"Patches" a short film by Georgie Athanasopoulos

"Patches" a short film by Georgie Athanasopoulos

Georgie Athanasopoulos
by spicygeoart on 29 May 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

My senior thesis film "Patches." Set in the 1920's, my film follows a young newsboy who feels alone in a world which doesn't seem to have a place for someone like him. After making an unexpected friend, he is faced with a bit of a moral dilemma... I am responsible for the entire production pipeline on this film.

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Outcast due to physical differences, a lonely little boy in the 1920's makes an unlikely friend and finds belonging through sacrifice

In Depth Overview

"Patches" is my final student thesis film as a third year in the Dawson College 3D Animation & CGI program. This film is a culmination of many months of passion and hard work and I'm proud to present it here. I am an aspiring character animator and I am inspired by the almost magical power animation has in breathing life into cartoon characters. Making them feel like real emotive people, instead of just pictures on a screen. I am especially passionate about facial animation. I also love to model props and draw characters. 

I love the idea of a touching short film that presents a message simple enough for people of all ages to understand, find meaning in and hopefully relate to in some way. In the metro one night, on the way home from a late night at school, the idea of a vintage sepia world where the only pops of colour are the vibrant rainbow skin colours of the people who inhabited it, popped into my head. Everyone has their colour except for one little boy, who is a patchwork of a myriad of colours and doesn't truly fit in anywhere. Seemingly, he is alone in the world. The newest toy that is all the rage amongst the children is a teddy bear companion that matches with the colour of your skin. Naturally, our main boy (punnily named Patchrick by my sister) is not represented in the trend and the frustration from this event is what kicks off the rest of the film.

In-Depth Process

I was in charge of the entire pipeline for this project, from the concept to the final edit. I thought of the idea and designed the characters after researching period appropriate attire. This led to the creation of the storyboard and animatic. I then modelled the characters based on my designs, rigged them and textured them. I had to teach myself Substance Painter but it was well worth it. I then went on to model my environments and props, keeping in mind what hadn't been invented in the 1920's such as the dumpster which was scrapped for some wood crates. The props in the toy shop window we're especially a joy to model. Before the environment was to be textured, I made my 3D layout in Maya with the necessary timing and camera moves as referenced from my animatic. After feedback on that I went on to finish every texture needed. A few background props were made by my talented classmates who gave me permission to use them and all credits for those are at the end of my film. Some of my base textures were also found through various sources that I also list in the credits.

During the texturing stage, I also began my animation, the step I would divest most of my energy and brainpower into, beginning with filming my own references and then blocking in step mode. After that came several passes of splined animation which led to the final animations. The animation phase taught me a lot since I am still in the process of understanding the intricacies of motion and the importance of clarity and timing. The constraints also proved a challenge!

After that, I tackled the lighting and the rendering, finishing in Maya and going on to composite in NukeX. Finally, I put the final edit together and mixed my background music and necessary sound effects. During preproduction I had a scratchy old film effect overlay atop it, so I decided to still include that but much more toned down as to not be too distracting. It was quite a feat but what the skills I learned during the making of this film are invaluable. Being in charge of the whole pipeline was a true eye opener to the level of work that goes into even the smallest 3D productions. The support by my peers and teachers and family were my rock throughout this time and I'm forever grateful to them for that. I hope you enjoy :)

Character design drawings from the preproduction phase. I loved the aesthetic choice of the stitches holding the different colours of skin together. It gave a sort of an innocent Frankenstein's monster feeling while also making him look kind of like a patchwork doll himself, which is fun since toys are a big part of the film. His big head was a challenge! I had to take the weight of it into account when animating which was a great learning experience. I decided to also make him poor/working class to explain why he is out all by himself, hanging around alleyways and delivering papers. Also having enough money makes it easy to get what you want even when unavailable, which is an option he clearly doesn't have.

A process view of a shot 1 in reverse order: first in its finished form, then back to the flat viewport pre-lighting view, then back to the layout phase then all the way back to the beginning in the storyboard/animatic phase.

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