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The Soloists Shortfilm
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The Soloists Shortfilm

by MehrnazABN on 16 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

This animated short film has been made by 5 students from Gobelins l'École de l'Image, in line with their Masters Degree in Character Animation and Animated Filmmaking. Directors: Mehrnaz Abdollahinia, Feben Elias, Razahk Issaka, Celeste Jamneck, Yi Liu.

5 1889 3
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We are 5 young directors from all over the world who joined together to make something new and different.

This story is about three ladies living in a dictatorship world, who only have simple dreams – to love in peace with their dog, to sing and to live a normal life. They do their best to get by, but in the end, it becomes too much and the two remaining women choose freedom over oppression. They are the heroes of their own story, and they represent all of our wants and dreams. The story also serves to remind us that our grandmothers were young and fabulous once, and they are still fierce, beautiful and strong, and this film is a love letter to them.

The film is based on the true story of many people who want to have a normal life, and as fantastical as it sounds - there are still real places that exist with these kinds of ridiculous laws and dogma. However, we wanted to show that there is always hope, even if it means we need to have ridiculous solutions for ridiculous problems. We found that these issues were tied in with real humanitarian issues, and that was truly our main focus of discourse. We felt that we were brave enough to make a different short film, and hoped to bring a change and awareness to people around the world about discrimination and injustice that still exists.

In terms of technique, we decided to think out of box and instead of just making full three-dimensional backgrounds, we challenged ourselves in creating a new visual language that can create a sense of a theatrical setup and a pop-up book feeling. We wanted these effects to feel improvised as in a theatre show, so we pushed our artistic intention by using a mix of 2D and 3D techniques and reducing the cuts between cameras. We believe this artistic and technical choices could help the audiences to feel the characters and their story even more. 

Therefore, all the objects and environments are flat like 2D cut-out cardboard but they create an illusion of depth when we see them interact with our full 3D characters. Primarily, the lighting placement decisions were made to boost the theatrical setup we chose for our film. In addition, our lighting was used to visually distinguish the differences between the outside world, which is cold and mundane and the inside world, which is quite warm and cosy.

Environments process (designs and final renders)

All the objects and environments are flat like 2D cut-out cardboard and are rigged in Maya. We first designed the 2D props and environment, painted them in photoshop then modelled them in Maya and animated them to help the story to feel like a theatre, thus helping the storytelling and visually give it a theatre and a pop-up book feel.

Animation process

The 3D animation shots were quite challenging to execute. Most shots lasted for more than 1000 frames without any cuts in between and had at least 3 or more characters who had intricate interactions with objects. Due to limited production time, all of the film’s animation was executed in two months. This was made possible by our two lone animators, Mehrnaz and Yi.

Character design process

In creating our characters, we specifically chose to design old ladies to show that they had experienced years of challenge, and knew how to survive. We also enjoyed playing on the love and hate relationship between these sisters in their old age, and knew that it could help us add more humor to our story.

All of the design, rigging and animation processes were very challenging, and we had to do a lot of animation tests during the pre-production phase. We wanted to make sure that we could create natural characters who were easy to fall in love with and laugh with.

We had very limited time for the animation phase, so to save time we made a couple of blend shapes for each character during the rigging phase. It also helped the animators to keep the consistency of acting between characters in different shots. 

We are so honoured for the recognition of our film by more than 40 international film festivals from all over the world. 

The Soloists has won 14 international Awards from film and animation festivals.


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