Animation tools not ready for satire prime time

Thursday, 27 July 2017

If you had an almost unlimited budget, could you produce a rich feed of animated satirical videos with a one-day turnaround?

For now the answer seems to be no.

When HBO announced a deal with American satirist Jon Stewart in 2015, one of the shows mentioned was an animated comedy show. The Hollywood Reporter has reported that in May this year, HBO said that they would not be going ahead with the idea:

Stewart was set to work with cloud-graphics company OTOY to develop new technology that would allow him to produce timely shortform digital content. “Appearing on television 22 minutes a night clearly broke me," Stewart said at the time. "I’m pretty sure I can produce a few minutes of content every now and again."

The idea had been for the material to be refreshed on HBO's digital platforms, including HBO Now and HBO Go, multiple times throughout the day. But sources say it was the one-day turnaround that became a sticking point for the project. From a technological standpoint, it became clear to those involved that it would be next to impossible to create and distribute the sophisticated animation within the short window. The project had already been delayed due to its technological complexity. At one point, the digital shorts were expected to debut ahead of the presidential election, so as to provide commentary on the campaigns — but when challenges arose, HBO reportedly told Stewart he could have as much time as he needed to get it right.

HBO executive Casey Bloys explained that there was another reason they couldn't get the turnaround time down to one day:

"Once Jon realized that he could get close on the animation, what he realized also was in terms of the quality control and in terms of the writing, when you’re putting something out a couple of times a day, the quality control still has to be here," Bloys said. "It just got to a point where it was like, is this worth his time? Is this worth our time? We kind of thought, ‘You know what? It was a good try, but ultimately not worth it.’”

So making sure the writing remains high quality was a problem, but the technology also isn’t ready. I wonder what tools and UI will be able to hit this kind of target.