New animated short: Un Petit Plat Pour l’Homme
Director Corentin Charron talks about the technical challenges of creating chefs in space for his humorous short film Un Petit Plat Pour l’Homme created using 3ds Max, After Effects and Photoshop. Watch the short here too!
The two-minute short is the creation of Corentin Charron, a third-year animation student at Supinfocom Arles. He was assigned the topic ‘cooking’, and quickly decided on a concept.
The film tells the tale of two astronauts, one carrying out essential maintenance to their vessel while the other cooks. Preparing a French dish, the chef alerts his colleague to his task and asks for advice. As the other astronaut is outside the capsule and unable to hear, the duo embark on a humorous mime conversation through the window.
“The idea of my film being in space came soon enough,” Charron explains. “I wanted to play with weightlessness and I had some specific ideas for the lighting and atmosphere. Then, with my teachers’ help, the plot matured and the gags were refined to achieve this result.”
The director wanted to focus the majority of the animation on the comic mime dialogue between the two characters
With the narrative decided, Charron chose to focus the majority of the film on the duo’s mime conversation, so careful consideration went into its overall design.
“I wanted a theme of frustration to run through the film,” he says. “I wanted the fat astronaut, who makes a good living and is probably a lover of good food, to be locked outside and have no access to food – and, conversely, to have the young, thin astronaut, who has no idea about cooking, prepare the meal.”
Some famous faces inspired the characters’ physical designs. “For the face of the fat astronaut in particular, I was inspired by French actors like Bernard Blier and Michel Galabru,” Charron says.
The look of this astronaut was influenced by French actors such as Bernard Blier and Michel Galabru
The director also turned to the movies for the overall look and feel of the film. “For the capsule, I was merely inspired by reality – but there’s also a mixture between objects in a traditional kitchen adapted to space, and decorative elements inspired by the Tantive IV spaceship (Star Wars) and the Discovery One (2001: A Space Odyssey).”
With limited 2D skills, Charron used 3ds Max to plan production. “I’m not a good drawer, so I quickly made tests of lighting in 3D, to begin to get the mood I wanted,” he says. “I didn’t want it too oppressive, or too airy and bright. I just wanted the atmospheres of interior and exterior to blend together to support the chemistry between the two characters. I created a bubble around them, to isolate them more than they already were, using a velvety atmosphere created through the use of volumetric lights.”
The director’s chosen environment and his inexperience in filmmaking also caused him considerable technical challenges. “Almost everything was a big challenge because I was learning at the same time as creating my film,” says Charron. “I had high ambitions for the lighting and the ambiance but was using Scanline Renderer, which doesn’t really allow the creation of the rich and dense atmospheres that I wanted.”
So Charron had to devise a series of workarounds to achieve the look he was after. “In the end I just tried to get an image from 3ds Max without any contrast and without too much volumetric light,” he explains. “Then I created the atmosphere of each shot in 2D using After Effects, with simple blurred shapes or gradients, encrusted with multiply, screen or overlay blending modes. This allowed me to create this dense atmosphere I was hoping for and, in particular, to direct the viewer to where I wanted them to look.”
Director Corentin Charron decided on a space theme, wanting to experiment with weightlessness, lighting and atmosphere
Keen to ensure he achieved the film’s desired look, the director set up a highly organised pipeline. “The scene where the cook puts salt on the meat and the carrots is a great representation of the working method that I used for each shot,” he explains.
“I started with sets and basic lighting, immediately placing the camera in order to adapt the light of my characters as each was lit independently from the rest of the scene.”
Lighting nailed, Charron moved on to the next stage. “I did the animation like the characters were on Earth, with normal gravity, and then I stretched the keyframes to slow the movement. To make everything appear as if it was floating, I animated a main controller to which I applied slight movements and slight rotations, and a very soft noise on the position and rotation.”
The rendering and composition stages brought it all together. “I used zdepth, shadows, falloff, occlusion and beauty passes in rendering,” Charron says. “Finally, during the compositing, I added particles of salt and used the zdepth to blur and desaturate the background. I re-lit my scene by creating shadows, or blue and red areas, and voila!”
Charron spent six months on the project, and he’s pleased with the final result and what he’s learned from the experience. “I’m very happy and proud of the final film,” he says. “I learned many things from a technical point of view but also in terms of methodology of work.”
Watch Un Petit Plat Pour l’Homme
You can read the full version of this article in the new issue of 3D World – out now!
on Friday, August 17th, 2012 at 3:31 pm under Shorts, Showcase.
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Tags: Animated short, Animation, cg short, Short Cuts, Un Petit Plat Pour l'Homme