Everybody knows about Sintel, the third open movie being produced at Blender Institute by the Blender Foundation. Recently everybody has watched the trailer too. But few people know that not only the Durian Team gathered in Amsterdam is working on this.
Our mission at Licuadora is to deliver two complete shots of “The Quest”: a sequence where our red hair heroine goes through different natural obstacles trying to reach her destiny… ehm…that’s why it’s called “The Quest”
The job goes from concept to render, doing all there is to do from modeling to compositing, and everything in between like animation and VFX. The shots we have to deliver are challenging, they show Sintel struggling against wind and heavy rain so all materials need to be wet and many visual effects are required in the environment and on Sintel’s face and body.
How did we work ? First thing was watching the 3D animatic version of the shots done by director Colin Levy. Then we proposed a visual light/mood/VFX concept sketch for them, and when Colin said “yes, do it”, we started working on getting everything ready.
We had some independence regarding visual style but the final color grading was arranged it would be done by Durian Team in Amsterdam.
Instead of sharing the SVN repository with the guys at BI, (which makes no sense since most of the files there we have nothing to do with), we share a repository that Team America have kindly set up. So, cameras, proxy versions of shots and rigs were provided by BI, and stored into our small SVN repository.
Then we copied all these files to our own repository at Licuadora since internally at the studio we use GIT for versioning control instead of SVN. So every time a main file, let’s say Sintel’s rig, was updated at BI, we synchronized our version. Sintel’s rig was particularly troublesome to update because we had to modified it for our shots: passes IDs, extra material nodes, new modified (and animated) textures, and even new controllers to handle the water were needed, so in this case we had to manually transfer the changes to our own “Wet Sintel“. The copy/paste functions in Blender 2.5 showed to be a great help in this matter.
Our team is composed of specialists in different areas of production, while Ivan Hoffmann is our light-compositing guy, malefico is main rigger-animator and Juan Redondo is our all-purpose 2D artist (doing textures and matte paintings), we interchanged our roles as we found blanks or the task was too much work for one person, for instance in modelling or developing a particular visual effect.
How did we do the rain and everything ? We certainly used a lot of particles, but mostly we used animated textures and color handling in compositing. The big task was to get the rain strong enough but avoid it to completely occlude the shots and paste all the details. Animated textures were used to simulate the droplets on all surfaces (image sequences created in Blender and used as textures), plus running water over the landscape and Sintel’s clothes (animated procedurals).
All material we created will be available together with the main production files in Sintel’s DVDs, we keep no secrets !
One of the most challenging tasks was to deliver a character animation that could fit with the wonderful job carried out by Durian Team, for this it was great help that the whole animation team at BI gathered and give critique on all aspects of the delivered work-in-progress animation, this kind of pair-to-pair interchange of opinions was key for a healthy development of the joint collaboration.
Working like this, outside the main studio but in close contact with the gang, has its pros and its cons. Among the cons: we are not in Amsterdam, we have no chance to attend premiere (flight tickets are sooo expensive), we have to do this in our spare time of other paid jobs… so: we get no money, no fame nor fortune, and we will be full criticized for every little mistake just like the Durian Team will.
The good thing is we didn’t have Ton walking around watching our screens from our backs, we can drink beer at work (yeah!) and have an awesome argentine asado when we finish !
Seriously, it was an honor and a pleasure to be part of this besides being a lot of fun and a wonderful learning experience for us three: it forced us to learn all new Blender 2.5 features/tricks/bugs, and develop new techniques we will be able to apply to our own projects !
Oh I almost forgot ! we could have a peek at the whole movie too ! and IT ROCKS !!!