BOUNTY HUNT is a personal take on the more mature and grittier Star Wars universe. Inspired by Shadows of the Empire, this short fan film tells a story of a successful bounty hunt, and explores what an R-Rated Star Wars film might feel like.
Direction/Animation – Sava Zivkovic
Character Artist – Soren Zaragoza
Music/Sound Design – Iz Svemira
Tools: 3ds Max, Octane Render, Substance Painter, Zbrush, Adobe Suite
It goes without saying, but I’m a massive Star Wars fan. The original trilogy had an incredible influence on me as I was growing up and I would argue that I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today had I not seen Star Wars as a kid. The recent additions of films to this universe however didn’t leave the same impression on me, no matter how visually beautifully crafted they are. So in an effort of doing rather than complaining, I decided to create my take on the universe we all know and love, and make a short fan film.
The story in this fan film is inspired by an old N64 game called Shadows of the Empire, and focuses on the more mature side of the galaxy far far away. In essence this story is that of a successful bounty hunt, but the hypothetical expansion of this simple story would focus on the character of Dash Rendar and his life in the more dangerous depiction of the well-established universe of Star Wars. The story where we deviate from the grandeur of ancient prophecies, the Jedi, Sith lords and the giant planet killing machines, and focus more on the dangerous life in the outer rim, one filled with smugglers, bounty hunters, fight for survival, death. A true R-Rated Star Wars film.
Over the years of working on my personal projects I’ve grown keen on sharing as much of my process as possible, so in an effort to further give back to the community here’s a narrated video showing most of my process.
This section is one of the most important stages in crafting your short film, it’s where all your decision are being made and the foundations are being laid down for the rest of the production.
When starting this project I knew I was going to be constrained in certain aspects of production, namely realistic human character creation and character animation. Those limitations naturally informed what I can and cannot do in the time that I have, and immediately set the goals for me. First one was finding a character artist willing to collaborate on a fan project with me, luckily I didn’t need to look far. I’ve met Soren Zaragoza at IFCC 2017 and we’ve been keen on working together ever since. Soren brought his years of expertise in character creation, and once he was onboard I knew the project could be completed.
The rest of the pre-production was smooth sailing, since I had a fairly clear Idea in my mind of what I wanted to achieve. One long shot showing us the brutal aftermath and death of our hero, intercut by the preceding space battle. The look is dark and industrial with the red color being predominant one, signifying the hate and death. The animation is limited only to space battle scene where I can easily control the mechanical animation of the spaceships, while the aftermath scene is just that, without any significant character animation. This concept while still conveying the original intent, proved to be easily achievable, and that is key when working on your own short films, having a concept that works while still being able to produce it.
What helps immensely in conveying your concept is the previz, which I can’t stress the importance of enough. This is the absolute key moment when making your film, and your film needs to work at this rough stage. If it does 90% of your work is done, all you need to do then is finish all the assets.
For the actual previz assembly I’ve downloaded a collection of free models from various resources such as google warehouse to be used as placeholders, and constructed simple scenes, lighting and even FX which would allow me to find interesting shots.
Given the animation simplicity which got set very early on with the previz, I knew the biggest bulk of the production will be the asset creation. The rule I set myself to follow was that every hero asset had to be completed within 7 days per asset. That way I could stay on track of completing this project and not get too hung up on creating unnecessary detail.
All of the assets created on my end, followed the same process:
1. Creation of sub-d base 3d model in 3ds Max
2. UV unwrapping in 3ds Max and Zbrush
3. Additional sculpted detail in Zbrush
4. Texturing in Substance Painter
5. Final shading and rendering in Octane Render
A couple of things I’ve changed in my workflow for this project is the inclusion of Zbrush and Substance Painter. It’s worth noting that I’m not a Zbrush artist, but having a basic knowledge and being able to introduce additional imperfections to your models makes all the difference in bringing more believability to your assets. The additional detail created in Zbrush was baked to normal maps with Substance Painter, and provided for some beautiful wear and tear effects in Substance. I really enjoyed using Substance Painter for this project, the speed and quick feedback this tool gives you makes it extremely satisfying to work with and I can’t wait to explore it further.
