Fireworks - A Short Film by Nicolas Leclerc

Fireworks - A Short Film by Nicolas Leclerc

Nicolas Leclerc
by NickLeclerc on 18 May 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

Two best friends go out to see fireworks in the evening.

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Above is my film "Fireworks", and for those who don't have the Vimeo password, below you can watch the trailer.

This film is a love letter to the best kind of friendships out there.

Friendships that are unconditional, in which each person is in complete comfort with one another without the need of a romantic relationship.

In support of that thought, every decision made in the making of this film was for the benefit of Eric and Dominic, the stars of my film. I wanted their personalities to feel grounded, their friendship to feel real and their relationship to be relatable.

Above, you see the animatic for my film. Once I knew the story I wanted to tell was solid, it was time to bring it to life. I thought of the characters backstory, their personalities, insecurities, passions...

It may seem unnecessary but it was super useful to know all these things about them to establish their design, even the way they would each be animated.

Below, you will see the character design progress for Eric and Dominic.

Some fun facts about the characters -

I used the concept of the turtle and the hare to design their shapes and personalities. Dominic is energetic and outgoing while Eric is more reserved and shy (his backpack is his turtle shell, Dom's hair twigs up like bunny ears)

Once I finished modelling the characters in ZBrush and rigging them, it was time to start working on the environment.

Above you can see the early mood board for my film. I am by no means an expert in painting and color in storytelling, but I knew I wanted to use the colors from the fireworks in my film to help tell the story. 

I want to be a character animator. Not a modeller, rigger or FX anim specialist. Which is why choosing to make (and animate!) the environments in Quill using VR was the best decision I made for this film.

I painted a few trees, quickly animated them, exported them as alembics and rendered them in Arnold. I saved so much time by using Quill, time I could invest into animation. For example, no texturing because Quill creations don't use textures, they use Vertex Color. I made the fireworks in my film the same way -- No need for fancy simulations or anything like that. Just did it in Quill, as you can see in the video below.

The only time-consuming part of this process was figuring out the Quill-to-Arnold workflow. Once that was locked down, I was set!

Now to make this stylized environment look good, you need good lighting.

With countless feedback from my friends and teachers, I surmounted my fear of colors and managed to create a look for my film I am very proud of.

Below you will find early and final color scripts of my film (with and without firework flashes). 

Now let's move onto the fun part -- bringing these characters to life through animation!

I had a blast animating this film from beginning to end. I AM trying to make my way into the industry, so I made sure my film would make a good demo reel -- the first half showcases some body mechanics, while the second half focuses on subtle acting.

Every week, with the help from my friends and my fantastic mentor Omar Morsy, we iterated the animation little by little. Changing acting choices here and there, reshooting reference...

With every little iteration, the characters became more alive :-D

I think pouring so much of myself into these characters was a key part of the animation process. It allowed me to create a performance that isn't cliché, one that people can believe and relate to (I hope so, at least!)

For example, there's a lot to Eric that resembles me -- He's kind of a yes-man and he doesn't have much luck with relationships.

Dominic, on the other hand, inherited the energetic, silly and impulsive side of my personality. 

I hope that whoever watches this film believes in the characters I've created. And of course, that they reach the credits with a smile. 

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