Tumbleweed: how Blinkink and Louis Clichy created a CG short for Toon Blast

3DVF: The shot of the wave (1:56) is quite striking, and the lighting has been carefully tuned to make the scene even more impressive. Could you break down how you approached this shot?

Quentin Vien/Blinkink: This shot was one of the first shots we worked on,

Camille Perrin painted a concept frame and we used it as a guide for the tumbleweed wave development.

The wave – concept by Camille Perrin

Camille’s concept was very dramatic and had a very 80’s adventure look to it (Think Indiana jones meet DuckTales) that we wanted to keep in the final shot so we tried to stick to the concept as close as possible.

We already had a rough idea on how to build the tumbleweed wave from the early tests so using the Previs geometry we set up a simple version of the shot.

I picked up the shot and treated the lighting like a painting. The film goes from pretty “Classic” to “Dramatic” and we wanted to get each mood right. The sunlight going through the clouds was achieved using spotlights and the overall lighting by a strong indirect light bouncing from the cliff.

We were in the middle of finishing the character look development and only starting lighting, so we spent a bit more time to get something “close to final” to show Peak and make sure the film was going in the right direction. It was a success!

It motivated the team a lot to get going. I think that was the Friday before another COVID measure was announced so small wins were very welcome! We “Parked” the shot thinking “if everything gets to this level, we will be fine”.

Eventually, we got back to the shot, Ken Hau re-comped the shot, which gave it a new life, with subtle smoke and a more precise look. Adding animated god rays and camera shake.

We re-rendered the shot with the proper mountain asset and updated the wave with the final look development. Once the final renders were done, Camille did a “Paint over” adding details to the cliff in 2D. Finally, Ken projected it back in nuke and put everything together.

The first lighting render was around mid-September 2020 and the shot was finalised at the end of October.

3DVF: The car was another key element of the short : its appearance changes from clean to dirty and worn down, and it moves in a cartoonish way, with lots of squash and stretch. Was it hard to find the sweet spot, both for the appearance of the car at the end, and the animation?

Quentin Vien/Blinkink: Actually not really. haha.

We started character development when we didn’t know exactly what the story was going to be (and more importantly what the characters would do) so we started the animation test with classic run cycles and walk cycles.

But very quickly we realised they would be in the car for most of the journey. Luckily we had a rough version of the toon blast car that Dorianne built for the pitch. So the animation team started animating “run” and “walk” cycles for the car instead (with the character in the car).

Louis directed the team to make sure we had the right personality for the car, and we prioritised a few wide shots to make sure we would have a good reference/bible for the other shots.

Something that was tricky and did create a bit of back and forth, was choosing the scale of the car vs characters. It was important to keep the balance between the car and characters because it drove the story as much as its animation did.

Above and below: comparison between the colour board and the CG render.

For the look evolution, Dorianne built two cars, one new and one broken and the animators could switch which model they used, the same thing with the look. That did create a lot of pipeline nightmares because we were animating in Maya and rendering in Modo, and switching modellings, per car part, is not the easiest.

We also decided to make the windscreen in the comp. It’s one of the elements that evolve a lot in the film and using UV passes and other utility passes gave the comp artist more control than if the lighting team rendered it. The last shot, where the car is completely destroyed is actually the same car as in the canyon but we animated it as if it was on its last leg. The wobble and sparks made it look completely destroyed!

3DVF: What are you the most proud of on this project?

Quentin Vien/Blinkink: The team’s work!

It was an incredibly hard year for everyone and everyone gave 200% for this project to be the best possible. The Studio team was determined to use this project as an opportunity to introduce to the world what Blinkink CG looks like! It sparked so much creativity and motivation in the whole freelance team. I’m really proud of the production value of the film, you don’t usually get to deliver a film where you wouldn’t change anything. I’m also very happy with the fan’s reception. The toon blast characters are beloved by everyone that plays the game, they were the primary audience and reading the comments on YouTube, it looks like they approved of our work!

The Blinkink team.

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