Main Titles for Playgrounds – The Art Department. A deserted world devoid of any human inhabitants, occupied only by utility droids, trying to mimic the behavior of their creators. A tale of friendship and love, discovered in the most peculiar places.
Direction/Animation – Sava Zivkovic
Music/Sound Design – Echoic
Thanks to Aleksa Cvejic for Loish graffiti art!
Earlier in 2017, right after IFCC conference, I was approached by Playgrounds Festival organizers, asking me to produce the titles for their new venture – The Art Department.
Knowing that this time around I’ll have a small time frame of only a month to complete the titles, I dove straight into the concept for this piece. The initial idea of creating something “simple” and going the route of abstract motion graphics intro proved to lead to a dead end, as I was constantly influenced by narrative ideas and the drive to yet again create something that’s story driven.
The concept evolved from one of my weekly warm up renders, and very quickly took its near final shape in the form of previz. The film follows our main character, a clunky utility droid, navigating a deserted world, following his daily programing. A sad depiction of the futuristic world, where these droids roam aimlessly in their solitude, until our hero finds companions on his journey, and furthermore a purpose. Along this journey we are presented with the speaker names, taking shape and form of various highway signs and images.
It all starts here, the stage where you put your rough ideas on “paper” and see what works and what doesn’t. I don’t create storyboards often, mainly because I don’t draw really well, but what I am pretty fast at is rudimentary 3d animation.
Being that the world is very similar to that of our own, I used a lot of models from 3D Warehouse to quickly construct various scenes for pre-viz purposes. The advantage of this technique is that it’s extremely fast to set up, and what it offers over traditional storyboarding is the ability to actually animate your cameras in 3d space.
The entire previz process lasted only 2 working days, and the resulting animation follows the original previz up to 95%. Not only that the previz provided a solid starting point with animation, but it also had set the foundation for some of the color choices, that would later come to define the look of the whole piece.
Since this was a one man project, the main character had to be designed on the fly as the project went into production. I’m not a concept artist by any means, but I did have a clear vision of what the character should look like. A likeable, clunky, old and overused droid, employing the characteristic of Wall-E and Johnny 5, but with a more sturdy and industrial feel.
The character was designed in 3ds Max, with simple poly modeling techniques. Few parts required sub-d modeling, as I knew that the whole mesh would be non-deformable.
The quick poly modeling had its drawbacks, which I encountered later in the unwrapping stage. Finally, the character was textured in Quixel suite, bringing him to life with rich textures, showing his age with wear and tear.
Other than the character, our secondary hero asset was the car itself. Initially the plan was to use an old Renault 4 but I couldn’t find a model that had a decent interior, thus I shifted to a classic old Beetle, of which I found a great model on Turbosquid. The car model was also unwrapped for texturing in Quixel as it needed the same amount of attention as our character did.
Most of the other assets, like highway environments, signs, gas stations, tollbooths were pretty simple to make with standard modeling techniques, and were textured directly in 3ds Max with Octane’s mix materials, giving everything this worn look and feel. Additionally I used a lot of stock models from Evermotion to set-dress the scenes.
Typography is one of the aspects that drove the concept for this piece in the first place. I was always a fan of type that inhabited the world itself, something about it always spoke to me on some intangible level, and once I had a first test render I knew I wanted to incorporate this approach into the film.
I had uncountable hours of fun incorporating the names of the artist in various ways, and this was definitely one of the highlights of the whole project for me.
This project marked a first time collaboration with Bristol based Echoic audio, a studio I have admired over the years and finally had a privilege of collaborating with.
I had a very clear idea of what tone this project should encapsulate, but that being said I think it’s very important to let your composers bring the world to life in a manner they see it. If you give your direction at the start you risk tarnishing that first impulse the composer has, which may be just what your project needs, as it turned out to be the case with Playgrounds.
Working with an experienced studio such as Echoic was extremely satisfying, they delivered above and beyond my expectations and I’m looking forward to future collaborations!
Special thanks to Leon van Rooij, Jort van Welbergen and the entire team at Playgrounds for providing me with the opportunity of working on this project!
I will be giving a lecture at Playgrounds this October about the entire process behind the titles so if you’re near Eindhoven feel free to drop by.
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