Longing - A Netherlands Film Academy graduation animated short. Made by the Visual Effects class of 2021.
Chris' mother disappears without a trace, he and his father Toon are both confronted with great sadness. While Chris is able to cry and emote, Toon cannot bring himself to be vulnerable and literally swallows his tears. His body starts to fill up and he grows away from Chris.
A moving painting
To achieve the unique look, we combined analog artistic techniques with digital ones. We strived to make the film a one of its kind with its 2D watercolor look in a 3D world. The idea of the film is that if you were to pause it at any given time, it looks like a watercolor painting. The two characters in the film were sculpted using ZBrush, which we then rendered from all sides with a toon shader. We used these rendered images as coloring pages for the painter to paint on. The painter of the film painted all these pages in her art studio with high-quality watercolor paint. We projected the paintings back on the characters in Substance Painter and gave the models a paper texture. As if they were made out of paper and paint. The same was done with the environments. The environment was rendered from a specific camera angle and the watercolor painting was then later projected back onto the mesh. We did this for every shot of the film. The environment is unique in each shot, not one shot is the same.
We have researched the best type of paint for our film. For example, we looked at the differences between oil paint, acrylic paint and watercolor. In the end we went for watercolor, because the whole film is intertwined with Toon's tears.
From left to right: oil paint, acrylic paint, watercolor.
After rendering the shots in Arnold through Houdini, we arrived at the compositing stage. In this stage, we took the watercolor-look to the next level with various techniques. To create the 2D look we wanted, the edges of the 3D shapes needed to be softer and look as if they were painted. In order to achieve this effect, we used Photoshop and the software called ‘Ebsynth’. In Photoshop we painted the paint effect for one frame and Ebsynth the effect was then generated for the whole sequence. In Nuke, we combined these images with the rendered sequence and with a final layer of compositing we finished the shots.
Every step of the process was an exciting journey to figure out. When we started on this film we had no idea how we were going to be able to achieve the desired look. After a long phase of trial and error, we shaped our workflow to create the unique watercolor look of ‘Longing’. During the whole process and specifically in the compositing stage we had to think like a painter, instead of a VFX-artist. Something that was new and sometimes quite challenging. But it helped us shape a new way of thinking and looking at the art of the moving image.
We are expecting a very fruitful festival season and can not wait to share our hard work with the world. We are immensely proud to graduate from The Netherlands Film Academy and to enter the industry with our 3D animation 'Longing'.
Director: Lotte Salomons | Screenplay: Maxime Baksteen | Producers: Idris Bakker & Siemen Versloot | VFX Supervisors: Eline Oppewal & Stan Oversteegen | VFX Producer: Gijs de Groot | Animation Supervisor: Pieter Schillemans | Production Design & Paintings: Sarah van den Bosch | Cinematography: Judith Boeschoten | Edit: Lot Hoogeboom | Sound Design: Coen Bruins | Composer: Manel Fornells Hibon