Let’s start with characters, shall we? The best CG character is chosen on the basis of design, modeling, animation, and authentic integration into the film. The character’s ability to evoke an emotional response is also considered. As a reminder: last year’s winner was a rabbit in “Poilus” from France.
This year we are moving all the way to Slovenia to find our winner in a short film named “The Box”. You have probably heard of the phrase “to think outside of the box”? And that is what this film is about.
About a box and the flat-headed creatures that live inside of it. Life in the box is boring and miserable. Until one day, when a new baby boy starts to grow in the middle of the box. This boy is very different from the other flat-headed inhabitants of the box. He is happy, lively, and curious. As the boy grows bigger, the flat-headed neighbors are becoming more and more annoyed with him. Until the day he outgrows them …
This short animation is based on old comics by Dušan Kastelic, who is the creator of the title. A series he made for a local newspaper about a hero who tries to escape from his own comic to see what’s outside, was the basis for what came next. When he finally manages to escape, he starts running across the newspaper and makes all kinds of problems: he changes letters in the headlines, steals the photos … It sure must have been fun creating this story. For his short film, Dušan adapted the story about a comic hero escaping from his box. Screenplay and storyboard arose in only two days (and nights). The dark mood within the movie however still offered a big contrast to the happy and cheerful atmosphere of the original comic.
The animation itself was entirely made in Blender. “The software is free but that wasn’t the crucial point for my decision to use it.” As we all know, time is your biggest issue and sometimes even enemy. The artist had followed the development of Blender for a couple of years already, so before even using it himself, he was already impressed by the fast development and the huge community Blender had gathered in this period of time. Although bringing years of experience with other 3D software into this project, it took way longer to get along with Blender than Dušan imagined at first. That was the only downside of Blender – it wasn’t easy to learn! “But once you have familiarized yourself with its unusual workflow, it becomes logical and powerful. I was surprised how stable it is. In 2 years of intensive work on ‘The Box’ it crashed only once.” So in the end, it was the right decision to go with Blender all the way.
Originally he was planning with roughly one year of production – nice try! It took three in the end. But except for sound design and music (made by Mateja Staric) he created everything on his own. And it was worth the effort. Congratulations on winning the animago AWARD 2018 in the category “Best Character”!
Best Game Cinematic
Last year, we had “Beyond Good and Evil 2” as our favorite from Ubisoft. This year, we are turning our heads to old and new faces within the game cinematic scenario. In this category, the jury honors originality, design, and digital execution as well as the most outstanding dramatic composition.
You’ve met Aidan and Maya. Now it is time for the third character trailer for Starbreeze’s upcoming game “Overkill’s The Walking Dead”. This time we meet Grant, a determined man with true grit. Set in a grim and dire situation, Grant finds refuge in the one and only abandoned car in the middle of nowhere. A full CG monologue where he has time to ponder about is past.
The film is directed by Fredrik Löfberg, and the teams in Uppsala and Stockholm worked closely with Starbreeze to create it – from script to finished film. They utilized every tool in the box to push the boundaries both technically and artistically, including state-of-the-art 3D scanning for the creation of the characters, full performance capture combined with meticulous key animation and lots of FX.
Extremely realistic pictures, attention paid to every detail, incredible processing of the motion capture data for absolutely believable acting, shifting away from the classic gameplay look. In-depth development of the characters so the viewer gets an impression of their personalities before the game has even started. The trailers purpose is to reveal one of four main playable characters in “Overkill’s The Walking Dead”. The goal of this trailer was to give a brief insight into who Grant is as a person.
Fredrik Löfberg wanted to visually capture the story that was written. The monologue with the zombie itself wasn’t enough to carry the movie and he wanted to add more suspense and create a setting that was gloomy and dire. He also wanted to find small moments within the monologue that gave Grant more depth as a character, such as when Grant says: “Grandpa, are you gonna die? Someday, but not today”, and turns the rearview mirror showing that he knows other zombies are on the way. The setting itself played a huge role, from the desolate, empty highway to the family’s old luggage and the kid’s drawing in the back seat. These small details aren’t picked up by most people but create a larger depth and story.
In total it took around eight months to finish this cinematic. Eight months worth waiting. Congratulations on winning in the category “Best Game Cinematic”.
Best Short Film
This award honors the best film concept, technical execution and storytelling. The jury also evaluates character design and animation among other factors. The category encompasses everything from mixed forms of CG and live-action film to pure 3D animated films. Last year’s winner was “Afterworks” all the way from Ecuador.
Our life is like walking on a tightrope. At times we are scared to lose our balance. When we are happy and excited, we forget our little circus act. We can even fly! The main characters are the girl Luba and her friend Sparrow. Silly Sparrow doesn’t know fear. By playing with him, Luba forgets that she is on a rope.
