“Threaded Together” is a short film which was produced within 16 weeks, by 3rd year animation students at Escape Studios in London. Written & directed by Shauna Ludgate and produced by Emmanouil Zervoudakis.
A Needle separated from his friends, embarks on a journey of friendship with an uncooperative Spool. Their adventure leads them to dark and daunting places as they learn to work together, and find the very thing that tethers them, might be the answer to their problems!
Shauna Ludgate - Director, Writer, Animator, Unreal Engine Lighting and Rendering
Emmanouil Zervoudakis - Producer, Editor, Unreal Engine Lighting and Rendering
Liam Martin - Writer, Lead Animator
Austin Hill - Storyboarding Artist
Oliver Gallagher - Character Design & Animator
Muhammed Mansoor - Animator
Aroosa Qureshi - Animator
Chanakan Jeffries - Animator & 2D Artist
Tsvetelina Kumanova - Animator & Colour Key Artist
Shenaaz Suliman - Animator
Ella Grunberger - Animator
Gary Roche - Animator
Nicole Widmer - Animator
Miriam Di Benedetto - Animator
Cameron Haley - Animator
Louis Chevis - Animator
Maria Cortes-Monroy - Music Compositor
Mihail Sustov - Foley Artist
Produced at Escape Studios
Character DesignsOur character's designs brought Needle, Spool and Buttons to life, beginning with Oliver Gallaher’s drawings.
Take a look below for our turnarounds and to see how our character developed...
From character designs and rough boards from our director Shauna, the storyboarding process began. Austin Hill was responsible for the storyboarding which heavily influenced how our final film looks. The shots were taken through storyboarding, into previz, animation and then into Unreal Engine to be lit and rendered.
See below for some of the boards, and a timeline through our stages of production...
Rigging and ModellingWe then moved on to modelling and rigging our characters. We wanted to keep Needle straight and pointy, give Spool floppy arms to contrast his firm bulky body, and the Buttons are made without arms to encourage the animators to exaggerate their emotions through their eyes. One challenge we faced was that due to the body deformations the rigs got heavy and it made it difficult to animate with, so we decided to give the animators a choice on the rig of switching from low poly to high poly depending on the shot.
Please see below for our character turnarounds in different stages...
And take a look at some of the poses we could make with the rigs...
AnimationAnimation proved to be a massive task for the team, with the film including 56 animated shots. Each animator completed around 5 shots, and there were many processes involved in finalising our short. We used filmed references to give a base to our animation and timing within shots, and Studio Library was set up by our lead animator, Liam Martin, where the animators could use the poses and expressions provided to keep consistency throughout.
Check out the videos below to see examples of our references and the different animation stages, from previz to the final render...
Thread SimulationsSimulating the thread was also a really important part to our story. We simulated a total of 36 shots using hair simulations in Maya 2022, with rivets and the sweep tool. One of the biggest challenges we faced when doing the threads, was that some simulations didn’t quite work with the given character positions, movements and general interactions so we decided to tackle that by hand animating them.
Please see below for some breakdowns of the process of simulating the threads, and animating them by hand, in their different stages...
Post-ProductionWe used Unreal Engine for the lighting and rendering process as it allowed us to render at real-time speeds, and we were easily able to make changes and complete full renders throughout production.
Also, even though we had one environment we decided to split it into two different sets. This didn’t only allow us to exaggerate the environment size and have different lighting setups depending on the mood, but also for our artists to be able to work on them at the same time.
Finally, we turned to Nuke X during the later stages of production, to add some god-rays and add more depth to a handful of shots.
Check out the breakdowns below of our lighting and rendering process...
"Threaded Together" was managed using both ShotGrid and Google Sheets. Three of the main Google documents we used during production were a “Production Plan”, in order for us to have a general overview of the production schedule, a “Shot Plan” to help us track the progress of all individual shots and a checklist created by the department Leads to track individual actions.
ShotGrid is an amazing tool, and even though we were not able to fully utilise it at an industry level, due to most of the team working from home, we were able to practise its features and understand its functions and capabilities. Everything was in one place and connected, work was visually assigned and easily readable, artists were receiving notifications via email and the overall progress tracking was more efficient.
Please see below the documents mentioned...
Full Shot Breakdowns
Here are some full breakdowns for some of our favourite shots...