The Creation of Short Film ‘Wishing Box’
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The Creation of Short Film 'Wishing Box'
9 June, 2017
Interview

The team of talented artists and animators talked about the production of their amazing short film about pirates and monkeys.

Introduction

Wishing Box is a short animated film about adventures on the high seas with a silly pirate and his lovely monkey companion. An enchanting and fun story with a message about greed and success, the film will be a piece that viewers of any age will enjoy.

This film was completed with the help of 150 young artists from around the world. This massive and talented team ensured that Wishing Box was taken from an enchanting idea to a piece of cinematic magic. The team is still working on the final touches, including setting it up with a stunning score and getting it fully lit and rendered. Once finished, Wishing Box will be put into the festival circuit so that it may be enjoyed by audiences from all over.

Wishing Box Trailer:

Director

Hi my name is Wenli Zhang, I’m the writer and director of Wishing Box. Wishing Box follows the story of the pirate driven by a quest for wealth, and his loyal sidekick, a lovable monkey that tempers pirate’s greed. On a voyage to find treasure the two stumble upon a magical chest with the ability to grant any wish, but soon find that there is just one caveat: the wisher can only be Fatty.

I began to conceive this animated short film from 2013, and in the pre-set phase I wanted to show the character set to be a foolish greedy pirate and cute naughty monkey. So in order to show the character of the pirate’s rough, I designed for the pirates of the wild beard and worn clothes. In the concept of the monkey I designed the brown little soft hair for him to show the little monkey’s cute. In this story we also have some ocean and flood shots, These are all high challenges for the VFX department, but we have complete the task perfectly well.

I used Photoshop to carry out the concept design and animatic, Maya to carry out the character animation.

Wishing Box From Animatic to Animation: 

Animation

My name is Nan Li. I currently work at EA as a character animator. It is my honor to be the co-director and animation lead of this short film.

Animation is the key to bring the characters to life, so we’ve put a lot of efforts into it. From discussing the acting choices to show the characters personalities to agonizing over the aesthetic animation details in order to really highlight the essence of the story, we’ve done a lot of takes to ensure that the final product is interesting and convincing.

We have eight animators in total. Each of them has his or her own strengths and ideas. The most difficult thing to me is to make sure all the shots work together and animators can show their own strengths as well. Our workflow is to assign the shots to animators first, give them chance to come up some ideas according to the storyboard. After that, we will get together to discuss what works and what doesn’t. They usually come up with some brilliant ideas which add to the characters a lot. Then we will shoot some reference together, do some fun sketches to pitch the ideas. After we got the best idea, the animators will animate the shot in Maya. We have our weekly meetings once or twice a week. Everyone’s opinion is welcomed. We use Syncsketch to draw out ideas and type in notes to make sure everyone get a clear direction to keep working on. At the very end, we polish the aesthetic animation details frame by frame. We believe every single detail, no matter how small, deserve our full efforts.

It is such a great opportunity to work with this talented team. Everyone has put their best efforts into it in order to make something remarkable.

For more detail, please visit this website.

Modeling

This is Bin Zhu, I am a 3D artist at Houzz.Inc. It is my honor to help out some of the modeling task in Wishing Box when I am still in School.

I joined the crew at a very early stage of the whole project, so I got a chance to model the main characters, the monkey and the pirate.

The main difficulties of modeling stylized characters is that you have to follow 2D concept drawings while your characters should have the personality that the director is looking for.

There are key words like the pirate should be greedy, mean, while the monkey should be cute and innocent. My job is to model them in specific shape languages that matches the concept as well as reveal their personalities.

I am using a subdivisional modeling workflow, topology is an important thing to keep in mind when modeling characters like these. I have to make sure I have all those loops where I want them to be so it won’t break the rigging later. I used Maya for my main modeling tool, I love its marking menu and it really makes me efficient. And I use Zbrush to do some sculptings.

Please check out more of my work here.

Visual Effects

Hi My name is Cloud Park. I’m a Visual Effect Artist from South Korea. I started to study FX in 2013 at Academy of Art university. I have been a freelance Visual Effect Artist for tv series, movie, short film since 2015 and I worked at Blur studio in 2016. Now I’m working at Locus studio as a Visual Effect artist and Generalist.

In this project, I used PFlow and Thinking Particle which is 3D Max plugin to create the base particle. I used Realflow for fluid simulation.

When I created this water effects, I tried to understand and interpret the idea of the shot. So I checked my shot’s animation back and forth. Also I checked whole story. Because It was really helpful to match the style of my visual effects to other things like story, modeling, ,animation, mood etc. To me, the most difficult thing was to make my visual effect to match the story and the style of Wishing Box. I have to understand the shot and creating visual effects for this shot abundantly. It was really challenge but I had a lot of fun doing it.

I learned a lot from this project. Technically, I learned to separate simulation layer more effectively. And I gained more experience doing water effects. I like working in this team and my work here really improve my skills and efficiency.

Texturing, lighting and compositing

My name is Kexin Yang, and I am the lighting lead of Wishing Box. Wishing Box was the first AAU studioX project that used Xgen as the main character grooming tool in the production pipeline. Since Xgen is a relatively new tool and there were not many of tutorials and helping documents of it on the Internet, we have solved countless technical problems by experimenting many different methods to troubleshoot. For example, in the process of rendering of some shots, the hair would randomly glitch in between frames after it’s applied animation cache. After many approaches, we fixed it by baking it into a XPD file.

Troubleshoot of beard popping:

For lighting, in order to be able to have more controls in compositing, we lit the shots of foreground(animated characters and props) and background (static environment props) separately. However, given that we have loads of geometries with high-resolution textures, it became extremely slow when it comes to render. To resolve this issue, we created a simple ship cabin geo projected with a complex rendered CG set as HDR maps. In this way, it not only provided accurate GI and reflection integration on the characters, but dramatically deduced the render time.

During my time working on Wishing Box, there were many moments of getting so frustrated and hopeless when new issues came up right after solving another one, but it was also because of these moments, every student on the team became used to think out of the box and grew as a technical artist.

HDR geo

VR

My name is Xiangyu Ye. I am a Lighting and Texturing artist. I am in charge of Wishing Box’s VR development. Wishing Box has a beautiful scene inside a ship cabin. It will be great if we can walk and look around inside of it, so I decided to convert it into VR. VR needs high frame rate, so the first step was to reduce the polycount of the mesh and the texture resolution .

Then I transferred some of those texture maps from spec / gloss workflow to metal / roughness workflow which is more suitable for Unreal Engine 4.

I used baked lighting for better game performance. Wishing Box VR is using HTC Vive. You can navigate inside the beautiful ship cabin and interact with the pirate and monkey. Please visit my personal website for more information.

Wishing Box is currently wrapping up it’s last couple stages of production and in the next few months will be fully lit, rendered and set up with a beautiful score to set the mood. With your help, we can finally finish Wishing Box and show it to the world. The money from the crowd funding is going to go to putting Wishing Box into the festival circuit.

Wenli Zhang, the Writer and Director of Wishing Box

Nan Li, a Character Animator

Bin Zhu, a 3D Artist at Houzz.Inc

Cloud Park, a Visual Effect Artist

Kexin Yang, the Lighting Lead of Wishing Box

Xiangyu Ye, a Lighting and Texturing Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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