things I’d like to of done more of, such as more enemies, more animations and I also thought it would be fairly easy to make into a playable game… but you have to stop somewhere!

To end on, I thought I’d put together a video of just the animated sequences I worked on:

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