This is the debut film of young and talented director Zhanna Bekmambetova, who was born in Uzbekistan. In 2009 she graduated from Vgik (University of Cinematography) with her major in Concept Design for animation movies. Everyone can find something interesting in that film. It was screened at many international festivals and has won awards at Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia (CG Animation Competition), and Shanghai International Film Festival.
The production team of “Tweet-Tweet” included about 100 people. CGF worked on the film from October 2016 to December 2017. Zhanna Bekmambetova remembers how she began working on the project: “At first I tried to create this story by myself. I found free-lancers, we tried different things, did some stuff, but time was passing, and the project was barely progressing. To be honest, I realized that I would need help, and then we decided to come to CGF.”
At that time, the studio had already gained the reputation as Russia’s leading facility in the CG industry specialized in movies. CGF won its first Golden Eagle Award for best visual effects for the movie “Flight Crew”. The studio received its second Golden Eagle for the work it did on the movie “The Age of Pioneers”. One of CGF’s latest large projects, the sports action drama “Move Up”, has already won over audiences, as evidenced by the three-billion Russian box office record.
Why did a company that works mostly on feature motion pictures decide to participate in the production of an animated short? Alexander Gorokhov, chief producer of the studio and VFX producer of “Tweet-Tweet”, answers this question: “Animation is a completely different and absolutely extraordinary life with its own possibilities and unbound space for imagination. It always attracted me. I have really wanted to work in this field for a while now, so when we were asked to help Zhanna’s project, I gladly agreed. Actually, we feel confident in movies, and here is animation – a new look, a new visual.
“How do we work with this? We decided to apply our many years of knowledge and experience we have gathered from our movie work to animation: a live camera, photo-realistic rendering, intricately detailed textures. Of course, we did not create an absolute photo reel. We created photo-realistic textures and then exaggerated them. We ended up with a stylization, and it was interesting and beautiful”.
Best Motion Design
The Motion Design Award emphasises work with graphic elements of all kinds. The evaluation criteria focus on the film’s concept and originality as well as the ability of its visual execution to evoke an emotional response. Winner of 2017 came all the way from Taiwan with “Dust My Shoulders Off”.
Washington, D.C. – How do you save a nation, when its enemies come from within? It’s been seven months since the outbreak of a deadly pandemic virus that brought America on the brink of collapse, threw the world into turmoil and threatens to wipe out mankind from the face of the earth. A small unit called The Division is the last hope to prevent the smouldering apocalypse and tries to save what can be saved.
That is the plot of the newest offspring of the “Tom Clancy’s” franchise of video games: “The Division 2”. Ubisoft’s creative director Julian Gerighty and his team made what can be described as a thrilling and tense teaser for the game that is to be released in the first half of 2019. Having put a lot of work into gaining a deep understanding of the game’s aesthetics, Julian and his team took great care not to override the message with it. And as planning is key to great cinematic output, they made sure everything – from things like pacing to general design decisions – was being put down in detail in the script. In order to make the story a compelling experience for the viewer, the use of elements like images and typography had to be balanced carefully. Typography was used in the “The Division 2” teaser to emphasize key phrases and it had to match the voice-over’s cadence perfectly. Every bit of text in the video is animated one way or another and has a strong effect of leading the eye. To prevent the shortage of an overly technical impression of the video and consequently a lack of emotional impact, Julian and his team decided to take human silhouettes generated from 3D models and stylistically blend them with bold typography layouts.
Best Young Production
This award carries prize money contributed by DIGITAL PRODUCTION totalling 3,000 Euros. The lucky winner last year was “Less Than Human” from Denmark. The best university-level project completed in the field of CG film: the evaluation criteria include the original concept, dramatic portrayal, technical execution as well as character design and animation.
Finn has stains on his skin. One day, he meets a group of cool kids with different markings on their bodies. In time he learns that these stains aren‘t just pretty. The story was inspired by Angela Strassheim’s project “Evidence”, for which she photographed the inside of seemingly perfect American houses where tragic murders had happened. She used special UV light to highlight the blood stains that remained despite years of intensive cleaning. The question which came out of it was the following: What if the emotional pain we felt has left us with the same kind of traces, and we cannot remove them? That is how Finn’s story was born.
