Friday Animation Fun: The Gloaming
Find out how a talented trio called Nobrain used a variety of animation techniques, including 3D, 2D and stop motion, to create this striking and innovative animated short. Watch The Gloaming here too…
The Gloaming’s writers and directors, Saii, Charles and Niko met while they were working for post-production houses in Paris. Saii was a compositing artist, Charles a CG artist and Niko a post-production supervisor. In 2001, they created a post-production house of their own, called Sabotage.
But the more they worked on other people’s projects, the more they realised they wanted to direct their own. So, they relinquished control of Sabotage to dedicate themselves to their own creations.
Nobrain was born.
The work of Nobrain feeds off the three different personalities and areas of expertise. Subsequently, the mix of their three visions allows them to work in many different mediums.
Their ability to mix many different techniques – including CGI, live action, stop-motion animation, miniatures, handmade drawn animation, motion design, and photographic artworks – makes for unique and striking visuals.
Watch Nobrain’s The Gloaming
3D World: How did you first lay out the plot of The Gloaming?
Nobrain: It was six years ago. At this time we were working on different projects, involving the conception of mini worlds full of characters.
We were trying to make a music video for a famous band in the UK and we wrote an early version of The Gloaming.
Because the music video didn’t happen, we decided to develop it into a short film with our producer Nicolas Schmerkin. From the beginning we decided that the film would be a big mix of all the techniques we love (stop motion, 3D, miniatures, handmade animation). We felt that this choice was fitting the subject of the film.
3D World: At what stage were the characters created and what influences their design and personality?
Nobrain: We wanted to create a disturbing caricature of humanity. That’s why we decided to keep all the characters rough enough to make this portrait more subversive and fun to watch. The idea was to make the audience laugh and feel good at the beginning; and fluidly follow the storytelling, then bring them into a darker place at the end.
We never considered that the film should pretend to give any solution to the human condition. The goal was more to create a surprising object of reflection able to touch any human being on the planet. All the designs and the techniques were chosen to give the feeling that it was directly made by human hands. A cold 3D animation short film was never an option for us.
3D World: What influenced or inspired the look and feel of the film overall?
Nobrain: At the really beginning, it was inspired by the song of the music video we were supposed to do. We were also influenced by the video games like Populous or Civilization, imagining a story where the player could be personally involved in what he creates and progressively loose control and embrace the consequences.
For the designs and the style of the 2D part we had in mind the incredible work of Bill Plympton. The funny thing is that Plympton was the president of the jury at the NAFF (International Festival of Animated Films in Bosnia) and gave us the Grand Prix. Let me tell you that we were really, really proud that day.
3D World: How many people worked on the short overall?
Nobrain: Because the short was technically insane to achieve and of course expensive, it took six years to finish it. If you take a look to the end credits you’ll easily understand that we can’t answer this question. The only thing we can say is ‘thank you’ to a lot of souls who helped to make this animation.
There were lots of times when we thought we would never be able to finish it.
In a way, we were exactly like the character of the story, loosing control over a very complex object that was about to swallow us!
From the beginning Nobrain decided that the film would be a mix of all the techniques they love: 3D, stop motion, miniatures and handmade animation
3D World: What 3D software was used to create the short?
Nobrain: 3ds Max was used all along on the project, even if you can’t see much of it in the final result.
We first created a very detailed animatic of the whole film in 3D to edit it and get all the timing and camera movements. This step took us something like three months.
After that we divided the shots in categories. Some of them were full hand made 2D with compositing, others 3D movements with objects remodelled following the designs, and a last category involving shots with the stop motion and the 2D interaction (using 3D for the planet on the wide shots).
The most complex camera movements were entirely made in 3D and redrawn frame by frame in a second step, that’s why you cannot see the 3D work in the final result.
3D World: What was the biggest technical challenge in the whole film overall?
Nobrain: The most difficult part was definitely the compositing. First, you have a lot of elements – 2D, 3D, stopmotion etc – to reassemble. After that you all the FX stuff like smoke flares and texturing.
All the shots were complicated to compose and render. The compositing took us at least eight months with many people working on it.
Even though it was painful, this step was the first moment we saw our short emerging from the technical world to start its life in the real world.
At the end of the day, nobody cares about the techniques or difficulties you’ve been through. The only object you created is a film, and really quickly the audience owns it better that you do. It’s like a child leaving the family house, starting to make his own way into the world.
The camera movements in the baby factory sequence are very complex and it was very difficult to match the 3D version while keeping the designs intact, so it had to be redrawn frame by frame
3D World: What was the most interesting shot to develop from a technical angle?
Nobrain: I think the baby factory sequence was very challenging.
The camera movement are very complex and it was very difficult to match the 3D version while keeping the designs intact, redrawing it frame by frame.
We really love this part of the film because of the violent turn in the storytelling, mainly the shot revealing the factory with all the mothers lined up.
Every time this sequence comes during a screening, you can easily hear the audience holding their breath! For a director it’s a fantastic feeling when you can see your idea having a real impact on the audience.
3D World: How long did the short take to complete?
Nobrain: Around six years, mostly because of the financial problems we had all along. The production was stopped for almost a year because we were looking for financial inputs.
At the end Sabotage Studio saved us, taking care of the last part of the finalisation. We are deeply thankful for that.
Visit the Nobrain website to see more work by the talented threesome
on Friday, July 20th, 2012 at 3:17 pm under Shorts, Showcase.
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Tags: Animated short, Animation, cg short, Friday Animation Fun, Nobrain, The Gloaming