Norman Loafsby
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Norman Loafsby

Caitlin Pope
by caitlinpope and connerallen on 1 Jun 2020 for Rookie Awards 2020

Imagine if your fears, anxieties and compulsions manifested themselves as living creatures in the real world; creatures which stalked your every movement. Welcome to the life of Norman Loafsby.

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Norman Loafsby is a short film that follows the main character, Norman as he tries to overcome his fears and anxieties that have been tormenting him for years. The film was created as a capstone project by a team of five students. 

Daniel Petersen (director, modelling, textures, animating), Caitlin Pope (producer, cinematographer, lighting, compositing), Conner Allen (FX, groom, shaders, rendering), Sri Ram (3D tracking, rigging, animating) and Tom Zhang (HDRI creation, compositing).

Synopsis: 

Imagine if your fears, anxieties and compulsions manifested themselves as living creatures in the real world, creatures which stalked your every movement. Welcome to the life of Norman Loafsby - a thirty-year-old, flamingo obsessed artist, whose life is a constant battle with these creatures. We follow him over a few days as he struggles to overcome these manifestations in attempts to hold down his job at the shoe factory. Through a turn of events Norman discovers something dark within his past which is the root cause to everything he’s been experiencing.

"When originally coming up with the idea for Norman Loafsby, there wasn’t a clumsy flamingo obsessed Norman, or towering demonic toy chimps, there was just a small seed of a story of an anxious guy always running late; a guy who had trouble making excuses because the reality of why he was late seemed so stupid from the outside. Our struggles and accomplishments are so subjective to each of us that sometimes they can seem insignificant or strange to others but that doesn’t make them any less real, and that’s the main idea I knew I wanted to convey through the story. Then came along the first piece of concept art, and what started as a simple pair of flamingo socks on a tired looking fella, turned into a full-blown flamingo loving Norman. This definitely was a story that felt like it started to write itself, and by the end of the project I felt like we all somehow knew this strange guy that had emerged from the Loafsby ether."

- Daniel Petersen

"The first sequence in the film where the main character, Norman, encounters one of his manifestations is at the bus stop. Since the mood in this point of the scene is meant to be intimidating I over exaggerated the flames to match the cartoonish movements of the oven, trying to keep it real while also adding some character. Houdini pyro was used for the simulation and in the pictures you can see part of the iteration process to create the final image. I started with the inside model for the oven to generate a basic fire simulation and collider and once I started to add more detail I brought in a low resolution proxy model to act as a collider for the smoke and fire. The fire was rendered using Arnold, creating our own shader and pulling values from the simulation to try and accurately gage the temperature and density."

 - Conner Allen

"We created our own HDRI’s for every environment we knew we’d be adding in a CG element into but there were times when we wanted to create/add lighting that wasn’t ‘natural’. This can be seen in the lightswitch scenes where the switch has a strong green backlight. I used the HDRI as the base and then added in some additional lights to create the more stylised look. This also meant that I had a different lighting setup for the shadow of the lightswitch as the rim lights I added for the model would have created an inaccurate looking shadow."

- Caitlin Pope

"The chimp is the projector of all the manifestations that plague Normans reality. It represents the dark childhood memories buried deep in Norman's subconscious mind. For the design of the chimp I was inspired by the creepy old Jolly Chimp toys. I loved their sunken eyes and unsettling smiles and tried to bring this feeling into my own more modern version. I wanted to incorporate mechanical parts and projector reels into the design of the chimp, while also avoiding making it come across too sci-fi or robotic. I think the fur and cloth really helped to keep this balance in the design."

- Daniel Petersen

"The fur groom for the chimp was done in Houdini as well as the deforming vest mesh. Since the concept art for the chimp followed the visual look of a toy I decided to groom it in a similar way. The fur around the chest is short and pressed and grows in length towards the hands and elbows. Another feature was the longer individual strands of very curled hairs that stuck out at random, this was more noticeable when the chimp was back lit but was a distinct visual cue from the concept art. I isolated certain areas by painting attributes to control certain features such as curl, clumping and length. The fur was shaded using Arnold."

- Conner Allen

"The chimp shots were some of the more challenging ones for CG integration. The chimp has glowing green eyes so when filming we knew we needed to get that green light into the environment. This meant that when it came time to integrate the chimp, there was a lot of clean up work to be done. We were strategic with the shots so a lot of them just involve removing a light from the corner as well as the tracking markers but there were a few shots where a whole person and shadow were required to be removed from the plate."

- Caitlin Pope

"All the particle simulations throughout this film are created using the same technique. I created a basic simulation rig which I then reused in different ways to try and make everything as efficient as possible. For this scene the chimp is stealing the essence from the pictures and bringing the trapped manifestations back into Norman's reality. To create the effect I had the particles become attracted to a curve which had orbital force so the particles would twist around the curve creating the final look. I also had taken photos of the painting used in the film and transferred the colour to the particles so it looked like it was actually leeching colour from the paintings."

- Conner Allen

"Since Norman is a character with a clear obsession with flamingos, our director designed and made a unique brand cereal box to use for filming. Since we did not have actual flamingo shaped cereal I was asked to create a simulation with a 3D modelled piece of the cereal. This was done using a RBD simulation in Houdini and a simple geometry as a collider."

- Conner Allen


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