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Axel Sence
by Axol on 3 Jan 2022

Hi ! Here's a 1 min short I did last year, I finally found some time to make a nice presentation for you !

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Hi ! Here's one of my 3rd year projects at MoPA.  We were tasked with the creation of a 1 MIN short based around the MAGIC theme to do on our own and this is what I came up with. Hope you enjoy it !! 

( I recommend using headphones to enjoy the short fully ).

I made everything from start to finish.  From pre-prod to post-prod and from writing to editing ( except for the fooliage wich were quixell assets and the tyflow node system for the rain on the windows, link below btw ).

It took approximatively 5-6 month of really really hard work but I learned so much in such a short period of time and I am really pleased with the result.

I focused more on the " image aspect " of this short and wanted to deliver beautiful stills for each shot in terms of modeling, surfacing, lighting, rendering and compositing.

To gain time, I chose to animate in steps  but I worked hard on the animation too because I also wanted to convey properly what this short is about:  taking some time off to enjoy the magic of music in order to escape and reconnect a bit with yourself and nature.

Here are the soft and sites I used :

3dsmax ( + Tyflow, Ornatrix ); Zbrush; Substance Painter; Vray; Nuke; Photoshop; Davinci Resolve and soundsnap

Link for the tyflow : ( amazing work it was so helpful I can't thank him enough )

If you are curious, you can find the BTS of this project below! I show and explain the different aspects and steps I went through with this short.



For the Character Design I wanted an expressive character that you can identify with. I went for a hard working, fed up and a little sad man in his thirties.

I love sharp and hard angled shapes, so I used the piece of Abdelaziz Salman ( top right in first character sheet ) and Antone Magdy ( top left ) as my key references. 

In addition, I added others and, of course, adapted everything my way.


2 - A - Early Board Drafts

2 - B - Finished Story Board

2 - C - Final Shots

As you can see even for such a small short I made a lot of drafts early on and ended up with a way shorter version than what I began with. That's because with the help of my teachers I understood that I was showing too much and was focusing on unimportant aspects for a 30 sec short.

The story board was a very valuable exercice. It made me realize that we usually want to show a lot of details, thinking that it will make it more understandable.  Actually it end's up doing the contrary. I now try to focus on clarity and sobriety when making story-boards.

Here's a little slider for you to compare between the story-board and the final shots :


3 - 1 - 2D Story reel

This is my 2D Story reel , I used this to edit everything with the timing of the music. It also helped to see if my story board was working and had a good rhythm.

3 - 2 - 3D STORY REEL

The 3D Story reel helped me with several points: To correct every perspective mistake of the story board, to place the cameras in better angles and also provided me with a nice idea of the lenght of the animations. This last one was really useful since I tend to make them shorter than what they really are when drawing.


4 - 1 - Car

The car was the principal asset of this short, almost as important as the main character or at least an extention of him. I chose a car that I love and that can be associated to Dave : an old but classy car with some mileage to it.

This Skyline was modeled and textured entirely in 3dsmax. I had to work with a lot of references and blueprints in order to stay faithful to the real car.

In addition to moddeling and surfacing, I also used a tyflow node ( link at the top ) as you can see in the 2nd image for the raindrops. 

As for the lights, I put IES's in the headlights to have that nice aera effect and just linked them to the model.

I loved making it as it perfected my hard surface modeling and surfacing skills wich is an aspect of 3D I really enjoy and want to improve in.

4 - 2 - CD

The CD is also a really important asset of this short. I went for a surfacing that reminded me of the CD's my mom used to engrave for me when I was a kid with the handwritten marker labels on them.

It was modeled in 3ds max and the surfacing was done in substance. For the rainbow effect of the CD I played with the abbe number of the shader and the results were interesting. The interaction with the lighting added a nice touch of magic to this very normal looking CD.


The environment was made using a matte painting as the city scape in the background, and a 3D layout for the foreground.

At first I tried modelling the city scape but wasn't happy with the result so I took a lot of references and made a photo bashing in photoshop of multiples city scapes.

I then painted the atmosphere that I wanted. I tweaked the lighting and played a lot with the image settings like the curve, levels, vibrance etc to obtain the mood I wanted for my short.  On top of that the compositing in nuke helped to unite everything.

As for foreground, it is classic modeling. Some scattering of quixell vegetation, and phoenix fd + tyflow to simulate the rain.

The decor is very simple and straightforward to fully focus on the car driving in and to set the mood of the opening scene.


I loved lighting !! Creating the mood of the short and bringing the attention to what's important in each scenes.

On my first drafts ( as for the story board ) I did too much and added too many lights. I then focused on my story and what I wanted to tell and deleted loads of lights. It's a difficult process.  I learned to ask myself : " why am I doing this like that " or " does this help my story " etc . It taught me to always look at the bigger picture .

I used 3 - 4 lights in all my scenes, and played a lot with IES's (  for the car headlights and street lamp )to add this surface effect that helps bring credibility and diversity to the lighting.

7 - DAVE

7 - 1 - Turns and close-ups

Some turns and close up shots to enjoy the modeling.

Dave's modeling in general : as said in the chara design part I love sharp and hard angled shapes. I think  it makes his face easy to read, conveys his mood well and just looks good ! I also like how, at first sight, it makes him look a bit rough, yet in the movie he's just enjoying a bit of music on his own. I found that this contradiction added a nice layer to the story.

As for the close-ups : I chose to model the little details like the wrinkles of the fingers where it folds ( on top and under ), the poaches under the eyes, to have a nice reaction to light and a nice deformation with the skinning. I did not want to rely on surfacing or displace, I prefered to stay with clear, simple shapes and also wanted to challenge my topology skills. 

The nails are also separate objects to have a better interactions with light.

I am really happy with the result and have learned loads when it comes to topology thanks to this.

7 - 2 - GROOM

The groom was used and made in the idea to emphasize on the " working a lot,  fed up and a bit sad " aspect of Dave.

I went for a classic short haircut with a little coming up baldness, big eyebrows that complement his eyes and a little overgrown beard to show that he's been taking less care of himself lately but is still pretty clean overall normally.

The groom was made with ornatrix on 3ds max and painted the maps on Mudbox.


This almost speaks for itself. The surfacing highlights the tired aspect of Dave : purple bags under the eyes, a bit pale and a little bit dirty in some areas. The skin pore are very discrete but play very well with light. 

It was a pleasure to bring this character to life, I learned a lot about skin surfacing on this project !

The surfacing was done in Substance painter.


My Three Key references for this project were: The sculpt by Abdelaziz Salman for the chara design and shading style. The piece by Brellias inspired me for the mood and story of my film. When I saw it I knew I wanted to make a car with overgrown vegetation. As for the lighting, color scheme and camera positoning, I refered a lot to the movie "Drive" by Nicolas Winding Refn.

The theme imposed was magic so I used music as the maestro of the growing vegatations.

Music, Nature and Cars are amongst the things I like most so these three aspects were a pleasure to work with. 

And of course I had a lot of other references and blueprints for the type of vegetation, the scene layout, the city scape, the car and all that is in this short basically. Nothing was done without references.

A quick peek at some of the refs I used on my miro for this project !

And that's it ! I hope this behind the scenes was insightful and my short enjoyable !!

Thanks to everyone that took the time to look through all this.

Take care !!!

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