For the Dash Rendar asset Soren used Zbrush as his main tool of choice. Soren is an expert at Zbrush sculpting and was able to produce the asset very quickly using his tested and proven workflow. He first sculpted Dash in high resolution and then used auto retopology feature in Zbrush to create a more manageable poly count. This technique worked in this case since the model is static so there was no need for functional topology to be used. He then projected all the detail from the high res sculpt on the low res and textured the character in Substance Painter.
Our story’s villain, one that actually gets the upper hand and finishes his task, much to our hero’s misfortune. Even though I dislike modeling in general, this asset was really fun to create.
IG-88’s weapon of choice, this gun was fairly easy to make with the standard sub-d modeling techniques.
Nicknamed Leebo, this repair droid is Dash Rendar’s trusted sidekick. This asset had the least amount of reference, so there was a lot of guesswork and some artistic license in creating Leebo. I needed to create both a working version and a destroyed version, which had additional laser holes and damage created in Zbrush with the use of free Badking alphas.
Given the short screen time we see this spaceship in I didn’t want to go crazy with detailing here and saved some time on the overall modeling process. Having had a reference model for proportion comparison made things significantly easier.
While creating Dash’s trusted spaceship, The Outrider, I realized I’d need some sort of kitbash set to help with all the greeble detail surrounding the ship. I’ve modeled a couple of simple shapes which were UV’d ahead of time so I can easily use them to populate the asset and bring in much needed detail. The simple kitbash set has proved to be extremely useful in other aspects of the project, and I’ve re-used it in the space junk, aftermath environment scene, and for broken pieces of Leebo.
Once all the assets were in place the final scene assembly didn’t take longer than two days. The main junkyard scene was easily modeled using simple poly modeling and the kitbash set I’ve created for this project. I wasn’t really paying much attention to detail here since I knew most of the attention will be focused on the floor, and whatever part of the background environment we do see will be out of focus.
The space scene was even easier to assemble, since it only consisted of distant stars, floating junk pieces and a planet. For the junk pieces I used some free models from google warehouse and remodeled them to fit within my pipeline. The planet shot was initially supposed to be a projected matte painting, but I wanted to push the CGI here and make it completely 3d. I’ve used modified NASA textures of Venus for the terrain from which I generated a displacement texture as well. For the layer of clouds I used various textures to drive the displacement in the volume shader in Octane, creating realistic 3d clouds, which were topped off by a layer of atmosphere contained by a sphere object. The rest of the atmospheric glow was added in post.
Every shot in this short was rendered with Octane render for 3ds max, with average render times going anywhere from 40 seconds per frame up to 2 minutes per frame on a 4x EVGA 980ti Hybrid workstation.
Ever since I switched to Octane Render my postproduction workflow boiled down to color grading and simple compositing. This is all project dependent of course, but for this project there was little need for advanced compositing. The most “complex shot” was the aftermath long shot, where I had to render out many additional light passes to accentuate and bring focus to specific areas of the shot. I used After Effects as my main compositing tool, with supporting cast of plugins such as Magic Bullet Looks, Optical Flares, Sabre, Neat Video and Film Convert, as well as some Video Copilot Action Essentials 2 for explosion stock footage.
I had a pleasure of collaborating with my close friend Iz Svemira again, which marks our 6th personal project together. Iz had a challenging task of composing an R-Rated Star Wars score, not a small feat even for a fan film. The way we approached it was dismissing any hints to the original masterful orchestral score of John Williams, and diving into the darker depiction of this universe. Inspired by deep space sounds we envisioned how the outer rim might sound like, a lawless forgotten place where you fight for survival, and came up with a very low droning sounds to build up the tension of the piece.
Again my approach was to have an initial discussion with Iz Svemira and convey what mood and tone I had in mind, but then leave him to interpret that in his own way and bring his sensibilities to the project. I find this to be true collaboration rather than having to dictate exactly what you want, which in turn ends up producing inferior results in my opinion.
Creating posters from my personal projects is something I enjoy immensely so if you’d like to decorate your walls with some BOUNTY HUNT art, feel free to DOWNLOAD this entire collection for free.
Thank you for scrolling through all the additional material for BOUNTY HUNT, I hope you enjoyed this fan film and I hope all the additional info has been useful in some way. If you’d like to stay up to date with any future projects follow me on INSTAGRAM