VFX short: Bird – A Decent Animal
A team of Savannah College of Art and Design students expertly match live-action with CG animation and visual effects in this well-executed student short
VFX short films are a tricky beast. We’re often sent them for consideration in the magazine or on this website, and it’s rare to find one that sits as comfortably as Bird.
We’ve seen plenty of student showcases, where the whole department, including animation and VFX show their demoreels. More often than not, for VFX students, the best representation of skill comes from short, specifically focused pieces. They mirror real production in that the student has clearly spent hours and hours getting it right.
On the other hand, a plucky director may feel more satisfied in producing a whole project. The problem with this, is that assembling the actors, writing a script, and finding multiple shooting locations can sometimes become a distraction to the piece and we end up with half-baked effects, that just don’t sit well within the piece, either under-animated or the lighting between the CG models and environment don’t match.
Having said that, Bird is a clear exception to the rule:
Led by director Jon Balcome and featuring, Dan Giraldo and Pat Longstreth as VFX producers, the project started out as Balcome’s thesis for his MFA Visual Effects course at Savannah.
He used a range of influences including Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children, Amelie), as well as a little inspiration from the steampunk style to bring to life the music of the band A Decent Animal.
Matching live-action characters with organic CG effects, including head pieces attached to the human character, and the titular Bird, Balcome explains his approach: “I have always been intrigued by films that combined live-action footage of organic subject matter and then enhance it with computer generated media to create something totally new.”
“In this case, I use humans to help sympathise the minds and emotions of the viewer to the storyline and then used computer graphics to take them into a new world.”
The project started in March 2010 with a budget of $4,000 and grew rapidly, drawing in more and more talent to film.
In total there were 42 shots in the film, 29 of which were VFX shots. 27 of them were completed in just 10 weeks using a team of 6 main artists – see the full credits for ‘Bird’ here
To create the visual effects, the team used a pipeline that included Maya, Nuke, After Effects, Photoshop, PFTrack, ZBrush and BodyPaint 3D.
For a full breakdown of the effects, see the video below:
on Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 at 3:00 pm under Shorts, Showcase.
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Tags: cg short, live action, short film, Showcase, student, VFX