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Dave's First Day

Dave's First Day

Dave's First Day is a student-made short film done during our studies at the Masters of Animation and Visualization at UTS Animal Logic Academy. The project was a self-learning exercise in our respective disciplines.

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Dave's First Day

Synopsis: Today is Dave’s first day at ADEC the Asteroid Detection and Extermination Center. ADEC’s one mission is to keep the Earth Meteorite free but will Dave be able to do that? After all, there is a conveniently placed red button in the center of the room that's just asking to be pressed. It's now up to Norbert the residential grump who's been working there for decades to teach Dave the ropes and ensure Earth and dinosaur kind are safe.

Dave's First Day is a student-made short film done during our studies at the Masters of Animation and Visualization at UTS Animal Logic Academy. The project was a self-learning exercise in our respective disciplines. 

Breakdown of the short


Storyboards were an important step for us. It helped communicate the idea across the board to everyone on the team and set up expectations of what was to come. This was our planning stage that ensured the project's success. By having a clear direction of the story it helped motivate the team and keep the project moving forward.


Dave the Dinosaur was an enthusiastic character. He was designed to be fun, cute, and innocent. On top of that, he had a curious mind that always wondered and pondered on life's many questions… What should I eat for breakfast?

Oh and Norbert was there too


The modeling team had a lot of creative input when transferring the design from 2D into 3D. Once we were able to communicate the style we envisioned for the assets, modelling went in and did the magic. The storyboard and planning were an integral part as they gave the modellers a starting point to really let their creative minds go wild.

One of the main problems we had to solve when modeling was the characters. Since the characters needed to be rigged the topology needed to be stricter than the other assets. Working back and forth with the rigger the modeling team was able to deliver a character that was rig-ready for animation.


The surfacing and look dev team had the most difficulties in this project. Early on our vision was to keep the style simple and easy to work with but as the project continued our visions changed. We wanted to have it look like a children's storybook. This change caused many revisions and explorations to achieve the style seen in the short.

Since all of us were students we didn’t have the necessary experience to lead and guide each other. Many weeks were spent doing trial and error until we achieved the desired look. Taking inspiration from films like Song of the Sea we wanted the film to look soft but still have strong contrast. When we saw a piece of concept art created by our talented art team we knew that was exactly what we were looking for. 

However, to get to that point we had to go through some iterations for the characters.

We also had many different iterations for the color palette which eventually ended up achieving the look we were going for.


The animation team had a lot of freedom when coming up with how they wanted to animate their shots. We had a soft edit meaning animation could still decide what type of performance they wanted to add. We created a workflow where animators could work on their shots while at the same time layout could work on the camera by utilizing Blender action editor. Using the Rigify system for both rigs we were able to transfer actions across shots easily giving animators the ability to transfer animation across shots.


We had a blast bringing the assets to life with a wide variety of effects. By using Houdini templates, we were able to quickly iterate to nail the look we wanted. We especially enjoyed stylizing the shapes and motion of the coffee and boxes. Our biggest challenge was blending realistic sims with stylized animation, like Norbert's jacket and the mop. These shots required careful tweaking of sims and multiple takes to perfect the result. The laser planet explosion was an artistic challenge, as expanding sideways looked better even though it got hit from the front. By using animated collisions, we made the simulation fit our vision perfectly.

We experimented with the grease pencil, which played a pivotal role in bringing the story to life with its hand-drawn aesthetic. By blending hand-drawn 2D animated elements with the 3D animation and environment, we created a unique visual experience. Although the art team was new to the tool, the grease pencil quickly became a funny gag element. Its dynamic capabilities made it a fun addition, but it also posed challenges due to its complexity. Despite the difficulties, the art team was able to pull off some awesome animated graphics & the grease pencil added a distinctive charm and humor to the Film.


Having all our shots in a single, contained space streamlined our workflow. We created a base template for the main environment lights and linked it across all shots. This approach enabled lighters to add character and shot-specific lights efficiently. While linking updates from surfacing and animation posed significant challenges, particularly in our remote setup, we effectively managed this issue by utilizing Blender's data linking system.

Lighting color keys were utilized to assist lighters in visualizing the shots in sequence, ensuring consistency across the entire project

By utilizing Nuke's powerful 3D system, we projected the texture map as an HDRI sphere to express the camera movements while stylizing lens bloom and flare. All of these aesthetics are required to be consistent towards every shot, which is why a template was designed to automate the compositing process, saving us valuable time.


This project was an amazing learning experience for everyone. From polishing our skills as individual artists to learning how to communicate and work effectively as a team. 90% of the project was also run online, teaching us how to adapt to remote working. We had a blast working on this project and climbing all the mountains, so we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Thank you for reading!

ADEC - Asteroid Detection and Extermination Center

Our high-precision service ensures the utmost safety, preventing mass extinctions and safeguarding the well-being of Dino-kind.

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