Friday Animation Fun: I, pet goat II
Find out how 3D artist Louis Lefebvre created this animated CG short film, I, pet goat II, using Maya, V-Ray FumeFX and RealFlow
We saw I, pet goat II a few days ago and caught up with creator Louis Lefebvre to ask him about character design, environment design, the layout work, the art direction, matte painting and more.
Watch the animated short and read the interview below:
3D World: In your own words, please describe what happens in I, pet goat II.
Louis Lefebvre: The film came to me in a visual form. That is I kept seeing vivid images and symbols and I decided to follow these and see where they led.
Much like I have read about certain authors who start a book having only a character in mind and the book will be an exploration of what that character has to tell them. In my case, I kept seeing the central character on the boat and it was as if he was saying “Follow me”. I felt that I would be led to a deeper peace if I did.
So the film is about a journey through the landscape of my personal suffering using very universal symbols, a journey that leads to a more peaceful abiding place.
Throughout the process I tried to follow the story in its visual form [rather than over thinking things]. When things made sense visually and rhythmically, I went with that. In fact many times it wasn’t clear to me what the images meant and I found multiple explanations. And many people have given me alternative explanations. I think it works well that way evoking different things for different people.
Having said that, the story is clearly about the crumbling away of the hierarchical world based on control and the rising up of the spiritual man, awake to his divine nature, free of intermediaries.
3D World: What were the film’s influences, both story-wise and stylistically?
LL: I am very interested in mystical writings whether Christian, Sufiism, Advaita, Zen or others.
Films like Baraka have had a deep impact on me. Baraka mixes a gorgeous soundtrack with stunning cinematography.
Also films like the Wall I guess, to which I responded very viscerally as a child because of the intense musical score and the strong symbolism, or the Triplettes of Belleville with its mixture of dance, music and animation. Both have a strong critical message too. Which I like. Wrapping these very hard subjects in pleasing visuals and luring rhythms makes it much easier to get your point across. That’s why I chose cute little characters with vivid colors. The story line was already dark enough.
Stylistically, the initial inspiration was a Christian orthodox icon of a Christ figure in flaming reds and yellows. The idea of using gold leaf also came from there. I knew I could make it as detailed as these types of paintings so I experimented with rough brush strokes to give it an art class (a little messy) kind of finish.
There is a bit of Dali in there and the Group of Seven Painters which is a group of Canadian painters from the early twentieth century, some native American art, and many other influences in there I am sure.
The Pietà pose is borrowed from Dali and I pet goat II contains other familiar influences
3D World: What did you do on the short and what was the hardest job?
LL: Many people have contacted me thinking that we are a small company with a permanent crew. I guess that’s my fault for the way it is presented on the website. And it is my hope for the future. I am presently talking to a few producers and perhaps it will happen. We shall see.
But the truth of the matter is that it has been a mostly solitary endeavor with a few contractors hired as I needed them.
Mostly I was helped with the VFX work, the dance, the motion capture recording, some design work for the environments and some matte painting. And the music and sound.
My two pillars which did most of the VFX work were Jocelyn Simard (aka Strob of Iron Baby fame) and Hugues Coupal. Hugues was also assistant art director when I needed a second pair of eyes.
So that leaves me all of the modeling, the texturing, character animation and rigging, and most of the lighting except for effects lighting. I did all of the character design, some of the environment design, the layout work, the art direction and some matte painting.
I even was the voice at the beginning of the short.
The hardest job for me was definitely the direction; the story telling. I had never done such an extensive short so I was very insecure about my ability to do it. The subject matter was so daunting and I felt so unsure as to if I could pull it off, that it brought up a lot of stuff for me. That was the process, which was very difficult but also very rewarding.
3D World: How long did I, pet goat II take to produce?
LL: The idea started to germinate probably in 2005. As I said I kept seeing the central figure on his boat. I started to take small stabs at it while doing other work. And it started taking up more and more of my time until 2008 when I started doing it full time and hiring people punctually.
"I never thought it would take so much time," says Louis. "At first I wasn't aiming at such a high quality and the story wasn't as elaborate. But as time went on it just kept pulling me in further"
3D World: What 3D software did you use and why?
LL: I used Maya and V-Ray. Just because I have been using Maya since our company was beta testing it in the beginning when I was working in San Jose. I know myself around it really well. I script in mel and also do some coding in c++.
I chose V-Ray for the rendering because I really liked its ease of use, the way the light behaved in a natural manner and also just liked how the sss and color seemed to come out.
We used FumeFx for the natural smoke and RealFlow for the water shots.
3D World: What was the most useful piece of 3D software and why?
LL: Definitely Maya since it was the one that was overwhelmingly used on a day to day basis. Over the years I have developed an important toolset of scripts and plug-ins that help me rig more efficiently.
Most of my rigging is scripted to allow you to make easy changes at any time. In fact, even if I was alone for the character creation (modeling, animation, texturing) I approached it as a bigger studio would, having things scripted and sharing up assets (puppets, animation…).
I made making changes a lot easier.
3D World: What was the most impressive technical aspect of the project and how was it achieved using 3D software?
LL: Definitely the most technically challenging shots were the smoke and the crumbling infrastructure shots. The crumbling towers, the army of business men and the collapsing church specifically. Strob did the smoke and Hugues Coupal did the collapsing church. Strob used FumeFx in 3ds and it took some time before getting what I wanted. Same with the collapsing church. I know Hugues did a lot of scripting to get that falling the way it did. He did scripting to get all the uvs working properly and also to get the various sections to collapse at different times.
The most technically challenging shots were the smoke and the crumbling infrastructure shots
Also, just trying to coordinate everything on my end with all the smoke work which was not being done physically in the same place as me. Strob was doing the smoke from home and he was working in 3ds. Getting everything to match (lighting, cameras…) was a big headache for me. I really learned to appreciate the value of a good supervisor and coordinator.
3D World: Did you do anything wrong in the production? Did you learn anything from producing I, pet goat II?
LL: I made a lot of mistakes and much of these mistakes had to do with just not having directed or art directed anything before. I had a very strong feeling about what I wanted to say but not necessarily a clear picture of how things were going to look or be strung together in the end. So I spent a lot of time redoing things, remodeling characters, retexturing, relighting as I progressed in my craft. What I learned most I think from this project was a sense of confidence. I think if I end up doing another one, I will go straight to the point much faster, with more clarity.
Louis Lefebvre has been working in animation since 1998. He animated doctor Sid in the movie Final Fantasy: the spirit within, and worked in the animation and rigging departments at Weta for the Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers.
We’ll be doing a Meet the 3D Artist post featuring Louis Lefebvre next week
on Friday, July 6th, 2012 at 2:00 pm under Shorts, Showcase.
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Tags: 3D animated short, 3D animation, Animated short, CG animation, short film