Friday Animation Fun: Free Wheel
As this charming retro-1950s animated short, Free Wheel, goes on the festival run, six recent graduates share how they created it for their final year project. Watch the gorgeous teaser here…
Here’s another slick-looking teaser from six recently graduated CG students from Supinfocom students: Florian Pichon, Héloise Papillon, Lucas Morandi, Julien Perez, Maxime Mege-Ythier and Jean-Baptiste Trullu.
Unfortunately, we can only show you two minutes of the short as it’s yet to run the festival circuit. Good luck guys! It looks brilliant!
We caught up with director Florian Pichon and the Free Wheel team to find out how they created it. Watch the teaser and making-of video then read the interview below…
While Héloise, Maxime, Lucas and Jean-Baptiste followed the full five-years-long cycle at French school Supinfocom Arles, Julien & Florian entered the school directly in third year, after their CG-movie course graduation at Ecole Estienne in Paris in 2009.
In their final year, they joined together fuelled by the will to create a universe around a retro-50′s feeling and the world of roller derby.
Directed by the six of them, Lucas, a long-time animation lover, was in charge of the animation part, helped by Julien, also in charge of the set designs.
Jean-Baptiste, main character modeler and Maxime, environment modeler, were at the same time forming a small VFX pole. The first one dealing with flux and smoke simulations, the second simulating cloth and dynamics, visual effects and explosions.
Heloise, background shading artist, and Florian, character shading artist, delt with scene lighting and final rendering of their short. He’s also the one behind the overall art-direction and character design.
Now graduated, they’re all expected to pursue their carreer in the 2D and 3D animation world, each of them in their specialised area. You can find links to them below.
2012, Freewheel - July rolling- V-Ray render. Handpainted Maps. Modelling by J.B Trullu
3D World: In your own words, please describe what happens in Free wheel
“Free Wheel is the simple story of a very common cleaning lady in the 50′s with nothing at all for her, hard working in a Hall of Fame dedicated to what she’d prefer being: a famous Roller derby star.
“But we’re meeting her right at the time when unexpected event will urge her to change her status, to challenge that roller derby girl, and to challenge herself. It’s quite a really simple line but we wanted our main character to evolved in some way during such a short length.”
3D World: What were the film’s influences, both story-wise and stylistically?
We were influenced by many things, first of all, obviously by 50′s pin-ups and roller derby. But at the same time we wanted things to be simple to catch and we took lot of inspirations and narrative situations from fairy-tales such as Cinderella. You meet the heroin in a very similar status. At the same time we wanted to emphasize roller derby races, make it even more spectacular and -in some way- sort of a fantasy.
On the art side, the whole team was willing to create something graphically close to my personal illustrations, but we adapted the style to our goals and to the movie style.
Most of the references came from old-school cartoons, a 50s aesthetics with bright contrasting colors, lightings, colorful atmospheres, and the works of designers such as Bill Presing. Of course we couldn’t avoid having Pixar’s and Disney’s long-length features as references!
3D World: What did you do on the short and what was the hardest job?
Lucas was in charge of animating most of the heroin and the Roller derby star and players in the short, specially all the shots within the Hall of Fame. He also completely created and scripted on 3Dsmax a rig that we used for all our characters, main and secondary ones.
It was a blast and was a real time-saver!
Julien on the other side, animated some derby shots and all the male character (The Boss) animations. He’s also the one who designed the backgrounds, based on our common ideas and sketchs.
The first part of my work consisted in overall art direction and character designs. I also made numerous version of storyboard/2D after effects Animatics and was in charge of light atmosphere boards.
I was in charge of character shading, then I share scene lighting and rendering with Heloise. We worked with V-Ray render for 3ds Max. In the end I made an overall first pass of compositing under After Effects.
- Click on the software links above to read in-depth reviews
Jean-Baptiste and Heloise modelled the characters from my designs, experimenting a lot with Zbrush to be able to translate 2D works to 3D in a convincing manner. I must say it was a lot of comming back and forth from paper to 3D modelling to reach a point where we were satisfied with the volume. Especially for July, our main character.
Jean-Baptiste also simulate all our water effects with RealFlow and the smoke shots with FuméeFX, while Maxime simulated cloths and “hair” dynamic under 3Dsmax native cloth and created all the background explosions with Fracture and Rayfire as well as 2D-like fx with Particles.
The hardest of all was to deal with the short format with all we wanted to say in the story and at the same time keeping spectacular parts.So we made lots of cuts. That was a hard part, especially trying to keep the whole team ok with the choices.
Technically speaking, animation was a big part of the job, though the use of cycle for the girls roller racing helped a lot. Translating my designs into good 3D models was surely the hardest challenge with getting our rendering close the 2D arts while being readable in 3D and keeping materials feeelings. With all the movements & actions we were expected to occur, we couldn’t go for a full 2D chalk rendering !
