How to Create an Allegorical Representation of the Birth of Cinema in an Animated Short
When the Seven Arts meet in a forest, what will be born of their encounter? An Italian animated short film, Le Rendez-Vous des Arts, shows us such a wonderful story full of artistic imagination, which is an allegorical representation of the birth of Cinema.
The animated short film is directed by Walter Rastelli, a filmmaker who personally took care of the character modeling, texturing, lighting, rendering and final compositing in the project. As a freelancer artist, Walter has joined the GoCreation Program, a program provided by Fox Renderfarm to empower CG freelancers to focus more on creation, and enjoy cloud rendering privileges including rendering for up to 30% off their bills and earning up to $2,000 render coupon.
Click here and learn more about GoCreation Program
Scheduled to be released in 2021, the project was inspired by a word Walter accidentally heard in a sleepy class——Le Rendez-Vous des Arts (The Meeting of the Arts), which reminded him of a story about all the arts meeting and creating cinema.
“For a long time I suffered from stuttering, and using photography before and cinema afterwards to express myself was the most important thing in my life. I owe a lot to these two arts, and this short film is my homage to them.” according to Walter.
The character concepts for seven arts were realized in 2014 by Andrea Boatta, and the character ‘Cinema’ concept was realized this year by Simona Falzarano. We are honored to interview Walter, the Director, who gave us a detailed project introduction.
The History of Art is based on the evolution of painting. How is it possible to enclose painting in a single character? The answer is simple: you can't. You have to make a choice.
So Walter chose for pure personal taste: Expressionism. Vivid, bright, strong, contrasted colors. The character Painting is very lively, and so had to be the starting style. It occurs to him that her colors perfectly match Franz Marc's Blue Horse, one of the main exponents of the Expressionist movement Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).
Based on the feeling of "non-inclusion", character Photography had to be a "black and white" character - not literally, but only on a palette level. In order to emphasize his detachment from other arts, much more colorful, he had to wear a simple black t-shirt and gray pants.
At first his eyes were supposed to be black instead of white, just to simulate the photographic lens, but that would have been too dark. Walter emphasized that the eyes of the characters had to be white and bright, without pupils, because they are not real people, but ideas, entities, a sort of spirits, so their eyes had to radiate the light of creativity.
Character Architecture is more sharp-edged than the others, his chin is slightly pointed and even his movements are less fluid than the others. He is a very serious and rational art, which is why he has a slightly more grumpy character - of our Seven Dwarfs, he is Grumpy indeed - with a slightly older appearance.
The characters allowed the artist not only to characterize each character with a complete and personal palette (giving them "classic" colors killed all the vivacity of the short) but also to allow a better detachment from the completely orange background.
Music & Dance
Characters Music and Dance are a nice couple. Music is inspired by the great classical composers, mainly Mozart and Beethoven: he has the joy and liveliness of the former and the aggressiveness of the latter. At the beginning his hair was more rounded, similar to an eighteenth century wig, but while modelling, Walter chose a slightly more rock look, to create a little contrast between classical and modern hair too.
Character Dance at first had to look like a ballet dancer, with a white dress, pink skirt and gathered blonde hair. But the team was looking for something more lively and varied, so Andrea relied on Brazilian dancers, while trying to keep the look simple and clean.
Walter admitted that these two are his favourites of the whole short!
For character Sculpture, the team chose a Greek-style. Slightly squared nose like Disney's Hercules, well outlined muscles and a dry physique. The biggest characterization with him was in the animation phase: Walter wanted a slightly more "silly" character, to make him more likable too.
Character Literature is a completely Italian character guided by Beatrice, Laura and Fiammetta. The style of Literature is celestial and angelic, very light and candid, with a long light blue, almost white dress, long gold-coloured hair and a laurel wreath that distinguished the poets and authors at the time.
Character Cinema, given by a small push of Italian patriotism, the team chose Federico Fellini, a director who has made the history of international cinema. At that point, the solution was simple: red scarf.
Walter also introduced that every character has a little "power" or characterization: Painting colors everything with a simple touch, Photography takes a picture every time he blinks, Architecture can make complex construction projects, Music can play any instrument, Dance does not stand still, Literature is a factory of ideas and Sculpture molds anything with his hands. There are more stories, please find out in the movie!
Currently, the team has reached the final phase of the animation project, the rendering phase. According to the project plan, the short should be ready for the first quarter of 2021 and plan to attend many festivals! The team now is seeking funding to finalised the project and once the fund is raised, 20% of it would be donated to the non-profit organization Stand For Trees, which is working to safeguard the natural areas at risk of the planet, such as the Amazon, Congo, Kenya, several areas of South America and more.
If you like the story and wish to help our little planet, you can click here and support the project!
Here’s the interview between Walter Rastelli and Fox Renderfarm, where you could know more about him and his project.
Fox Renderfarm：Hi Walter! Could you give us a brief introduction about yourself and your team?
