<em>Mars</em> Trailer <em>Mars</em> Trailer
Feature Film

Mars Trailer

This roto-heavy animated feature really slipped in under the radar. The first I heard of Mars was last week when it premiered at SXSW. The film, described as an interplanetary romantic comedy, is directed by Geoff Marslett, who is a teacher at University of Texas at Austin. Marslett described the production process in an indieWIRE interview:

Visually falling somewhere half way between “Sin City” and “Waking Life”…or half way between a graphic novel and a hand colored photograph. Basically we shot the actors in a green screen studio here in Austin. They were there, and had costumes…but no props or backgrounds–that stuff was all green boxes and walls. The footage of the actors themselves was rotoscoped using a hybrid of line drawing and image processing. We did the bulk of the color work on them by processing the actual colors from the live footage using a program that Tray Duncan and I developed based on my previous program. Then we added the major line details by hand before finishing the final shading work using another automated process. These characters were composited with environments and props that were a combination of hand drawn, 3D animation, and roto-ed over 3D work (all of those made from scratch).

  • Peter H

    Let’s just get this straight: the human characters are not animated at all – merely live-action that has been digitally reduced to small a pallette, black-edged and touched up by hand where necessary. Only the effects and mechanical objects were animated. The use of the term “rotoscope” is a trifle misleading, as it should mean the physical copying of a sequence of frames onto separate sheets of paper (or cel) – either by hand, photographically or digitally – and this is presumably not the case here.

  • I have no real problem with rotoscoping depending on its use but, while they may have put a lot of work into this, it’s a shame that their hand-drawn part of the process seems to be lost among the automated filters, giving it that ‘sketch-me’ Facebook novelty type feel. I don’t see anything that seems hand-drawn there. Certainly not like the (much maligned on this site) Linklater films.

    It may have served them better to go for a simpler look and rely more on the drawing than the filtering. As it is now, the look is slightly killing it for me – I spent more time watching the folds in the clothing than actually having any idea what the trailer was about.

  • Not exactly bad … but still it looks like actors in front of cardboard props, and I prefer real carboard then.

  • Isaac

    There’s an amateur vibe to it, no atmosphere, there’s no conviction in the actors’ performances. The only thing that stands out is the eye-sore visuals.

  • A mumblecore space movie?

  • Think how much more interesting it would be if they’d skip-framed the movement or key-framed it instead of just “processing” the live. I think the graphic look has potential, but because the movement’s so smooth and obviously just spit-out as manipulated live action, it’s nothing challenging or unique. . . it’d be better as a game. . .

    I give it “5 yawns”. . .

  • This looks like it was mostly done with filters and effects, not much hand-work. I’d say it’s a lot closer to Sin City than Waking Life.

  • gsm

    Tom goes to the Mayor: Mars Edition.

  • John A

    When all you’re getting is an exact duplication of the actors’ performances, you definitely need better actors. Even though this isn’t true rotoscoping, it suffers from one of its main pitfalls, and that’s the creepy crawly driftiness that comes from frame for frame copying of live action. Not bad as far as experiments go, ( I thought the weightless stuff was interesting) but I don’t know if I could sit through an entire film like this.

  • Seth

    I agree with the other comments. This is NOT rotoscoping. Bob Sabiston must be rolling over in his metaphorical grave. Flat Black Films for life!

  • mick

    waking life was like pulling your own teeth out with weak wrists… this looks like i am being asked to hammer them back in and THEN tear them out again

  • mick


    Isn’t the feel a bit like this minus the character???

  • Tim Hodge

    This is considered animation and “Avatar” isn’t?

  • In Photoshop this filter is:

    Filter>Artistic>Poster Edges

    I think a lens flare and the grass brush tool would be the icing on this cake.

  • R1

    What was the point of this process for the characters?

    I’m not being sarcastic, I really want to know: why do it this way?

  • Awful Photoshop Filters and No Sense of Actual Science-Fiction: The Movie.

  • The film was made this way because it’s an indie production. They don’t have the resources of the major Hollywood studios. I’m sure they would love to create everything in hand drawn 2D, but costs an enormous sum of money.

    I’m all for expanding animation beyond the Disney-Pixar-Dreamworks axis. Let the indie filmmakers use whatever tools they can. At the end of the day, a good movie is a good movie.

  • Ah, James Kochalka is in this. He’s been talking about it on his American Elf site a bit lately.

    Probably a renter for me, honestly, if the reviews are good.

  • Isaac

    “What was the point of this process for the characters?”

    The thought process must have been: “Our props and scenery look terrible. The characters should match them.”

    Everything in this trailer, except the spaceship scenes, could have been done with traditional on-location or on-set filming. They could have cut the spaceship scenes from the film, and filmed the Mars scenes in the desert. Then again, I don’t know how important the spaceship scenes are to the plot.

  • Yeah…………… no. That does not count as animation, or watchable even.

    If this is the future of animation, then the art form is devolving for sure.

  • R1

    Daniel, I appreciate your describing the intent but it simply isn’t coming across that they wanted the characters to LOOK animated at all. They look like straight live action to me. The filter is barely there at all.

    If the “1 or 2 steps removed from live action” approach I see here achieved anything beyond a slightly different texture to the actor’s faces I’d feel differently. I have to agree with JJ Sedelmaier.

  • Barry Rodges

    James Kochalka is involved with this?! Too bad he spent time doing this instead of drawing more great comics…

  • FP

    Interesting. Not as antic as I’d like, but interesting.

  • really, comparing it’s look to Sin City?!? ahahaha

  • Waking Life looked amazing and was full of lots of actual animation.


  • Elise

    can you direct me to examples of good “rotoscoping”?

    k thanx!

  • timmyelliot

    Not saying rotoscoping itself is good — but I thought the technique was done well in Snow White.

  • Elise, don’t mention it.


  • Hal

    If the comedy and narrative is good the “meh” execution of the animation will be excusable and hopefully it will lead to greater things. I’m all for more Sci-Fi comedy in the AMERICAN ASTRONAUT vein anyday. Still, I wish the lack of “Hollywood” budget led to more interesting visuals rather then an unfulfilled execution. Animation can be good, cheap, or fast – but usually only 2 of those three go hand in hand.