3D World: How long did Free wheel take to produce?
We started the project in the end of May 2011 and completed it 12th June 2012, so it took us more than a year.
But the real production really started around February where story changes were still numerous but we got a more precise idea of where we were going. It also took us time to figure out what kind of rendering we wanted and Lucas had to start thinking about rig during summer 2011.
3D World: What 3D software did you use and why?
The softwares weren’t really chosen since we had to deal with the existing softwares in the school. So we worked with 3ds Max for most of the 3D stuff and Adobe After Effects for compositing and simple visual effects. V-Ray was also the only option we got apart from 3ds Max native scanline rendering.
But we had the opportunity to add Realflow and FumeeFX for VFX since Jean-Baptiste has had a first experience with them during his third year and some plug-ins for scripting and simulations. He also brought the team his ZBrush skills.
For compositing, plugs such as Sapphire, Frischluft, Realsmart were necessary to get our final render right. The challenge was to use most of 3Dsmax and After Effects native components though.
3D World: What was the most useful piece of 3D software and why?
I think what really saved us was ZBrush software – and the use of it by Jean-Baptiste and Héloise! I don’t think we could have got our character modelling right without its modelling tools.
The characters are really cartoony but there was a huge work on shape and details made to enable us to get some nice face shots or even to stylize the hair right.
It also saved us lot of time for Morphers/blendshapes on our main characters. It helped sorting out wrong UVs – since all part of the backgrounds and characters were unwrapped to enable chalk painted maps.
3D World: What was the most impressive technical aspect of the project and how was it achieved using 3D software?
The biggest technical stuff we had to deal with in the early days of production was our choice or rendering style.
We first thought of a 2D-like rendering with chalky line. It worked fine with still pictures. Less with moving character and lots of movement in a shot. We decided to lean toward a more “common” 3D rendering as seen in most of long-length feature animation movie. But we wanted to keep it close to our initial development concept.
We finally decided to unwrap every modelled item to be able to create different chalk-painted maps under Photoshop.
I had some custom brushs I used in my personal work that we took to create the look of the short. Then we shaded the backgrounds, item, characters under V-ray trying to get a right balance between some heavy or fine chalk maps and materials such as skin, chrome or wood.
You may not see it at first glance, but you can see the hand-painted texture when looking carefully at the cloths, the walls, or even the wooden floor of the rink.
3D World: Did you do anything wrong in the production?
Of course we did! Though we tried to be as neat as possible in our production pipeline, we experimented some bad problems with one version of our main character we nearly had to fully redo her until we found a quicker and more efficient way to save time and trouble. Without that she’d have a big ugly cut all around her neck!
Different people working on the same wip file with all the incremental save and stuff, even with good team work and communication can lead to little bugs growing into one big trouble. That’s surely something we’ll remember!
We also made mistakes with directing, having to cut parts that would have made the short better: but that’s also the part of learning to deal with managing a team, deadlines, balancing your wills and ambition with the amount of hardware you can get.
We learned a lot while making our short together: working as a team, staying united and motivated, sharing work considering skills and techniques and at the same time being flexible to avoid wasting too much time when facing problems, having a good working ethic too. Of course we all learned so much technically from this production in each of our specific areas.
3D World: Did you use or develop any new or notable techniques?
Most of the techniques we used we already known ones and well-tried. The one think that was really developed for the short was Lucas’ rig, he named it “Suica Rig”.
It’s a fully resizable human rig scripted with 3ds Max. It’s able to work for realistic or cartoony animation since it enable stretchy/squatchy limbs, all bendable, just like the rest of the body.
It’s also has a really animator-friendly rig that helped a lot to enable the same ease-of-use for him and Julien while working together.
He also made special versions including roller skates where we could auto-animate the wheels rotation depending on the character speed, and many nice features. We used the rig for all the characters without any conflict when having more than two of them in our 3Dsmax scenes.
That was really a huge part of the work that worked very well and saved us some nightmares when starting animating the shots with the final characters.
We also got some tips from ex-students we known individually! We collaborated with Maxime Delongvert who composed and recorded the soundtrack of our short. It’s been a wonderful experience.
Thanks to all the Free Wheel team for granting this interview! Good luck on the circuit!
Contact the Free Wheel team
Florian PICHON: florianpichon.blogspot.com
Héloise PAPILLON: helopap.blogspot.com
Lucas MORANDI: lmandori.blogspot.com
Julien PEREZ: sandamal.overblog.com
Maxime MEGE-YHTHIER: pyratoblog.blogspot.com
Jean-Baptiste TRULLU: mjean-baptiste-t.blogspot.com
on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at 4:39 pm under Shorts, Showcase.
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Tags: animated, CG, Free Wheel, Friday Animation Fun, short, supinfocom