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Behind the Scenes: Lost - Short Movie Trailer

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Hello!

My name is Davide Pellino, blending stuff from Italy and currently working as a freelance 3D artist in the videogame industry. I like to design dreamlike scenarios and fantasy characters, focusing on finding my own way to mix many different things together, such as combining handmade sketchy textures with realistic ambient lighting, or low poly fairy-looking models with procedural materials. After a long time (and a million failed experiments later) I finally came up with something that would look like it was drawn by Tim Burton and painted by Hayao Miyazaki, spiced up with some of my own personal taste.

I’m a self-taught 3D artist who strongly believes in self-formation. Knowledge is so accessible to anyone today! Everything you’d like to learn is one click away.

All you need is time, effort, and passion. Be passionate, always and anyway.

Inspiration

The idea behind Lost was taken from a short novel I wrote some years ago and that was sitting in my desk drawer for way too long!

A young girl named Sarah wakes up on a desert island. She doesn't remember how she got there and therefore starts to explore those mysterious lands looking for answers and for a way to return home.

The trailer of Lost is a 90 second animation meant to be the very first test for an upcoming 15-20 minute animated short movie. The main goal for this trailer was to set up the proper mood and style for the storytelling, creating a pipeline capable of breathing life into the characters and the environment of the story. So, as it would be very hard (yet not impossible!) for one man to produce a whole mid-length movie, I just decided to go for a trailer, to showcase (and also to ask myself) how I’d like the story to be, especially visually.

For the overall visual style I had some obvious pinpoints like:

Tools

Everything was modeled, textured and rendered using Blender 2.8 (EEVEE) and it took about 2 months (May–June) to complete. Extra editing of the raw footage was done with Photoshop and Premiere.

  • Directed By: Davide Pellino
  • Modelling/Texturing/Rendering: Davide Pellino, Attilio Di Gaeta
  • Animation: Luca De Felice (Characters) , Davide Pellino (Camera, Environments)
  • Video Editing: Davide Pellino
  • Audio Editing: Davide Pellino

The voice of Sarah is Arianna Amaducci.

The soundtrack used for the trailer is a cover of “Third” by Hiatus, remixed by Max Cooper.

Modeling

As with almost any of my other projects, the modeling itself is pretty easy and straightforward!

The toon/illustrated style I was looking for was really suitable for low poly modeling.

As for Sarah, I wanted to pay homage to one of my favourite movies ever with her: Leon.

Sarah is indeed modeled after a very young Natalie Portman, acting in the shoes of “Matilda”, the co-star of Leon (Jean Reno).

Materials/Textures

This is probably my fav step during the creation of a scene, as it really defines the style of storytelling! So, for once, I decided to go for a really bold decision: everything would be shadeless and shadowless! I usually like to have several different passes to use in compositing, especially shadow passes (hard, soft, AO), but this time I wanted to go for a really old fashioned cartoon style, with flat colors and no computed shadow at all!

If you have checked out any of my other tutorials/articles, you know how much I like to go procedural all over the materials and texture, creating a bunch of complex nodes; but for Lost, I just went for the cheapest shadeless shader I could think of:

Everything in every scene is just vertex painted with a solid-flat color, used as input for the Emission RGB socket. All the objects (minus a couple, such as water, clouds, particles) in every scene just uses this shader! One shader to rule them all!

Building the Scenes, Creating the Mood!

So, in such a case as Lost, it clear that there’s nothing really special (or that complex) about the modeling/texturing phase, and everything has been kept as minimal as possible. But this minimalism is for a reason I’d like to share right now: scene composition!

Having simple and few elements to work with always pushes me to stay focused on the composition, as you can’t just throw them in the scene and expect them to work! All you’d get would be a really empty, not well spaced scene. Therefore, this is the step that I care the most about sometimes, just to get “the most” out of a few key elements.

According to my personal taste, I’ve learned over the years how I like to compose my scenes to achieve that sense of harmony I’m looking for:

Everything is in the first 3rd of the framing. This gives me a feeling of “being alone”, as two-thirds of the scene (horizontal) is actually “empty” and spacious. A second windmill is placed far away in the last 3rd just to glue up the whole scene. Looking at the image from a top-down perspective, Sarah is in the lower 3rd of the image, so she looks “small and lost” compared to the big environment around her.

In this scene I wanted to communicate the feeling of Sarah wandering around for miles and miles without knowing her destination. I’ve therefore split the screen in half, cause to me it looked like it was helping to communicate Sarah trying to move from “point A” (right half) to “point B” (left half).

Once again, in this scene the rule of thirds was the way to go for me. In this case Sarah is now on the top-right third, the last one, with nothing below her. As I wanted the scene to have a vibe of “tension and suspension”, everything is placed in the diagonal triangle area which is aerial in the sky. The contrast between this scene and the empty one kind of worked out for me to trick myself into that “everything’s gonna fall down” emotion I was looking for!

Render

Blender 2.8 was used in the making of the trailer and it was pretty exciting! This was my first time attempting to work on animation in 2.8, and it was kinda clumsy at the beginning to get used to the new interface and such, but no trouble really after a couple of days! ; )

EEVEE was the render engine I used for rendering the 2500 frames of the trailer, and it really took no time—probably a couple of hours for the whole thing! The hardest part was finding out a way to obtain the several layers (mask, passes) I usually like to have in order to easily work on in post-production. Before 2.8, I was really relying on the layer render/material override system of 2.79, which, as we know, is quite different from what we have now in 2.8. I do think it is (in the current state) a little bit more “complex” to handle than it was before, but after playing with collections and setting exclude functions I was able to make it work nonetheless!

In the end, it was a really fun project to work on, and I’m really happy with both the result and the lessons I’ve learned while getting used to the new 2.8!

Post Production

Since all I’ve got from renders was a flat-color image, I wanted to spice it up a little bit in Photoshop before running the frames into Premiere for the video editing.

So, on a more basic level I just went for some Color HSV/Vibrance/Saturation adjustments; I added some extra vibrance/saturation since I really love to have a more punchy overall look from what the renders looked like. Also I played a lot with curves and values as I wanted to have more brightness and contrast.

Going into further details, I also used my trusty old layers of “painted effect”, to give the scene that wobbly-watercolor vibrance that I love so much. There are plenty of art filters both on the internet or in Photoshop (I’m using those from the Topaz suite for this project). A few of those, mixed really low with the original base (from 8 to 15% opacity) also help to give that nice painted effect!

About the Author

Davide Pellino, Self-taught 3D artist, Italy-based. Loves video games, pizza and memes. Sharing his apartment with an 8-year old bunny.

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Lovely!

    Did you heard about "Gatta Cenerentola" (2017) from Mad studios?(Italy, Naples). I think your animation could benefit a lot from their approach with outlines. (for more detail check their talk for the Blender Conference).

  2. Thanks Francisco!
    It's very funny you mentioned it, cause I've been a student of Ivan Cappiello in the 2015, which is one of the 4 director behoind Gatta Cenerentola! :)
    So I'd say it's not by chance that my style today has some elements you can also find in some of the MAD studio works! :)
    And as for outline, if you check out my other works you can clearly see how much a fan of outline I am, but just for this very project i wanted a more "fluid" visual style, more on th
    e painted-watercolor side, and having an outline was kinda going on the opposite direction, as it's meant to "enhance" countours and shape rather than "blending everything" as I was trying to do!
    Nonetheless, you had a great call there! ;)

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