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I Lied About Recreating the Netflix Intro
Personal note: I originally wrote this post about a silly little video with a silly little secret. It has been brought to my attention (and I've agreed with the conclusion) that it's disingenuous to lie about your creative process - especially for clicks! The proper way to edit this video would have been to say, "This is not physically possible, I need to complete it on the computer."
Admission of Guilt
In 2022, I posted a video titled "Recreating the Netflix intro with $30 worth of yarn". I took the Netflix 'tudum' and painstakingly remade it in arts and crafts, stop-motion animation. Or so I said.
It has 50M+ views on my socials, I had a meeting with corporate Netflix about it, and (the) David Fincher mentioned in an interview that he wanted it for Love, Death & Robots. It's extremely rewarding when a concept comes together so well and makes a decent splash the minute you post it.
The thing is, that video is pretty much all a lie. The timelapse of me animating? Fake. The end result? Nearly all done on a computer. Even the cost of the yarn is fudged - it actually cost over $100 but a lower figure sounded funnier in the context of a billion-dollar company.
I'm a liar! But that wasn't my plan.
(I also made a 7-minute, equally-as-deceiving version here)
Here's What Happened
I knew I had a fun concept. One of those ideas where you have the title written before actually making the thing. All I needed to do was buy some yarn and rotoscope the Netflix intro frame-by-frame.
Most of what you see in the making-of portion is honest. I crafted the 'N' logos, set up a complicated downshooter, and rigged the yarn to animate toward the camera. I was optimistic.
I got maybe five frames into the animation and quickly realized it was a nightmare. Moving each single yarn in three-dimensional space to match the original video was taking roughly five minutes. I did some yarn math (dozens of them per 1/24th of a second) and lost my optimism.
I faced a fork in the road. Give up, or… fake the stop-motion digitally in the computer.
I decided I'd come too far and took over in the computer by digitally animating and color-changing cropped pictures of yarn. It was still tedious - I ended up with somewhere around 300 layers. But it was done in a day's work.
Additionally, to back up the original story that it was all stop-motion, I filmed a timelapse of myself 'animating', which was really just me randomly moving yarn around. Movie magic!
The big question - does it really matter how it was made? From an artistic standpoint, I'd wager that the stop-motion version would look identical to the digital version I produced. So is that lying, or working more efficiently?
(Note: I lied)
Above: Me pretending to animate yarn.
No, I didn't lovingly hand-sculpt each frame of the animation, but I problem solved when I hit a wall and got the results I wanted. That's part of the creative journey - when one toolbox isn't working, you go and grab a different toolbox. When stop-motion isn't working, you go and fake it in the computer.
In my experience, every artistic project hits a 'valley of despair' about half way through. It's that moment where your imagination gets ahead of your ability and failure seems inevitable. However, it's in that valley where creativity thrives because it takes out-of-the-box thinking (or a switch of toolboxes) to climb out.
Creative success isn't always about sticking to the plan. It more often than not looks like finding alternate solutions and being flexible in the face of challenges.
So maybe I'm not a liar after all. Maybe I came up with a creative solution and simply 'forgot to mention it'. Yeah! Let's go with that.
Reflection time! (This has been added after posting the blog.)
I originally ended this on a playful, open-ended tone. But! That's not really responsible. My official conclusion is that there are fun lies (like me magically turning into a banana, where the audience is in on it and has fun finding the lie) and there are unfun lies (where the audience is being manipulated).
Pretty obvious this video has both feet in the second pool.
It's good to push through that valley of despair, but bad to fib about how you got out - kids, don't lie (especially for clicks).