For the Throne

For the Throne

Adam Wong
by awong on 29 May 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

Amongst an army of alien soldiers, a lone warrior arrives to gift an important package to her alien King.

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Round of applause for our sponsors

"For the Throne" is a student film/mock-commercial produced at Swinburne University of Technology in 2020. The film was made 100% remotely due to the global pandemic. Hence, we built our own robust pipeline to ensure every team member was creative as possible and could collaborate seamlessly from the comfort of their own home.

We used Maya as our primary 3D package along with Nuke, Zbrush, Substance Painter, Marvelous Designer, Arnold, Blender and Clarisse. 

The entire design process was iterative until final render. We had concept art in pre-production but knew that all assets and animations would change as we progressed in production. This included the major designs of the aliens, down to minute details like the Warrior's helmet. 

Environment modelling, texturing and shading by Caleb Walters. The environment was modelled in Maya with the rock walls sculpted in Zbrush. It was textured in Substance Painter and shaded with Arnold. We purposely left the ceiling out of frame to exaggerate the scale of the environment. There were over 50 lights (majority of them were IES lights) around the environment, mostly illuminating the statues, walkway and hallway pillars. 

The Throne modelled, textured and shaded by Kelly Zheng. The throne asset was all modelled in Maya and textured in Substance Painter. This asset was one of the most difficult to design and model. The entire design needed to appear as if  someone was on a throne in a silhouette but ultimately be empty once it was lit. It went through numerous iterations to get the correct form and shape. 

The Warrior was modelled, textured and shaded by Bella Di Donato. She was sculpted in Zbrush, retopologised in Maya, textured in Substance Painter, and shaded with Arnold. Hard-surface armour was sculpted in Zbrush and remodelled in Maya. We found that the best way to model hard-surface in Maya was to start with large shapes first before refining detail. Smaller hard-surface details were usually achieved with normals.

The King was modelled, textured, shaded and cloth sim by Caleb Surman. This character was also sculpted in Zbrush, retopologised in Maya, textured in Substance Painter, and shaded with Arnold. This character also had clothes made and simulated in Marvelous Designer. The challenge with his top robe was to cover his groin but also show enough of the toilet for audience to understand the comedy. We exported the animation as alembic to MD, simulated the cloth and exported the cloth sim as alembic back to Maya. 

The army of guards was modelled, textured, shaded by Adam Wong. All guards were the same model. However, they were scattered in Clarisse IFX, using a slight variance in scale, position and rotation. Each guard also had a slight hue shift in the diffuse and SSS of their skin using Nuke and cryptomattes. There were three different chanting animations and idle animations for the guards, plus we added a 1-2 second offset for each (creating a total of 9 different chanting animations and 9 different idle animations). Therefore, each guard was unique. 

Characters were all rigged by Brae Hand-Howden. We only added blend shapes for emotions and dialogue that were in the script to save time.  Efficiency was key! 

Part of our pre-production was finalising our pipeline. We referenced Maya files into each department. That way each artist could work on their own area and simply update the reference when there was a new version. We also built a pdf document known as the "Technical Bible" that outlines how each artist should build and finalise their Maya scenes to avoid pipeline issues downstream. 

We had to battle-test our pipeline before rolling it out to artist and animators. We spent a week building a single test shot from start to finish. This included modelling a character, texturing, shading, rigging, animating, lighting, rendering and comping it with all the referencing outlined in our pipeline. Any issues that we bumped into, were researched and fixed, then outlined in our "Technical Bible" if artist or animators were to stumble on the same problem.

For the Throne Team

Creative Director: Adam Wong

Character Artists: Isabella Di Donato, Caleb Surman

Animators: Loise Sota, Beau Begent

Technical Animator / Rigger: Brae Hand-Howden

Environment Artist: Caleb Walters

Prop Artist: Kelly Zheng


Warrior: Talethia

King: Rich Daigle

Additional Credits

Soundtrack: Matthew Zagame, David Fesliyan

Audio: Geoffrey Perrin

Graphic Design: Fion Koh

Swinburne IT: Chris Goetze, Darren Primm

Special Thanks: Darren C. Fisher, Malcolm Turner, Steven Murdoch, Shaun Britton, Jack Mulligan, Robert Pitman, Ran Huo, Anthony Jones, Erik Rasmussen, Mark Millar

And all our beloved family and friends

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