This year marks the 10 year anniversary for the release of my first short ‘The Learnings of Dr.Lune’.That’s 10 years since the release date, by the way. Not the making of. That happened the previous 4 years before. (10 minutes of animation in 4 years. Why? Well what better way to learn to make animated movies, than to make one!)It’s not the most amazingly animated, or beautifully looking film ever made, but I’m proud of it because of its story, and I think it stands up in its innocence and passion.
Before I give a quick burn over of the making of, the whole film itself ended up about 40gig, which I backed up onto two of those massive CD spindles. I lugged them around for years on end and now when I need them, I can’t find them! I was hoping to give away some of the rigs so people could see how (cra*p) they were, But hey-ho, if they turn up I’ll add them to the blog.
Dr.Lune is a man who can not fall in love, but has dedicated his life to find out why people do. He creates machines made from hearts, believing the heart to be the purest form of love.
A pie delivery girl turns up lost at his door, asking to use his phone. She sees the heart creatures and becomes a little freaked out. Dr. Lune explains it is just love in its purest form.
She feels for him, and sees inside him, a man who truly understands love. Dr. lune, who can’t fall in love, has an idea for another experiment. Perhaps he thinks she loves the amount of work he does, whatever the reason, he goes straight back to work, and misses opportunity to experience the one thing he is so desperate to discover.
In his final statement “I can’t believe I did not see, what was right in front of me.” Ironically, he cannot see what was right in front of him, because of his obsession with love and work.
Boy Heart Machine
I have always struggled with the idea that being an artist is either a gift or a curse. As an artist, you can not help yourself being creative. You have no idea why you do it, but if you don’t, you become sick, depressed, jittery, angry, and, well, lost.
To me, Dr.Lune, could see clearly into love, the concept of love, the body language of love, and what love should be, but whose journey was to end because of his obsession to recreate it as a pure art form, rather than the reality.
I believe a machine that can see the stars, was made from materials found deep in the Earth.
The Making of…
As I mentioned before, the best way to learn movie-making, is to make a movie.
Software used (I’ve tried to find as many retro UI’s as possible) : Maya 4 (Complete), Photoshop, Credo Lifeforms, After Effects, Acid Music, Premiere, Advanced Skeleton, Deep Paint… I’m sure there were some more plugins, but I’ll get back to you on that. Also, I couldn’t have made this without the Denfo Shaders.
This film was not just a movie-making exercise, but also and animation and software learning experience for me.
I hadn’t been taught 3D character animation at this point, and had no clue. I just went for it. It was a cross between straight ahead and pose to pose, trial and error. I’d bought a magazine that had a free version of Credo Lifeforms on a disc. This was kind of a learning God send for me. In some scenes, I imported the BVH motion, and would literally track my character alongside to learn motion.
On that same disc were 3 songs in a folder called ‘from our friends’ or something like that. These songs were inspirational in the tone of Dr.Lune, but I’ve never been able to find out who made them to thank them. More on that in the music section.
The models were built using sub-d and converted to polygons afterwards. (Damn you Catmull-Clarke, you came too late!) It wasn’t like nowadays, it was that crappy attach poly cage over NURBS surface type Sub-D. I guess that was a Maya Complete thing, as I’m pretty sure the other version had sub-d’s.
I didn’t have a clue about modelling, and the modern edge loop/flow standards were a Hollywood mystery, so my geometry was all over the shop. Books were ok, but they were technical. Everything was very new, and conventions were only just starting. Let’s face it, I was a beginner, albeit, pretty determined, and I think I was lucky my computer didn’t blow up with the amount of geometry I was using.
I bought Maya Character animation by Jae-jin Choi, Character creation by Chris Maraffi and Maya 4 fundamentals by Jim Lammers. All of which helped me in a certain ways. None of which answered the question, “How the F*k do you make a 3D animated movie?”
The rigs were a very early advanced skeleton. I quite enjoyed rigging to a point, but it always felt too technical for me. Riggers are amazing, but a word of advice for the little guy, freelancer, indie man who doesn’t want to be a rigger… USE RIGGING SCRIPTS. Test and use rigging scripts, find different ones for different jobs, and believe me, for the time it takes to learn them, is 0.00.1% of the time you will save.
If there’s a rigging plugin or script for Maya, you can guarantee I’ve tried it over the years. As a fast turnaround, character animator, it’s make or break for some deadlines. I’ve just had another idea for a blog!
The Hearts, I rigged myself, with help from the books. Originally, I had one of those ‘keep the body over the centre of gravity’ scripts going on. I learnt pretty quickly it was incredibly restrictive to an animator, so got rid of it. I think that was my first, ‘hey, I think I’m getting this’ moment.
The sets I really enjoyed building. I was fascinated by the fact you could do, what is in essence, a sculpture on the computer. I threw in a load of detail that will never be seen, but I guess that’s movie making.
There were bugs on the shelves, not that you could ever see them!
The lab set
I’ve used Mental Ray and Vray for so many years now, I forgot how much fun Maya software renderer could be. It gets slated a lot, but if I were to stand in its defence, I would say it is extremely fast, great for flat diffuse and AO layered rendering, had a wonderful ‘cartoon’ look, depending on your project, and is generally not a shader spider web of hell setup.
This takes me nicely onto to the Denfo shaders. This guy was a God to me at the time. It was pure wizardry, and I loved it.
About 6 months into Dr.Lune, I thought it might be a great idea to switch to Fedora (Linux.) I am a mad computer person, and always ‘trial by fire’. Unfortunately, my partition crapped out and I lost 6 months worth of work. I managed to salvage the rigs, but had to rebuild all the sets. Lesson learnt….BACK STUFF UP!!
So aside from the pretty dull 4 or 5 months rendering, the compositing and editing was done in After Effects and Premiere. Nothing special there really, just layered on top.
The most important lesson I learnt from this movie, was the power of music. I wrote the sound track myself using Acid Music. It was in the final editing of the film and the music, I really got a sense of how important the whole movie making process is. How everything should be used to tell the story, not just pretty pictures.
I’ve used music to inspire all my films from that day forth.
I mentioned earlier about songs given away on a 3D disc that inspired me. They were called Psyche Tracks 12 and two others of the same name but different numbers. They were absolutely amazing, and it’s a real shame I can’t find who made them! If you know, please let me know…
I hope I haven’t bored you to tears with my first blog, please send me any questions.
A final note, the film was dedicated to my friend Dom’s son, Tyler. Who died suddenly as I was finishing the movie. I believe he was 3 at the time. It’s terribly sad to think how time has passed, and I send all my love to my friend, Dom.