The making of a personalized kids train video

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In 2006 after observing my grandson Jack playing with and watch Thomas the Tank Engine toy trains and train videos, I came up with the idea of creating a personalized kids train video where animated toy trains would have the names and real faces of the childern that watched them.

Previously I had worked for Walt Disney Feature Animation and we had produced the movie Dinosaur. Dinosaur used computer generated animated charters over real live action backgrounds. That methodology seemed right for what I wanted to crate.

I started writing the story called “Off the Tracks” and then in Oct. of 2006 I set out on a photo taking tour through California to get some backgrounds. Here are some of the background photos I took on that first trip. Many of them became the backgrounds fore my first personalized kids train video called “Off the Tracks” 

Click the images below to see how they were used in our kids train videos.

Bridge at Capitola in central California
Bridge at Capitola in central California
Tracks near Capitola Ca.
Foggy Valley Station BG for train videos

Foggy Valley Station







In this photo we animated the lights and crossing arm.

RR Xing_Keen_

RR x-ing in near Keen in central Calif.


The background is from a photo taken in Alberta CA. Photoshoped with the foreground form the Keen RR crossing.

Our trains heading into the fog.

Our trains heading into the fog.

In the winter of 2007 we traveled east to northern Arizona where we encountered snow at the higher elevation. Some of these photos became the backgrounds for Snowy Mountain in our train videos. The two backgrounds below are actually composites  made in Photoshop from two or more photos. This technique was used extensively throughout our train videos.

Click the images below to see how they were used in our kids train videos.Up Snowy MT

Snowy Mt. BG

Mt. Rainer in the background. The RR tracks were added in Photoshop.

Top of Snowy Mt.





Next we headed north fallowing the railroad tracks all the way to Alberta Canada. Along the way shooting photos for to use as backgrounds for our train videos.

Background for the intro to train videos

Background for the intro. of our Train videos.

This photo was taken in Alberta CA, it was used as background for the introduction to our Train videos.




Tunnel in Alberta CA

Used as background for trains entering tunnel.Train Tunnel in central Calif.


Background for our trains enter tunnel. Photo taken in Yoho Nation Park in Alberta CA.




Background for our trains exiting tunnel.

Photo taken from the Roaring Camp Rail Road Beach Train near Santa Cruz  in central Calif.

Click the photo to see how they were used in our train videos.


Bridge-in-Alberta-CA Moon lite countryside

This photo was used as a night scene. Click  it to see how.

Next we will talk about creating and adding 3D animated trains to the backgrounds to create our kids train videos.

3D computer model locomotive. Used in the creation of “My Toy Train Story”
The green gets replaced by real children’s faces in our personalized kids train videos.

We had our 2D trains that we created in Photoshop modled in to 3D characters using a program called “Maya”.  Note the green front. That gets replaced with the human face taken from photos provided by our personalized train video customers. Click the  images to see how 3D looks. We are not talking about the kind of 3D that you need glasses to video. That is called Stereoscopic 3D. Computer generated 3D allows an character to be viewed at any angle as opposed to a 2D that is flat and can only be viewed from one angle at a time.

Here we added the 3D trains to a background photo that is a composite of two photos made in Photoshop. A program called Motion was used for the compositing and to add the smoke and steam. The green gets replaced by the faces of real childern for our personalized kid’s train videos and by a cartoon faces for our non-personalized kid’s train videos. View the final version with face added.

Finally the faces are added again using “Motion”. The movement is tracked and the green is replaced by the real faces of children in “My Toy Train Story” ore personalized kid’s train video and with cartoon faces for the non-personalized “Toy Train Story”

"My Toy Train Story" photo personalized kids train DVD

Star your kids in their own toy train video or dvd 

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