There is not much talking going on in the whole short film. The student team from France (Mélanie Lopez, Simon Boucly, Marie Ciesielski, Alice Jaunet, Chan Stéphie Peang, Béatrice Viguier) wanted to rely more on animation and atmosphere rather than dialogues, letting light and setting talk for themselves and not disturbing the viewer with unnecessary voices. The process of look development took a while since the team didn’t decide right from the beginning where their journey would lead them. One of the first challenges after that was realistic lighting. They followed a colorboard as reference along with stills from live action movies. Arnold was the renderer of choice with HDR environments and a few extra lights to enhance the artistic intention of each shot. The lighting remained globally simple. For compositing, the main technical issue was to add shoulder camera movement on each shot to not have to render every frame. For this, Beatrice scripted a tool that could create a camera in Maya from a text file generated in After Effects. The text is the result of a tracking from a live action shot. This camera was then adjusted in Maya and then got imported into Nuke using projection.
Developing “The Stained Club” took roughly one year. This project served as the graduation movie at Supinfocom Rubika in 2018. Congratulations on winning in this category and have fun spending prize money!
Best Visual Effects
This award honors the most successful blend of live-action film and visual effects. Assessment criteria include originality, believability and technical perfection. “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” out of the Harry Potter universe won last year. This time it’s a slightly different world …
An orphan who has grown up on a small island and an engine driver set out to find a new place to live. But before they can drive their train to their new home, they choose adventure by saving an abducted princess.
When it comes to digital content, there has never been such a huge amount of effort in a German movie production. Five German VFX studios (Scanline, Mackevision, Rise, Chimney, Trixter) in total participated to provide the quality necessary to create such an emotional experience for everyone watching this movie.
And boy, did they need VFX. With all these complex shots it was pretty clear that one studio would not be able to handle them all alone. Luckily, it was fairly easy to split up the work: Following the journey through different settings and environments, the whole plot on its own provided a nice and easy-to-handle structure for the studios. Each of them got a different location.
Reminder: If you are interested in a detailed report about which studio handled what part of the movie and their challenges in particular, you can find an article in our recent Digital Production issue 18:04. And if you do not own this one, you can find a free PDF for download at download.digitalproduction.com.
Congratulations to our winner!
Best Feature Film
This award honors the best feature film in regards to visual effects – the evaluation criteria include design, visual effects, concept and overall composition. The winner is chosen via public voting. So, what did our readers decide what their favorite is? Easy – against certain expectations it was neither the nostalgia-trip in hectic stereo, nor “Avengers Infinity War Part 1”. The Best Feature Film of 2018, in regards to its visuals, is “Jim Knopf”! And you can still download the complete making-of on our website.
Last year we gave “Huawei Watch” from Glassworks Great Britain for Huawei the award for the Best Visualization. This award honors the most successful illustration of a subject, product or process by means of computer animation. The evaluation criteria include the original concept, digital execution and educational effectiveness.
The history of the Protestant Reformation packed into four and a half minutes: 500 years after the reformation that saw Western Christianity divided, Tumblehead came up with this marvel of animation art in a wacky comic style, directed by Magnus Igland Møller. Labeled as “A most precise and nuanced look into the life of the man, legend and visionary” the film approaches Martin Luther’s story from inspiration to separation. Mainly narrated in 3D animated sequences, occasional 2D scenes in a sketch style are sprinkled in for further explanations. With their eyes being placed on one side of their noses, the characters seem like a direct 3D rendition of their 2D counterparts. The granular bokeh of some scenes looks quite unique, particularly in the hearing scene (where you can also witness the hilarious implications that those one-sided eyes have on the backs of the characters’ heads).
New in 2018: The jury awards a technically outstanding project in the virtual reality experience area with respect to interaction, technical advancement and innovation.
Huxley is a story-driven multiplayer adventure game for Virtual Reality headsets. It is optimized for HTC Vive and was created in Unity. With the second part already knocking at the door, the team decided to switch to Unreal for round two.
The adventure begins with the last survivors of the human race on a space ship. Receiving a message from Earth (“SOS. SAVE ME! HELP HUXLEY!”) you decide to follow the request to find out who Huxley is. You get teleported to Earth which is a hellish place to be. All nature is destroyed, no living beings are visible. Cracking an old auditory code you open a secret portal. On the other side of the portal you see an old church which you enter through the portal. Up from the roof you recognize an old and rusty robot. Supposing that this could maybe be Huxley, your team searches for a way to find any energy source to restart the robot. With some discovered lasers it is possible to awake the robot and you find out about the story of Huxley and what happened with mankind in the past. Huxley tells you a story about dark times in history where mankind was suffering from wars, hunger and death. Seeing people suffer, he decided to help and bring infinite power to Earth so mankind could grow and develop into a peaceful and happy society. But instead of using this gift in a positive way, humans started to get lazy, pleasure-seeking and decadent. At the end they become extinct.
Feeling sorry for his intervention he decided to ask for help. With his last energy he sends you back in time to destroy him in the past. After travel through time your team has to find a way to get into Huxley by getting shrunk and wandering through his inner circuits. Finally, you are able to destroy Huxley from the inside. The timeline of mankind can change. You have saved the human race.
