We are very excited to share this interview with 3D Artist/Director/Filmmaker Alf Lovvold, as we briefly discuss his personal CGI animated short film project with the not so short title, “Dawn of the Planet of the Zombies and Giant Killer Plants on Some Serious Acid”.
CGB: Can you tell us how you got started in the VFX industry and where you received your art and software training?
A.L. – My roots go back to plundering around with trueSpace back in `97, getting me interested in 3D animation and filmmaking in general. I’m mostly self taught, though I studied both 3D design and animation for 2 years in Norway at a school called Idefagskolen. Just after graduating, myself and some great friends started up Gimpville and we’ve been at it ever since!
CGB – What do you enjoy most about working in VFX?
I really love the creative start-phase, blocking out shots and sequences to get things quite quick up`n running. From there, seeing how shots are refined up to final products is a both hard though fun. Also, working with a lot of cool people is also quite nice and not to be underestimated.
CGB – What was the inspiration for creating “Dawn of the Stuff…” and how did you come up with that incredibly long title?
A.L. – It’s funny to see sequels getting longer and longer titles, so it was really just a spoof title. Though, it kind of stuck with the project, so I kept it in there and played on the whole theme with exaggerated long titles. I guess, in some way, it`s also a homage to old 1950s horror movies.
CGB – As one of the co-founders of the award winning VFX and animation studio Gimpville, how did you find the time to create this film on your own, using a single PC?
A.L. – At the beginning, it wasn’t really hard as this project was really just intended as some technical testing. Though, as it grew it basically swallowed up a lot of free time in the evenings, at least the last 3 months of production. I tried to keep things simple and effective to be able to juggle projects. Also, not having a specific deadline made it possible as a lot of times, work for GIMP came first.
CGB – Can you talk a little bit about your creative process and workflow?
A.L. – I try to generally keep things as simple as possible, for as long as possible. I will both do some notes, sketch out rough concepts and block them up with really simple objects in Maya. I’ve found that not overthinking it and just doing it – kind of follow your gut feeling – tends to work for me. Keeping it simple and getting your layout and shots ready before detailing is a big factor to be able to complete projects – at least personal ones. You can always build on top of the “base” sort to say after the basic foundation is set.
CGB – What specific software and hardware did you use to create the film, and can you briefly explain how each was used?
A.L. – I’m an old Maya user, so the primary bulk of work was done in Maya. For all rendering, except some Fluids passes, Redshift3D was used – which is a very fast and easy to use GPU renderer. I’m also an old Fusion patriot, and hence – Fusion being used for all composition work. Other than that, fairly basic software as Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and so on..
CGB – Did you use any motion capture for the character animation, and if so, how was that achieved?
A.L. – All characters where Mixamo stock characters who I slightly modified and optimized. The crowd is a mix of Golaem Crowd sim and manually placed out characters. The animation itself is just basic cycles from Mixamo, who’s based on motion capture. To keep things clean, all animated assets was Alembic to keep tech out of the main scene – that goes for all assets I guess.
CGB – We understand that the soldier on the jeep was a produced using a live action plate with a motion controlled rig. Can you explain a little more about how that was achieved and why you used plates instead of a full CG character?
A.L. – I was fortunate to get contacted by the guys at Stiller Studios, offered shooting some plates for me. That was great news as I generally tried to hide the guy on the Jeep as he was fairly low poly and stiff.
Basically, I sent Stiller some selected shots that we shot on set in Sweden. The movement on the rig itself was exported from my Maya file, along with the animated camera. It really helped to pump the quality in terms of having a character in the trailer.
CGB – What was your biggest challenge creating “Dawn of the Stuff…”, and how did you work through those challenges?
A.L. – The biggest challenge would have to be actually finishing the project. It grew quite ambitious, and solving all 44 shots myself really took a stubborn mindset. Also doing sound design myself on top of that was quite an amount of work. Though, after the response it got I think it was worth it – and who knows, maybe it can be developed into something more in the future.
CGB – Can you tell us more about GPU rendering and its benefits? Are there any limitations, or things you can’t or shouldn’t use it for?
A.L. – I would not been able to do this kind of a project without GPU rendering, as simple as that. It has some limitations in terms of volumes and so on, but other than that – GPU rendering is here to stay. I always found rendering tedious and a big drain of creativity, so having things speed up x10 helps you to be less reliant on others in terms of actually getting produced good quality output.
CGB – You have expressed a fascination with Real-time graphics. Can you tell us more about how it is currently being used at Gimpville and where you see it going in the future?
A.L. – We are looking into some solutions, basically being able to do previz work with it. I think we will see a lot more web based real time 3D – maybe solutions where the director can participate in pre production via a virtual shoot and be more hands on – while not being physically there.
CGB – Have you had a chance to use any of the latest Video Game Engines, like the Unreal Engine 4, and if so, what do you think about its use as a Real-time graphics tool for creating films?
A.L. – I’ve just briefly tested some engines, mostly Cryengine. I haven’t got much experience with these yet, but I guess both the game and film are merging making solutions like these viable in near future.
CGB – What emerging technologies and innovations will have the biggest impact on your creative process over the next few years?
A.L. – Thats a tough one. I’m not really a tech guy, and I hope hope to move more over to directing than VFX in the future. That said, tools that make it easier to collaborate and generally emphasizes more on the creative aspect of filmmaking than the technical will impact me the most I suspect.
CGB – As an aspiring director yourself, what advice would you give to someone just starting out or thinking of getting into the industry?
A.L. – Keep things simple, and learn the basics. You can build on top of a solid fundamental. Be prepared to work hard if you want to stand out, nothing comes for free. Be nice to your colleagues. Don’t be afraid to fail, we all do. Oh. Keep it fun.
CGB – What is your favorite film that uses either VFX or CGI animation?
A.L. – Of Course, like other VFX people out there, blockbusters and the larger than life movies are high on the list in terms of visual awesomeness. Though, I got to say that one of my favorite movie through all time is Contact from 1997. Still holds up. Oh. And Interstellar. I’m a Nolan fan.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Zombies and Giant Killer Plants on Some Serious Acid.” was released in June 2015.
Directed by Alf Lovvold
Produced by Alf Lovvold
Written by Alf Lovvold ( alflovvold.com )
Soundscore by Ådne Lyngstad Nilsen ( dziumasoundtrack.com )
Live Action Plates by Stiller Studios ( stillerstudios.com )
Shatter Tools – FractureFX ( fracture-fx.com )
You can see the full film below: