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YouTube filmmaking duo Sneaky Zebra on shooting their incredible cosplay music videos

YouTube filmmaking duo Sneaky Zebra on shooting their incredible cosplay music videos

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BlizzCon 2016 took place last weekend in Anaheim, California. It's an annual celebration of all things Blizzard Entertainment, one that attracts thousands of cosplayers who show off their costumes inspired by the company's games. This year, British filmmaking duo Sneaky Zebra documented the convention's cosplay scene in a slick music video.

With the rise in popularity of gaming and comic book conventions, cosplaying has become a serious hobby. With costumers flocking to conventions to show off their best new projects, an entire subgenre of music videos has emerged. While there are a number of channels out there producing these cosplay music videos, such as Killers and Company and mineralblu, the absolute best ones come from the pair behind Sneaky Zebra, Gary Scullion and Nick Acott.

We've talked about the pair's work before: they're responsible for some fantastic videos from San Diego Comic-Con and DragonCon, but they've also worked on their own entertaining short films. They employ a sleek, fluid style with their camera to produce some dynamic videos that highlight some amazing costumes.

The pair got their start over five years ago shooting parody and comedic films that drew on their geeky interests, as well as short, straight-up genre films like The Shot and Bits and Pieces. It was in 2012 that the pair attended the London Film & Comic Con. "We grabbed a cheap camera stabilizer and just went for it," Acott told The Verge in an email. "The first few [days] was figuring it out as we went along." Their first video features a wide range of characters, from Deadpool to the X-Men to the Ghostbusters, in the style that they would become known for: quick camera movements around a costumer's pose.

The video went on to score hundreds of thousands of views, and the pair followed that up with several other videos that fall at various conventions: Eurogamer, the 2012 Entertainment Media Show, and London Comic Con, which featured some improvements to their editing, along with some upbeat pop songs.

Acott noted that their main focus was to "keep it visually entertaining, using camera movements to enhance any character direction, but also to show off as much as the costume as we can." The result is an almost cinematic look that has been continually refined as they go.

Their production is simple: "Most conventions we will spend about 85% of the time wandering around, looking for cosplayers to film with," Acott explained. "If it's someone we've not met before then we explain what we do." Several years into their work, he noted that they also talk with the costumers about the poses they do in their costumes, and use the camera to "incorporate some movement into it." Once they collect their raw footage, they talk through what material works with the music they selected for the video, and work to match the two up. Scullion then sets about editing in Avid Media Composer. Acott noted that they'll sometimes add in some visual effects, such as lightsaber blades, but their main goal is to turn the video around quickly, in one to two days.

"We can give them a snapshot of the weekend."

The result, Acott reported, has enormously positive. "Cosplayers like seeing their costumes in a new way," he said. "People who couldn't make the convention like that we can give them a snapshot of the weekend." Since they've begun, Acott noted that they have gotten more energetic, and they've learned, through trial and error, what shots work the best, which allows them to work quickly for each new video.

Above all, they've been most impressed with the sheer amount of creativity present in the cosplay community. "Seeing so many ideas for builds and new processes are great," Acott recalled. "Plus we're geeks and film lovers so anything that celebrates that, we're happy."