This article is available in: Français (French)
Article updated on December 4th 2020 : the short movie is now available online ! You can watch it below.
Interview first published on january 14th 2020.
The VES Awards will take place January 29th 2020 in California. As this event approaches, we wanted to share with you a short film nominated in the “Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project” category : Oeil pour Oeil.
It was directed by Thomas Boileau, Alan Guimont, Robin Courtoise, Mathieu Lecroq, Malcolm Hunt et François Briantais at the French CG/VFX/Animation school ESMA.
The short itself can’t be seen in its entirety for now, but the teaser and pictures within the article will give you a good idea of what to expect from this project.
3DVF : How did you come up with the idea of your short Œil pour Œil (“An Eye for an Eye”) ?
The directors : Thomas Boileau found the idea. He wanted our short to be centered around one-eyed pirates. Due to their missing eye, many mishaps would follow.
We then came up with several skits which became our short film.
3DVF : What were your respective roles ?
Alan Guimont handled the FX (water, smoke, etc), François Briantais handled animation and some of the rigging (mainly the mouths), Robin Courtoise worked on the rigging and a little bit on the animation. Thomas Boileau, Mathieu Lecroq et Malcolm Hunt handled modeling, lighting and compositing.
3DVF : Why did you choose to create such cartoony characters ?
We loved the designs created by Blue-Zoo for More Stuff, and we also liked an ad created for Cartoon Network featuring a pirate.
We also wanted to avoid to create generic and bland designs, the idea was to stand out, especially since many short films from ESMA are quite conventionnal.
3DVF : Let’s talk about rigging. How did you handled the characters ?
Rigging was one of the main challenges of the short film. We were not used to it at school. We had to create a rig that was universal enough to be used on most of the characters, while still giving us some freedom to animate the eyes, the mouth and so on.
François Briantais had completed an internship at Aardman, and someone from this studio helped us and solved some of our issues : this was easier for them since Aardman relies heavily on cartoonish characters. This was really helpful.
Aside from this, the main issue at the rigging stage was to get something optimized and that didn’t crash : a real nightmare !
3DVF : Could you tell us more about the animation itself ? How did you manage to push it far enough, but not too far ?
The captain and the woman managing the tavern were supposed to be the main characters, and the animator tried to maintain this. Sure, there are some jokes with the other pirates, but they stay in the background.
It was indeed hard to know how far we could push the animation. We had to find a middle ground between caricature and excess. The animator had a tendency to go to far, sometimes the eyes and mouths would be so deformed that you couldn’t comprehend the animation anymore.
The communication within the team was very good and the teachers helped us a lot : this was very useful to meet our goal.
We should also add something about the faces : what worked under a certain angle of view might not work under another, and the face wouldn’t look like anything. This is why once the camera was established for a shot, the animator mainly worked under the same angle of view.
3DVF : The tavern is a beautiful setting. How did you create it ?
We worked on it very early on, during layout and in order to find the right spots for our cameras. We then added lots of details to the tavern, created the wooden board one at a time…
Once we finished the posing in Maya, we exported everything to Zbrush to sculpt the boards, then used Substance to add some textures.
Thomas Boileau handled the lighting and compositing ; in the first shot of the tavern, the goal was to get a warm feeling.
We used MASH for the outside of the tavern, to add foliage on the rocks.
It should also be noted that we decided that a single person would always work on a specific element, for example every shot of the tavern. This helped us to achieve a consistant look.
3DVF : Which software did you use ?
Zbrush, Substance Painter, Houdini, Maya, RenderMan, Nuke, Premiere Pro.
3DVF : Beer, ocean… Fluid simulations are at the heart of your film. How did you create them ?
We had to work very quickly for the ocean, since it is used in 75% of the shots. We wanted something that wasn’t too heavy but we couldn’t find any useful reference, something stilyzed, cartoonish and not too realistic. In the end we ended up dividing the ocean in two parts : a mesh that is animated and sims around the objects such as the ship. The hard part was to make sure the simulation would match the animation, which was cartoony and fast. We had to speed up and slow down the simulations in order to find the right spot.
As for the beer, we wanted the viewer to wish they could drink it. We found our inspiration watching real beer ads, with condensation drops, even if the foam is still quite cartoony.
3DVF : Can you tell us about the texturing process ? How hard was it to keep everything consistant ?
We began working on the textures during the summer berfore we began the short. We did some research in order to find the right artistic direction and to stay focused on it.
We used Substance Painter ; we wanted our textures to look painted but without excess. In the beginning we were going for something very cartoonish, but be found the middle ground afterwards.
Since there is a lot of wood in the short, we were able to follow the same workflow for most of the textures. The other textures didn’t cause us any trouble.