Juan Gill Murrell
by CarolineRougevfx and juangillm on 1 Jun 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

This is a short film I produced along with Caroline Rouge about a small sea dragon trying to survive in an ocean that is changing due to hazardous manmade impacts. I was responsible for the animation, pre-production, sound design & rendering while Caroline covered the compositing and post-production VFX.

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Kelpie - Short Film

Compositing Breakdown Compilation - Caroline Rouge

Revised Animatic

Initial Animatic

Style Frames & Concept Art

Experimentation Reel

Kelpie Colour Concepts

Throughout this project, I have developed many of my skills having worked on every aspect of production for this film. My most intriguing experience learning about Maya’s AOV render settings and how significant these AOVs can be when each scene is composited in NukeX. The difference from the initial render to the final scene is astounding. In addition to learning about AOVs, I also learned a lot about Maya’s rigging and UV editing tools as well as honing my skills in ZBrush to bring the Kelpie character to life. Through my experimentation and final production through this project, I have been able to develop my skills in so many areas of the CG animation pipeline. I mitigated weakness by revising the entire narrative and storyboards in order to create a more cohesive and contained story that my collaborator and I could complete. In addition to this, I further reduced our workload by removing and revising scenes of our new narrative so that we could successfully produce the film on time before our university deadline.

Throughout this project, I discovered so much more about Maya’s rigging tools, such as creating Driven Keys and further exploring Blend Shapes. I enjoyed researching different rigging techniques that would help us bring to life an empathetic character. I was particularly interested in developing a working eyeball rig that would help convey some of the Kelpie’s emotions. After some research and using Driven Keys and Blend Shapes, I was able to create an eyeball rig that could expand and compress its iris. I also researched how I could make a rig that would allow me to easily animate the Kelpie like an eel or a snake. I found tutorials that showed me how to implement a sine non-linear deform curve into the rig which would allow me to manipulate the character to move along a wavelength using only a couple of keyframes. Additionally, I discovered that I could use bend deformers to allow the Kelpie to curl up into a ring shape or to make it appear as if it were changing its direction while swimming.

I could have managed my learning for this project more effectively. Due to time constraints and other project deadlines, I did not have the time to plan out the Kelpie project as detailed as I would have liked. I ran out of time to produce many of the models I had hoped to create, which meant I had to download the underwater fauna and boat assets. Additionally, I would have liked to have modelled some man-made trash items to pollute the water in which the Kelpie swims – this could have sent a stronger message. Due to the lack of time, much of the animation in the film is unrefined. There are some shots that I would have liked to have spent more time perfecting such as when the kelpie avoids the sinking barrel as well as many of the scenes where we see the Kelpie swimming. I should also have left my collaborator VFX compositor more time to composite their scenes. We had initially received the renders on time and as planned, however many of the shots had to be completely re-rendered due to some render setting errors. This meant we had less time to finalize the scenes and had to rush the compositing of the film.

To summarise, I learned a lot about the rewards of collaboration and teamwork, as the scenes we managed to finalize looked far better than my initial expectations for the film. Throughout this project, I developed my communication skills, organization, and time management skills, as well as gaining valuable experience as a film producer and director. I believe that these skills will be transferrable and valuable across many different industries.

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