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A Senior Thesis Animation Film by Harvard Student, Showing the Communication Between Digital Natives

2022-07-04
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Fox Renderfarm Interview

Fox Renderfarm is deeply committed to supporting education with fast and easy cloud rendering service and making it accessible to everyone around the world. Memie Osuga, from the Art, Film, and Visual Studies department at Harvard University, is supported by Fox Renderfarm to render her senior thesis animation short Keep In Touch in April 2020.

Memie Osuga

Memie Osuga

Student from Harvard University 

From: New York

Keep In Touch by Memie Osuga

https://www.artstation.com/artwork/A90gVV

The animation film tells a story between 2 best friends, Min and Lillian, and the only place they've ever met is in the online world of the fantasy novel they're writing together over the internet.

This film was a culmination of about a year's worth of work. Memie spent the first several months for concept drafting and story development, and the last 4-6 months for the bulk of the image development. She was in charge of all the works including concept, direction, animation and music.

Here’s the interview between Memie Osuga and Fox Renderfarm, in which she talked about the inspiration and creating process of the short.

Fox Renderfarm: Hi Memie! Would you please give a brief introduction about yourself?

Memie: Hello! I’m Memie, an animator born/raised in NYC. I’m a graduating senior at Harvard University in the Art, Film, and Visual Studies department. I really love CGI, but actually only got started in it about three years ago, though it’s been a great three years since then! Back in the day, I was a huge science kid and also did a ton of music (parents are both piano teachers). On the side, I do taekwondo.

Fox Renderfarm: Congratulations on your senior thesis film Keep In Touch, could you introduce the inspiration for the film?

Memie: This film came from a lot of stories of people in my generation who are increasingly finding ways to connect online. Though this is the experience for so many people right now during the pandemic, it’s a larger shift I’ve felt growing up as a digital native in this generation.

For the personal origin story, I’ve identified strongly as an introvert for most of my life. Talking out loud has never been the most natural way for me to communicate, and I wanted to highlight the beautiful things that can happen when we allow people to express themselves in the ways that are most natural to them. So it was a mix of all these ideas that came together for the film.

Keep in touch - Memie Osuga

Fox Renderfarm: In the film, we know the story between two friends who keep in touch online, are there any ideas you would like to express through this story?

Memie: Besides trying to showcase the wonder of online connection alongside the feeling that it’s always missing something - because in person facetime is still irreplaceable, yes, there were a few other ideas I was trying to convey. One is my own enchantment with imagination and fantasy creations: I’ve always loved art that allows you to escape to other worlds. Another is that the creative collaborations you have with others can be some of the most powerful things in this world!

Keep in touch - Memie Osuga 1

Fox Renderfarm: About the models of two main characters, how did you design them? Any reference?

Memie: I started with 2D sketches of the characters, and sculpted them from the drawings I had made. I would say they’re an amalgamation of a lot of my friends, actually! It was important for me to have Asian characters. One thing that has personally haunted me is of Asian stereotypes in the US of Asians being robotic, boring, or non-expressive. In my high school, even, this could be seen by kids being called ‘random Asians’. It’s very depersonalizing. So I wanted to push back against that idea by showing even non expressive or small-eyed characters with big imaginations and really rich interiors. People who think other people are boring or not worth their time just don’t really know them.

Keep in touch - Memie Osuga Keep in touch - Memie Osuga

2D concept & 3D character

Keep in touch - Memie Osuga

Keep in touch - Memie Osuga 1

Fox Renderfarm: What software, renderers, plugins did you use in this work?

Memie: A bunch! It was a challenge to learn a lot of the different software, but also so cool to expand my capabilities with these amazing tools! I used Krita, Illustrator, and Photoshop especially for concept art. I sculpted, rigged, and animated in Maya. For texturing, lighting, and additional asset creation, I used Substance Painter, Isotropix Clarisse, and WorldMachine. Then final renders were with Fox Renderfarm and Maya’s Arnold Engine. I put everything together finally in After Effects (which I also used for the 2D animation), plus Red Giant’s Trapcode suite. The last bit was recording, generating, and processing sounds in Adobe Audition and composing my own music in Logic Pro X!

Fox Renderfarm: What’s the most unforgettable and interesting part of the creation process?

Memie: I think creating my characters was definitely the most intense part (combing their hair was so difficult!), but putting the time into their look really paid off for me.

Keep in touch - Memie Osuga 4

Keep in touch - Memie Osuga 5

Fox Renderfarm: Did you meet any difficulties when creating this work? And how did you solve it?

Memie: So many difficulties! As per usual, most of my troubleshooting came from asking questions to google and reading through documentation and webforums and watching online tutorials. My mentor at Zero VFX Dave Pietricola was also a huge technical help; my advisor at school Jie Li gave fantastic creative feedback and support as well.

Fox Renderfarm’s tech support was for sure helpful during rendering issues. And for final picture issues, good old frame by frame cleanup was the answer.

Fox Renderfarm: We can see that the style of your artworks is lovely and unique, anyone or any artwork that inspires you the most?

Memie: Thank you! For this film, I reached into my favorite landscape photography, and my favorite fantasy novels. I just love the whimsy of the whole Oz series, and I was inspired by Michael Ende’s books as well. Some recent films I had seen also pushed me into using UI elements to tell the story.

Afterschool by Memie Osuga

https://www.artstation.com/artwork/EVxKke

Fox Renderfarm: Would you please give a brief introduction about your major and courses in the Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies of Harvard?

Memie: My major is kind of the catchall Art major at Harvard. So we have studio courses of a whole range, some film classes, and just 2-3 animation workshops. The department gives great support and I’m grateful to it for being the place I really got started on my animation journey.

As far as CGI animation goes, there’s very little, but I’m hoping that’s something that changes in the future.

Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about Fox Renderfarm’s cloud rendering services?

Memie: It got the job done very well! And I wouldn’t have used the service if they didn’t have the free trial credits to make sure the pipeline worked. Thanks to the customer service team who helped me smooth out all the technical issues with rendering.

Fox Renderfarm hopes to support and help more students to create excellent CG artworks. In this special time, please work from home and work with Fox Renderfarm.

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