Friday Animation Fun: Slug Invasion
Find out how this epic battle between an army of slugs and a defiant old granny was created using Maya, Mudbox, Photoshop and Fusion. Watch the short here too
Slug Invasion tells the story of a slug-army who are forced by hunger to traverse an elderly lady’s garden in order to reach a luscious flower. However, the granny has plans to halt their advance.
The short is the product of nine students – Morten Helgeland, Casper Wermuth, Lasse Rasmussen, Carina Løvgreen, Kirsten Bay Nielsen, Polina Bokhan, Peter Egeberg, Magnus Myrälf, Maria B. Kreutzmann – from The Animation Workshop in Denmark.
The plot for the story was inspired by the family of the film’s director and animator Morten Helgeland. “The initial ideas came from my grandmother who is always out in the garden picking up and killing slugs in various ways,” Helgeland explains. “Newspapers and articles of ways to kill the slugs were also a great inspiration when working with this story. When the third and last school-year started I pitched the idea in front of my class and a panel of selected school teaches and various people from the film-industry. Every student had the right to pitch and 6 groups were then created to make the six best ideas.”
With the Slug Invasion team quickly assembled and the narrative decided, pre-production got underway, starting with the characters stories, design and personalities. “We knew we needed a hero, one who could lead the army into war,” says Helgeland. “He was the one that changed the most design-wise. In the beginning he was a big masculine slug, but we later changed that to be the exact opposite. Then there was the new guy, who is the inexperienced frightened little character. We wanted to show him as the weakest character, both physically and mentally. This was done by making his design small and thin with a huge helmet for him to hide under. For the third character, the medic, we wanted him to always be sincere and clear minded, ready to go in and help the ones in need without hesitation. His design was always thought of as a big and friendly guy.”
Following the character designs, was creating the film’s overall look. “We looked at many films for inspiration, including Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Full Metal Jacket and We Were Soldiers,” says Helgeland. “The idea was to catch the feel of harsh and brutal war when the camera was following the slugs. Most of the war movies we used for inspiration used a distinct desaturated and cold feel to it. The handheld camera also helps to set the mood of the film.” The war scenes created, the student team then looked at creating an alternative environment for the old lady. “The whole feel had to be a complete contrast to the world of the slugs – going from cold, chaotic and a fast paced to a calm, quiet and saturated world with no worries. The film Blue Velvet’s opening shot was one of the main inspirations we used for the old lady’s world.”
To create the film’s many different assets and environments, the team used Maya for the 3D layout, modeling, lighting, and animation, with Mental Ray for Maya for rendering. Photoshop and Mudbox were used for the 2D, designs, storyboards and textures and for compositing, Fusion with the plugin Frischluft Lenscare for the frequent use of strong depth of field.
Despite having all of this powerful software, the team still encountered some technical challenges. “Dealing with all the grass that had to be in the film was difficult, especially the very long shot of the slugs sneaking under the grandmother,” Helgeland explains. “We did not have time or experience to do dynamic grass, so we chose to opt for strategically placed rigged hero grass that the animators could go in and animate slightly where the slugs had the most interaction with it. That, however, ended up taking much more time than anticipated, and instead of having animated grass in some shots and not in others, we chose to just keep with static grass for the entire film.”
The team’s also had to adapt their pipeline in order to fully achieve some scenes. “Most shots in the film were taken through a normal pipeline with lighting, rendering and compositing,” Helgeland says. “However, the two shots where the grandmother is getting up from the garden shed were done purely in compositing and only using masks from Maya, with no beauty render as usual. We wanted the shots to feel very different from the rest of the film, so we chose this approach and accomplished the shots only with masks and 2D effects.”
Now complete, the film took eight months of production time from start to finish. “A lot of work went into this film from the whole team and they all did a really good job,” adds Helgeland. “One can always see faults and areas to improve on things you make but the state that the film is now is very pleasing. I think the final product is a great achievement!”
Like this? Check out our selection of other awesome animated films on the shorts page
Make sure to come back next week for more Friday Animation Fun!
Check out the best 3D movies of 2012 on our sister site Creative Bloq.
on Friday, February 17th, 2012 at 3:30 pm under Shorts, Showcase.
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Tags: 3D animation, Animated short, Friday Animation Fun, Slug Invasion, student 3D animation