Friday Animation Fun: Monsterbox
Monsterbox is a graduation film directed by Ludo Gavillet, Lucas Hudson, Colin Jean-Saunier and Derya Kocaurlu from French CG animation school Bellecour Ecoles d’Art in Lyon, France. We talked to Ludo Gavillet about the film’s origins and the team’s influences
3D World: What were the film’s influences, both story-wise and stylistically?
LG: First of all, the inspiration for the film comes from a little market in Paris called La Place Louis Lépine. It is a gallery full of plants, birdhouses, garden tools and goodies. It’s a great place where colours and light give the impression of magic. So there was this wonderful environment, and we just had to think of a story.
We wanted something simple, colourful and full of happiness, a short film that touches everybody. So of course, we thought of Pixar’s shorts and features, Dreamworks’ How To Train Your Dragon, Miyazaki’s worlds and some Disney films. They’re all classics and the four of us love these stories so much that I think even unconsciously we were inspired by these movies. Added to this, memories from our childhood played an important role in the story as well.
Then, stylistically, it was all about artists. There were a lot of them that inspired us, but the most important were Brittney Lee, Nicolas Marlet, Daisuke Tsutsumi, André Franquin, Bobby Chiu, Robin Joseph, Chris Sanders, Floriane Marchix, Kei Acedera, Barry Reynolds… and many others. Their gorgeous work was an amazing source of inspiration.
3D World: What did you do on the short and what was the hardest job?
LG: I worked on the original idea, and we all worked on the story together. In fact, we worked as a team a lot of the time. I must say the hardest part was the rigging of the characters (because there were six of them and Derya created a full setup for everyone of them). And maybe also animation, because it was a long and hard job. But we were happy with the end result so we forgot it was hard:)
3D World: How long did the animation take to produce?
LG: We worked on Monsterbox for a year. From September 2011 to September 2012. And something like two weeks before that talking about the scenario. If you are talking about the character animation itself, we worked on that for seven months.
3D World: What 3D software did you use and why?
LG: We used 3ds Max. We learned to use 3DS when we were studying, so we didn’t even consider other software programs really. We also have a basic level of knowledge on Maya and ZBrush, but didn’t need to use them in the end.
3D World: What was the most useful piece of 3D software and why?
LG: Also, two friends from our class – Yann Moriaud and Jules Pinhede – created the ‘Scriptotheque’. It was a script library to which everyone had access. It really helped us use the scripts to simplify repetitive operations and gained us a lot of time. And then everyone who made a new script could add it to the Scriptotheque.
MAXscript was also used a lot for the characters rig but otherwise, we used pretty basic tools. We even exclusively used ScanLine to render the film!
3D World: What was the most impressive technical aspect of the project and how was it achieved using 3D software?
LG: The character rigs are the most complete technical aspect of the film. It took us a pretty long time but in the end it was a pleasure to animate. We even had a great tool created in MAXscript that we called the Qboard. It looks like a panel with a picture of the character you’re animating and it’s an interface where you can select every controller and adjust its parameters. Thanks to Yann Moriaud who created it and helped us integrate it to our setups.
There was also another great tool from the Scriptotheque called Material Overlay. A simple panel which enabled us to override every object’s materials and replace them with another, or several. That is easy in Mental Ray but we had to create it for ScanLine Render.
3D World: Did you do anything wrong in the production? Did you learn anything from producing Monsterbox?
LG: I think we didn’t spend enough time working on the layout. We were pretty keen to start animating because we knew there was a lot to do, but the last sequence of the film didn’t really work in the layout version and we lost a lot of time trying to overcome the problem while already animating. I also think that a better layout would have helped give more rhythm to the film.
I can say we almost learned everything from making Monsterbox! Not in a technical way but in terms of leading a project from nothing to a final result. Our school teachers let us pretty free on our film. It was difficult to make choices, we made mistakes, the planning wasn’t always well done… but from these things we learned a lot.
3D World: Could you please talk us through a key scene and say how you achieved it using 3D software?
LG: Okay, let’s talk about the little girl hopping in the flower shop – the fourth shot of the film. It was our test scene, and the first one that we rendered. So of course there was a lot of design work for the characters and the background using pencils, paper and Photoshop. Then the scene was storyboarded directly in Photoshop and animated using After Effects. The scene was painted on Photoshop to develop and choose colours and light. We modelled the characters and sets in 3DS Max. Then all of this was textured using Photoshop. A layout was established based on the animated storyboard. The characters were animated in 3DS Max (We filmed actors – and sometimes ourselves – to help us).
The most difficult part for us was to find a way to render the flower shop. Our scene had approximately 12 million polygons and it was very time-consuming to render. The challenge was to find shaders that were very light and which delivered the look we wanted. The bottom line was that we had to use basic shaders and lamps, and relied on compositing to make it look good! In the end, the different passes were diffuse, light, rim, occlusion, Z depth, volume light and volume fog. We also used a lot of masks in After Effects to add colours and contrast…
Have a look at our original post on Monsterbox and also check out A Fox’s Tale, another ingenious short.
on Friday, September 28th, 2012 at 1:58 pm under Shorts, Showcase.
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Tags: animated, short