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ColourBANG! Getting noticed on YouTube

// Featured, Interviews

As the way we watch it continues to evolve, animation may appear to be getting a bit of a rough deal. With the demise of dedicated animation festivals and space dedicated to shorts on our TV screens dwindling to near-nothingness, outlets for animated endeavours are becoming an ever-decreasing commodity here in the UK. In this increasingly bleak landscape it is hardly surprising that animation has found a home on the web, but even sites like YouTube have tight restrictions that affect how much our work is seen by others, dealing hardworking animators yet another blow. Those with a creative drive have to step up their game once again to be noticed in a crowded online video marketplace.

Oli Putland is just one animator claiming a place in this online arena. The creator of a string of hilarious shorts under the banner Clockwork Jerk, he has decided to play the new YouTube algorithm at its own game with his latest series ColourBANG!, a colourful, cheeky, weekly set of shorts premiering this week.

The sketch show is as loud as it is colourful, with sharp, character-led dialogue leading frantic-paced animation that changes each week to introduce new characters and scenarios. We talked to Oli about the process of putting these together.

The whole premise of ColourBANG! is a reaction to YouTube’s rather harsh subscription algorithms. A couple of years ago, if an animator made a short film or indeed anything on YouTube, it would swill around people’s subscription feeds long enough for people to take notice. Since Google changed the way YouTube functions however- in the last year or so, the algorithms now favour regular uploads – minimum of one per week.

Getting noticed on YouTube is fine if you upload a new video every day, working perfectly for the video gameplay uploading Yogcasters and Dewpiepies of the world – but animation is a long process, so creating daily (ha!) or even weekly content is an enormous challenge, one that Oli decided to take head on.

ColourBANG! is the distillation of many ideas and experiments in brevity. I knew I wanted to create something…well-cooked, but I also knew that it had to be made very quickly. This is a series where every episode is launched weekly, like a machine.
I’d already had a good training from the likes of Jackie Cockle (Timmy Time, Bob the Builder) who has extremely high standards when it comes to making quality kids programming, but also knows how to get results from managing time and resources effectively – something which YouTube really does demand from its content creators more than any other medium I’ve worked in.
Taking note of the challenges that developing animation for YouTube has shaped the way the series has been developed, the look of the show and the way the characters have been written.
The theme of the whole series can be summarised fairly succinctly by the word ‘Loud’.
I don’t think it’s any fluke that my most successful episode of Clockwork Jerk is The Artistic Genius, where a mad artist just vomits up coloured puke and gives them all arbitrary prices. It’s essentially one loud joke, brashly told. It’s ColourBANG! in full 3D.
In YouTube land you have to grab people by the throat in the first few seconds, so I wanted to make something rather like the video equivalent of the 3 image comic strip you get at the back of newspapers.
An unconscious rule has been to have at least one character who is nuts in every episode. That way, there is an agitant to excite the sketch into a frenzy. It’s also very enjoyable to draw the mad and the angry and it is very pleasurable to look at – even on mute!

Whilst his past work has been a mainly solo endeavour, this new series sees Oli collaborate with some familiar online animation names.
I’ve happily worked with YouTubers many times before. Dan Tomlinson and Dave Brain’s Guksack channel was my first partnership. However this is pretty much the first project to make an appearance on my channel that I’ve actually asked for collaborative help with myself. Two of whom are animators themselves:
Harry Partridge (Who I’ve worked with briefly in the past on one of his videos – his work is amazing)
Hans Van Harken (Whose animation and voice acting I’ve always admired)
The rest are fellow You-tubers who I’ve worked with, such as Stuart Ashen (I made the entire title sequence for his feature film a year ago) and Larry Bundy Jr, who has been in short films that I made with Stuart as well.
I also worked with Sarah Williams who is a good friend and an excellent artist, and through Hans, a very talented vocal artist called Michael Johnston.
The collaboration has left the production open to surprises for the director that go on to inform the animation.
Since ColourBANG! is constrained by harsh production schedules, obviously the animation has taken a bit of a hit in terms of quality, so it was vital that the voices were very much the focal point of the series and that the animation just ‘enhances’ what is already there. I’ve got an episode where Harry Partridge plays a spoiled brat of a King who decides he wants to eat people. I sent him the script and voiced the king myself to give him an idea of how I’d like it to be done, but also asked him to ignore it and do it the way he wanted to do it too. I got this email back which was full of self-deprecation saying that he wasn’t sure he’d done a good job. When I heard it back, it was as if Rik Mayall had been called back into life for one last performance! It was amazing. A real treat to animate to. I couldn’t thank him enough!

The harsh production schedule has still left room for a playful attitude towards movement and stylisation during the animation process.
While animating the stop motion elements of ColourBANG! I discovered that I could move the body parts around in ways I really didn’t expect. During a shot, an arm can become a neck. A leg becomes a nose. Arms a torso etc.  So long as the pose works, the viewer joins the dots together and just gets it. It’s very liberating and feels it like you’re channelling Picasso! A cubist abstract impressionism with boobs and vomit!
Whilst it may appear initially crude, the show follows the advice of many great animators, with restrictions delivering an edge that wouldn’t have been there before.
I remember Bob Godfrey said that sometimes he used to do a really cruddy piece of animation, just to get a laugh.
Well, ColourBANG! is purely for laughs. And I’m really enjoying it!
To keep up to date with ColourBANG! You can subscribe to Oli Putlands YouTube channel and follow him on Twitter 

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@TheInnerBelow
Benjamin Capps
A great interview with Christiane Cegavske: Creator of Many Things who not only animated/pixilated about 1/3 of CIV… t.co/spbyYZ8fMb
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@TheInnerBelow
Benjamin Capps
A great interview with Christiane Cegavske: Creator of Many Things who not only animated/pixilated about 1/3 of CIV… t.co/ocKsqCOHFp
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@Anim18UK
Anim18
Read more in this fascinating article from @skwigly: t.co/KbLm3xcCLc
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