Walter: Ciao! My name is Walter and I write to you from Italy, the country where I was born and raised. I studied for a long time film direction, direction of photography and editing, in various schools and universities between Rome and Naples. I am currently graduating in Film Direction at the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples.
I've always had a passion for animation and for the expressive potential that the medium offers and, after a Autodesk certified course about Maya, I started working on this short film - although the idea was born in 2013, but we will discuss it later.
I spent several months modeling and texturing the characters and studying every single shot. Unfortunately (and luckily) it's impossible to make any film product on your own, so I used Artella, a website (now closed, open only for companies) where you could post your projects and look for collaborators.
Thanks to this site I was able to create a team of experienced artists and exceptional people. As I said, the idea came to me in 2013 and I had already worked on it for a while, but thanks to them I had the chance to "start over", I saw some things in a different light, we improved some steps and a lot of ideas were born. I love it when projects are alive, where the exchange and comparison of ideas allows the project to grow and evolve. I talked not only with animators, but also with riggers and concept artists, and together we created something that was only hinted at at first. Now it is well defined and I think I will thank every single person in this team forever.
Fox Renderfarm：About the movie’s name Le Rendez-Vous Des Arts, any idea behind that?
Walter: It all started out as a coincidence during a lecture at the university. But it was difficult to create a story based only on these words! Especially because it had to be told in absolute silence, without words. Everyone has to understand it: from the inhabitants of my town in the province of Naples to the ice deserts populated by penguins in Antarctica. Cinema is just that: narration through images. I don't want to put words into it that have to be translated to be understood. Images must speak for themselves. I tried to think only through images and the first one that came to my mind was a forest (I love woods and forests, so they are always the first thing I think about, I must admit). So I followed my instincts. "Okay, we have a forest, now let's populate it." And here was the hard part. I had to create a story that would unite all the arts, but also create conflict. Since I've always been a bit of an outsider and my pronunciation problem has always excluded me from others, I took my cue from this to create the character of Photography and use him as the central pivot of the story: as historically it happened, he was excluded from others, he was not considered a real art and he did everything he could to be accepted. From here I started to build: the first confrontation he has is with Painting, so the two of them are the first characters that appear. Then came Architecture, Music, etc... From here on I really had to think in actions and images: every gesture, every movement, every change of shot carried the story forward and so, instead of a screenplay, in the end I had a long shot list in my hands.
Fox Renderfarm：Could you tell us about your CG pipeline?
Walter: The pipeline we used is basically the same as any animation project. Once the story was ready, I contacted a friend of mine, Andrea Boatta, who is a very good character and concept artist, and asked her to make the concepts for the characters. In the meantime I made a storyboard.
So far, it's all very simple. After that, I made the character models by myself, including textures, cloth dynamics and hair. I mainly do texture painting with Substance and lighting, as these are the things that come closest to my studies in the direction of photography, but these characters are quite simple - and the concepts were really very detailed - so I did it all by myself. Immediately afterwards I created a very rough editing using storyboards and we used this as the basis for the animatic. The animatic was a simple base to start from rather than a real guideline to follow.
As I said, I like it when projects are alive, so when we realized we needed more time for a gesture or a whole shot, we had no problem changing and adjusting. That's also the beauty of independent projects, you have much more freedom. However, as the character rigs were made, I took care of the layouts. At the same time with the concept artists we were discussing the shape of the place and the forest, designing the environments such as the tree house and the stage.
Stage concept created by Shana Pagano
Once the concepts were ready, I made the models, put them in the layouts and sent them to the animators. Each shot had a different degree of difficulty, so we started with the simplest ones - also because this is a project carried out by freelance volunteers, many of them recently graduated from animation schools, so it was also a way to test ourselves by increasing the level as we went along.
Since we are all people from opposite parts of the world (Italy, Indonesia, Mexico, Canada, Romania, Pakistan, etc.) we used Slack to keep in touch and SyncSketch to review the shots. Every time a shot was ready, I took care of the environment, using Quixel Megascan libraries. Once this was done, I moved on to the lighting and rendering of the shorter and simpler shots. The compositing was done with Adobe After Effects and the editing with Adobe Premiere Pro.
I have to say that this was my first time ever to work with so many people from so many different places. For a few months I reversed my sleep cycle so that I could be available even when it was nighttime at my place. But it was beautiful. Exhausting, but beautiful. I felt really alive. It must also be said that this project started right at the same time as the Covid emergency, that is still afflicting the world. The lock-downs have been very hard for all of us, but this project has allowed us to dedicate ourselves to something, even a little bit of distraction and to move forward in such a difficult period.
Fox Renderfarm：The movie has the stop-motion style, why do you choose this style and how do you create the effect of it?
Walter: The stop-motion is fundamental for this short. In the beginning it was my intention to make it just like this, with puppets. But it was a waste of money and energy too big to do it alone, I didn't have the chance to create a team and... And the puppets I made were more creepy than Tim Burton's. That's why I've had this project on hold for six years. But I wanted to leave it even now that I'm making it in CGI, because it's the basis of the meaning of the short itself: 24 photographs per second that create cinema (literally).
