Into The Cutezone
INTO THE CUTEZONE is a comedy-action film. It is a parody of stereotypical 80s Action Heroes.
S T O R Y
An elite squad of highly trained soldiers is tasked with reaching the center of a mysterious zone. Inside they are confronted with a frightening enemy, immune to their massive muscles and gigantic guns.
INTO THE CUTEZONE is a comedy-action film. It is a parody of stereotypical 80s Action Heroes with all the important ingredients included: big explosions, strong lens flares, heavy guns, and incredibly terrifying Aliens!
T E A S E R T R A I L E R
F U L L F I L M
P O S T E R
G A L L E R Y
P R O C E S S
The project started around April 2020 and is a second-year project at Filmakademie Baden Württemberg. It was directed by me (Niklas Wolff) and produced by Isabella Braun. The film has a runtime of just under 5 minutes and consists of 64 shots in various settings.
Julian Schäfer and I developed the story together and Frauke Tietjen edited the previz/animatic based on some rough storyboard sketches and scene mockups I created. This all happened with a close creative collaboration, where we tried a lot of ideas and sent many versions back and forth.
The whole project was created from home since Covid had just reached Germany when we started writing. Thanks to our great Technical Director Paul Golter, we got up and running pretty fast with a reliable working from home workflow based on his own Pulltools Pipeline.
Since there was only very limited time I decided that all the soldiers should share the same body and would be customized by blendshapes, textures, and other features, like different beards or haircuts for example. For the modeling of the characters, I started with a concept sculpt, that Oscar Jacobson, who did the character concepts for the male soldiers, created in ZBrush. It was basically a naked high-poly version of the character. From there I created the clothing and various individual features of the characters in Blender and did the retopology and UV maps. For creating the character Amanda Paul Vollet helped me out, by modeling a variation of the male soldier based on character concepts by Eli Weinberger. The texturing of all the Soldier characters was done using Substance Painter. I tried to make them look a bit like action figures, by intentionally making the skin look like plastic and adding details like scratches.
The Antagonists of the soldiers, incredibly cute Aliens, have a way simpler character design. They are basically pink spheres with huge eyes, some simple arms, and ears that look like wings or antennas. The Alien Queen has more features than the small Aliens since she should be some more advanced life form. She has a third eye, is slightly heart-shaped, and has 4 arms. Also she floats instead of jumping around.
The Interrogator character, which is visible for 2 shots as a silhouette was a premade character from Mixamo that helps to show how a normal non-action-hero human would look like.
Assets & Environments
The environments were built to give a bit of a miniature feel. Most of the ground and bigger rock formations were sculpted to specifically suit the setting of each sequence, but smaller assets like grass and rock, but also the trees, were reused across almost all the shots to save time. These were usually scattered procedurally and then tweaked on a shot-by-shot basis.
The minigun that the character Amanda is carrying was modeled by Dominik Girod and Caroline Keulertz.
There are a few premade assets present in the film: The guns of the male soldiers are bought assets that were adapted to look more over the top. The grenade the Seargent is using in one of the scenes is also a premade asset.
To make the differences between the soldiers and aliens more severe, they also have different animation styles. This also helped to make things a bit easier to animate and more manageable in our short time frame. The Soldiers are always either in slow-motion or change between very strong poses instantly. Only the Aliens are very smoothly animated. This further emphasizes the extremes that the film is playing with: The brave and hard soldiers also have hard animation! And the soft and cuddly Aliens are animated smoothly.
Lighting was the main tool to tell the passing of time and differentiate between the various settings. For the lighting and rendering I also used Blender. Since I did not have access to huge rendering power I could not afford to render everything in Cycles. Therefore I decided to only render the daylight scenes in Cycles and use Eevee for shots at night, which would have been way more intense to raytrace. In some cases, I even mixed both render engines within one shot, by for example rendering supporting stuff I wanted to use in compositing with Eevee. Also the Alien characters did not look as good in Eevee, so I rendered only them in Cycles and kept the environment in Eevee on some of the night shots.
In comp I put it all together, fine-tuned the look, and added many effects like depth of field. I also tried to recreate the look that anamorphic lenses give to an image since they were used in many of the films I am referencing.
Another thing that I created in compositing are the glowing action lines that are used in certain situations to highlight very intense moments.
A R T - T E A M
A more detailed Breakdown of who did what:
Niklas Wolff: Modeling, Texturing, Shading, Layout, Animation, Lighting, Compositing
Oscar Jacobson: Character Concepts, Male Soldier Concept Sculpt
Eli Weinberger: Character Concepts
Paul Vollet: Soldier "Amanda" Modeling
Caroline Keulertz & Dominik Girod: Minigun Weapon Modeling
Nina Weilbächer: Additional Animation
C R E D I T S
Written by: Julian Schäfer, Niklas Wolff
Directed by: Niklas Wolff
Producer: Isabella Braun
Editor: Frauke Tietjen
Composer: Patrick Kuhn Botelho
Sound Design: Julian Berg
Technical Director: Paul Golter
Production Company: Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg GmbH
Erik Hansen, Sarah Enright
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