Best Advertising Production
When considering the best advertising production, the jury looks for originality as well as visual aesthetics. On the technical side, they also take into account the effective use of VFX, animation, music and sound. Last years winner was “Canal Kitchen” from France.
If you want quirky, funny, well made advertising that doesn’t need to shake bikini-clad bosoms, look no further then the renowned Agency Jung von Matt. Together with Sehsucht Studios from Hamburg, they gave us insight on why birds are sitting on powerlines – and sometimes squirrels.
Walking a fine line between lifelike physiology and characteristic acting, Chief Creative Pothead (CCP) Hans-Christoph Schultheiss and crew rolled up this original idea and created a film that approaches the subject of green energy with a good measure of easiness. The 90 seconds social-media-, internet- and cinema-targeted full-CG commercial for a German energy supplier was completed within a time frame of 5.5 months from initial idea/script to final delivery by a small team of concept designers, 3D artists, compositors and matte painters. A core team of six 3D artists started developing a pipeline covering all aspects of avian character creation including modeling, rigging, feather creation (both art directable and procedural) and feather dynamics. All feathers were created/modeled via a custom-developed Houdini Digital Asset running through Houdini Engine in Maya. The HDA requires artist-modeled simple 2D input objects such as flat quill geometry, outline geometry and several input curves defining barb shapes/flow along the length of the feather. Each resulting feather consists of a polygonal quill object and hundreds of curves representing barbs respectively barbules and is fully texturable via planar UVs. Look dev could also utilize custom attributes per feather for shading purposes. Up to 100 main hero feathers per wing and bird were individually rigged by a semi-automatic script-based system and keyframe animated whilst all plumage feathers were procedurally generated based on the HDA recipes resulting in up to 4,500 unique feathers per bird and then fully simulated via Numerions Carbon plumage plug-in within Houdini. Self collision as well as collision with body geometry and hero feathers is managed.
Final render data of 15 Tbyte for the entire film was exported to ASS files and rendered with Solid Angles Arnold.
The animago jury uses this award to honor a singular production that stands out as a result of its unique concept as well as its captivating combination of visual imagery and technical execution.
Each time there are a couple of entries that are too good altogether, but don’t really fit into the other categories – as such, they are artistically impressive, wellmade, quirky, and just very special. This year a little boy from Spain stole the jury’s hearts.
A young boy who loves to draw and build Ferris wheels encounters strange creatures that turn his life upside down. “In 2010, I started to work on this story about a little boy and these monsters. For much of my career I’ve worked as an animator on children’s feature films. As much as I enjoyed this line work, I was looking for a creative change. I met with my now producer Sasha Korellis in 2011, and we started to produce a short film outside of the studio system. This film is very dear to my heart and it has only been possible with the limitless dedication and hard work of an incredible crew of international artists from over 30 countries.”
Our expert jury chooses the three most compelling stills on the basis of design and aesthetic quality. The key evaluation criteria are photorealism, technical execution, character design and artistic standard. The ultimate winner is then chosen from the three nominees via public voting.
The first thing Alexander Beim started with was to become immersed in Einstein’s face. Collecting every image of Einstein he could get his hands on, he quickly realized there are not too many of them in decent quality, besides the fact that they were black and white. Eventually he started to review video material of the great physicist, only to learn that the average quality of it was even worse. But, obsessed with Einstein as he got into the process, he began to develop a subconscious feeling for the shape of his face. With the help of the surface transparency tool in ZBrush he was able to compare his model with the original front and side view proportions.
Creating a rough 3D shape of Einstein’s head, Alexander went back and forth, sculpting here and there and in the process gained more and more understanding of the lines and forms that make up Einstein’s face. UV mapping was performed in Maya. Wrinkles and pores were firstly drawn with ZBrush Polypaint. For the more distinct grooves, Dam Standard Brush was used. ClayBuildup Brush and Inflate Brush ensured a quick creation of wrinkles. Skin texture required a large amount of manual work as Alexander expected it to match Einstein’s face convincingly.
Final steps were done in Maya. Arnold was the tool of choice for rendering, offering more options for realistic skin appearance than ever. After an extended time of experimenting with parameters, material and mixing of textures and utilities – all to match Alexander’s demand for a convincing skin – the two area lights were set and it was time to make the hair. Alexander quickly fell in love with Maya’s interactive grooming. Hair, moustache, eyebrows and eyelashes were all separately groomed and for a more random look, a whole bunch of different textures were used in Modifier. Except for the background, contrast, color correction and the signature, no other steps were done in Photoshop.