Making it in CGI was not difficult. We based it on the Spiderverse, so animating it in 2s, so one keyframe every two frames instead of every single one. The problem was the camera movements which, to remain fluid, have to be in 1s. Luckily one of the animators advised me to use a free script, PrattBros Screen Spacer, which allowed us to avoid the flickers in the camera - as it's obviously an effect created with characters moving every two frames while the camera every single one.
Fox Renderfarm：Did you meet any difficulties when creating the film? And how did you solve it?
Walter: Difficulties and unforeseen events are always the order of the day. Each shot has a different one. They can be technical difficulties related to an incorrect rig, or narrative problems related to a sequence or a single shot - the first shot we animated, I remember, seemed very simple, it was Photography coming out shyly from behind a tree, but reproducing shyness with a very limited range of expressions took us several days!
One of the biggest problems I faced were the hair and veil simulations of Dance and Literature. About the hair, my PC is not performing enough to process the simulations with xGen, so I had to find another solution: I converted the hair into polygonal meshes and "animated" them using non-linear deformers. It’s a very unorthodox solution, I know, but it was the fastest and most efficient one I could think of. For the veils it's much more difficult. I had to use Maya's nCloth simulations here, but the simulations work in 1s, not 2s. Rigging clothes and animating them by hand would have been hell. Difficult problem, easy (but a bit boring) solution: I run the simulations on spline animations, before they are converted to 2s, I export them in Alembic format, and import them in the scene in 2s, moving the offset of 0 and 1 each frame.
Probably some people who are reading this will be rolling around laughing at these solutions, but they work and that's what really matters!
You never stop learning, and I still have a lot to learn along the way!
Fox Renderfarm：As a filmmaker, when and how did you encounter CG and decide to enter this industry?
Walter: It's a passion that I've always had, since I was a child, but that I've rediscovered in recent years. I grew up with Disney movies and the first time I used 3D Studio Max I was 9 years old. When I was 13, I made my first short film in 3D. It was the story of a superhero sandwich... When I think about it, I'm moved by it, it has a great friendship value. But that's another story. The fact is, animation has always meant a lot to me. I'm also a fan of new technologies, so every time an update or a new technique comes out, I immediately run to inform myself. Animation is a very strong expressive medium, which allows you to go beyond the "simple" image shot. There are stories that have to be told through it. Take this short film, for example. Made in live action it would be grotesque, if not even ridiculous, but through animation it acquires a much greater strength. Obviously it's a speech that also applies in reverse. Lord of the Rings in animation? No, it wasn't a great idea…
In Italy, animation is something almost unknown. There are several studios, but mainly for children's television products or commercials. Italian animated films are only starting to arrive at the cinema in recent years (although in the past there have been some very important examples, such as "Totò Sapore and the magical story of Pizza", but I think we Italians have a long way to go. The cinema industry here is a bit stuck, the novelties are seen with doubts... But that's another story too.
Lenore © Walter Rastelli
Fox Renderfarm：How do you feel about Fox Renderfarm’s cloud rendering services?
Walter: I had the opportunity to use it for a small project in the past and to have it by my side for this short film fills me with joy.
I'm not only talking about price-quality ratio, but also about the professionalism of the team and the help they decided to give me for this project - and this interview is the proof! I have already done some test shots: the result was perfect and the timing extremely fast! It was my first choice right from the start.
I would like to point out not only the quality of the service itself, but the kindness and availability of the people behind the Fox Renderfarm. The human relationship is something fundamental, especially when it comes to cinema. When I had problems with frames, they helped me with kindness and speed. You can't find something like that anywhere else.
Fox Renderfarm：Any other things you want to share with the CG enthusiasts and the audience who supports you?
Walter: Well, as far as the project goes, I have one last thing to say. This autumn a fundraising campaign will be launched to support some of the project's expenses, like software and whatnot. But there is one very important thing. The fact that the whole short takes place in a forest is crucial. Nature is the first real art. And, lately, Nature hasn't been doing very well, to put it mildly... Deforestation, fire, climate change... How can we fight that? I found a big help in Stand For Trees, a non-profit organization that deals with the protection of forests and natural areas at risk. I talked to them about my project and they decided to support it. I really want to help the Planet, that's why a part of the fundraising will be donated to them for charity, to allow the safety of many areas of our home.
I started this process with few means, but a lot of willpower. If you care about something, a project or an idea, don't stop. Never. Always carry it on. There will be periods - even long ones - in which it will remain still, but don't abandon it. Persevere. Create. Persevere in creating. Create relationships and unions. Put yourselves on the line. Let ideas guide you and believe blindly in them.
Fox Renderfarm sincerely calls on everyone to support this wonderful project by clicking here. Your support means a lot!
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