Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From Towers to Turtles: Caldera

As Tower 37 has been winding down its festival life, I have been putting more of my animation energies into a new film: Caldera. This beautiful and thoughtful short about a girl struggling with mental illness is the brainchild of Evan Viera and Chris Bishop, two long-time collaborators and friends who birthed the idea when they were teaching animation in China. The film is one of the first two films (the other being Bassam Kurdali's Tube) being produced in Hampshire College's Animation Incubation Studio. Locally, it's the "Nerd-o-Drome."

My responsibilities vary on Caldera. I recently finished rigging the turtle character, which I had previously done some shading R&D for as well. Now I'm going to spend some time doing what lots of people have tried but most, in my opinion, have failed to do very well: get anime-style 2D "toon" renders out of a 3D pipeline.

I don't want to start a charged aesthetic debate here, rather, I'll do my best to be scientific and present reference images, analyze them, and post the results of my efforts. In other words, this is an engineering challenge. Evan and Bishop have done their work coming up with great concept art; I'm going to see if we can get motion that does the art justice:

Bishop has done some turtle animation in an underwater shot which I'll be testing turtle shading on; Cali (the girl) will come a little later when he's done with a shot that features her. Cali's going to be harder for lots of reasons which I'll get into in future posts.

So for now, the above concept painting will be my target for the look of the turtle, even though the shot I'm working on is staged further away and features him (him?) in profile. The first image from this post is a comp I assembled during shading R&D, with painted texture detail by Evan, also based on the same concept painting. The main features are looking good, though the edge lines are visibly absent, and of course motion causes everything to go crazy. Making one frame is pretty easy; the real challenge here is going to be to make it look right over time!