Main Titles for 2019 Berlin edition of Playgrounds – The Art Department. Influenced by our surroundings and experiences while growing up, this film is a recollection of a distant memory, one that many of us would try our hardest to forget.
Written, Directed and Produced by – Sava Zivkovic
Concept Design – Milan Nikolic
Character Artist – Antonio Esparza
Character Artist – Luis Alfonso Antoranz Ros
Music by – Iz Svemira
Song “Marijo, bela kumrijo” Performed by – Teofilovic Brothers
Sound Design by – Odiseja Studio
Tools: 3ds Max, Redshift, Ornatrix, Substance Painter, Quixel Megascans, Zbrush, Mixamo, Marvelous Designer, Adobe Suite
Originally conceived as a standalone short film titled “NAT” in 2018, the production kept getting delayed due to ever more busy work schedule, all the way up to the point where I’ve almost completely abandoned the project. But as the memory of the events depicted in the short never truly fades, so does not the desire to actually produce it as well, it was only a matter of timing. Enter Playgrounds – The Art Department. Once I’ve heard my Dutch friends are making a move towards the Berlin scene I knew we had a perfect opportunity to make this project a reality.
Like any other passion project there’s been an incredible amount of love put into every single aspect of creation. This video documents just a glimpse of our many processes in making of the film.
This story has been fermenting in my mind for quite a while, so when the time came to actually bring it to life I had a very clear idea of how I wanted to proceed. I knew that with the very limited production time we had, we’d have to abandon using Motion Capture on this project, and instead rely on Mixamo’s stock animations. This resulted in the previz that was shot for shot exactly the same as the final film, which was instrumental in creating the roadmap for us to follow for the rest of the two and a half month production period.
The concept for our protagonist, Natasha, was created by my friend Milan Nikolic. This project was new grounds for all of us, including Milan, who had to take a step back from his usual sci fi creatures and 3d workflow, to a traditional line drawing.
Milan also did some early look development, directly painting over my previz stills, exploring potential looks for the short. Along the process we ended up changing the direction to a more realistic approach.
The main character asset was created again by my friend Antonio Esparza. We also had support from Luis Alfonso Antoranz Ros who helped out with the background characters. Together they’ve used all the tools of the trade, 3ds Max, Zbrush and Substance Painter in order to model, sculpt and texture the characters. They’ve also produced a variety of facial blend shapes which were used for subtle facial animation.
The clothes were made in Marvelous designer, with an additional step of Zbrush detailing and texture painting in Substance Painter.
While Antonio and Luis were producing the characters, I had a task of assembling the environments. Based on the previz I knew that there were really only two shots I needed to work on the most, the areal wide and the ground wide shot looking at the playgrounds. The rest of the shots were either pointed up at the sky and the buildings or the background would be heavily out of focus.
With this in mind I started working on the building, which was actually the same building I grew up in and the one I’ve experienced the event in. I wanted to bring as much realism as I possibly could, which meant every single element had to undergo a detail pass in Zbrush and a custom Texture pass in Substance painter.
The exterior Layout was designed to feature the playgrounds as a center piece, and was also sculpted in Zbrush with the amazing alphas from Andrew Averkin. Substance painter was used on every asset to create bespoke textures, and everything was topped off with heavy use of Forest Pack for all the grass, trash, and debris.
The interior set was also created by hand, with some off the shelf furniture 3d models. Again, in pursuit of grittiness, every single asset has been textured in Substance Painter to provide for a consistent look.
The entire project was rendered with Redshift for 3ds max, with average render times going anywhere from 50 seconds per frame up to 6 minutes per frame, depending on the shot. The hardware utilized was my old 4x EVGA 980ti Hybrid workstation.
As every project I’ve done thus far, all the compositing work has been done in After Effects. This project has been a bit lighter on the actual compositing workflow, mostly consisting of fog, grading, and some minor render error fixes.
MUSIC AND SOUND
Our constant pursuit of trying out new musical direction has led us to a collaboration with the amazing Teofilovic Brothers. Their rendition of an old Serbian Folk song “Marijo, bela kumrijo” was an incredible fit for the film and we were thrilled to learn that Ratko and Radisa Teofilovic wanted to be a part of the project.
The music was composed again by one of my closest collaborators, Iz Svemira, with the help of Studio Odiseja for all the subtle sound design needs.
Once again thank you for sharing this experience with us and for scrolling through all the supporting material for Playgrounds Berlin – Main Titles! If you’d like to keep up to date with our work consider following us on Instagram.