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Swing to the Moon: ESMA’s Journey to the Best Student Project at SIGGRAPH 2023

2024-01-02
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Fox Renderfarm Interview | SIGGRAPH Asia

Swing to the Moon is a breathtaking animated short film that has captivated audiences at the esteemed SIGGRAPH 2023. Crafted by a group of seven students from the French school ESMA, this extraordinary graduation project tells a touching story that takes viewers on a journey as a determined little spider sets out on an enchanting adventure to capture the moon. As the industry's top cloud rendering service provider and leading render farm, Fox Renderfarm has also participated in SIGGRAPH 2023 and looked at this amazing project. We are honored to be able to interview this group of talented students from ESMA.

Let's delve ino the fascinating journey behind Swing to the Moon and discover the creative process that led the talented Swing team to win the Best Student Project at SIGGRAPH 2023.

Fox Renderfarm: Hi Swing team! Thank you so much for accepting our interview! Could you please introduce your team and your school ESMA to our readers?

Swing team: Hi! Thank you for the invitation! We are a group of seven students from the French school ESMA, Marie Bordessoule, Adriana Bouissié, Nadine De Boer, Elisa Drique, Chloé Lauzu, Vincent Levrero, and Solenne Moreau. This school has multiple artistic formations including one on 3D animation and visual effects that we have done. We made Swing to the Moon during our last year of studies.

Fox Renderfarm: Congratulations on winning the Best Student Project in SIGGRAPH 2023! How do you feel about it?

Swing team: Thank you very much! It's crazy to see our little film come so far over the past year, to take part and win an award at SIGGRAPH. It's clearly not something we could have imagined and it's always hard to realize that it's being seen by people all over the world. It makes you happy and proud, of course, more than the recognition, it's being able to share our work with many people from so many different backgrounds that makes us so happy!

Fox Renderfarm: Can you tell us about the inspirations behind your work "Swing to the Moon"? How did you come up with this idea?

Swing team: During our third year each student had to write a short pitch for the next year's movies. In the end, among all the stories, six have been chosen by both the students and the professors. Elisa Drique wrote the first version and then we worked in a group to improve the story. We were inspired by Pixar’s short movie Piper and Minuscule, a French animated show on little bugs.

Piper and Minuscule © Pixar Animation Studios

Piper and Minuscule © Pixar Animation Studios

Fox Renderfarm: This project was created by many students together. How did the collaboration process go? What roles were each member responsible for? 

Swing team: Creating Swing to the Moon involved seamless collaboration among our seven-member team. Responsibilities were divided based on individual strengths, specialties, and preferences. We were all involved in pre-production tasks, then we split between rig/animation - rigging made by Adriana, animation made by Adriana Solenne and Nadine - and rendering aspects - modeling/surfacing/FX/lighting/compositing made by Marie Elisa Chloé and Vincent. We also worked with a music student, Dorian Lehmann who composed the all score of the movie.

Fox Renderfarm: Were there any specific films, books, artworks, or real-life events that inspired the story?

Swing team: Not particularly, but it is certain that many things inspired us, indirectly or not, for the film. Like a lot of Pixar/Dreamworks movies which were a main reference for how emotions are shown in 3D animation.

Fox Renderfarm: Why did you choose a spider as the main character? Could you share some insights into the visual references or inspirations that influenced your character design?

Swing team: The story was based on the concept of a spider trying to catch the moon. We thought this was very poetic and original, so we chose to make the spider cute to fit in with the poetic aspect so that it wouldn't be terrifying. We all had a little furball in mind, but it was the input of everyone's ideas that led to this final design.

Character Pre-production © ESMA

Character Pre-production © ESMA

Little Spider Temi Look Dev © ESMA

Little Spider Temi Look Dev © ESMA

Fox Renderfarm: Why did you choose to leave a suspenseful and dramatic ending for the viewers?

Swing team: We liked the ending with the little spider on the porthole in the first version of the scenario, and even though she is not literally on the moon, we agreed that she had achieved her objective.

Still Frames © ESMA

Still Frames © ESMA

Fox Renderfarm: How did you use colors, materials, and lighting setup to achieve the atmosphere in your work?

Swing team: We decided to make the film with a macro photographic approach, always on the scale of the spider. Visually we tried to get close to reality while simplifying and magnifying nature in our sets. On the lighting side, at first it was kind of difficult to make it all by night because we really wanted to have strong diverses moods across the movie.

Pre-production © ESMA

Pre-production © ESMA

Fox Renderfarm: Could you please tell us about your pipeline for this work? And how long did it take you? 

Swing team: We used a regular Maya Pipeline with Ftrack to manage, review and get feedbacks on the movie. We spent about five months on preproduction and 9 months on production, so one year and a half from start to finish. 

Making Of © ESMA

Fox Renderfarm: What technologies and software tools were crucial in bringing your vision to life for this project?

Swing team: We used Autodesk Maya for all the modeling, rigging, layout and animation. We used Maxon Zbrush for the sculpting, Adobe Substance Painter for the texturing and Xgen for the grooming. Pixar’s Renderman in Maya for the shading, lighting and rendering. We used SideFX Houdini and Blender for all the Fx and Nuke for the compositing. We also did some photogrammetry for some specific elements.

Breakdown © ESMA

Breakdown © ESMA

Fox Renderfarm: Are there any challenges that you encountered during the process of creation? If so, how did you overcome them?

Swing team: Some of the main technical challenges were the simulated fur, the crowd of fireflies, achieve a believable macro and depth of field aspect. One of the hardest challenge was definitely to show the emotions of a spider with only two eyes and no mouth. We overcome these challenges with a lot of tries and researches.

Pre-production © ESMA_

Pre-production © ESMA

Fox Renderfarm: Are there any moments you enjoyed during the creation process? And what was the most memorable?

Swing team: We really loved working on the movie all along the year, we remember when we rendered our first shot animated, we were so happy all together seeing for the first time what the movie could look like.

Pre-production © ESMA__

Pre-production © ESMA

Fox Renderfarm: Have you tried Fox Renderfarm’s services before? If so, how do you feel about Fox Renderfarm’s cloud rendering services? 

Swing team: At school we had a local render farm, and we haven't had a chance to try it out for ourselves yet!

Fox Renderfarm: Are there any new ongoing projects or future plans that you would like to share with us?

Swing team: Most of us are working on personal projects in parallel with our studio work, but there's nothing special planned, for the moment anyway!

Thank you for the interview :) !

Swing Team’s Social Media:

Swing Movie: https://www.instagram.com/swing.movie/

Marie Bordessoule: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marie-bordessoule-8b8a731a3/

Adriana Bouissié: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adriana-bouissi%C3%A9-69552b14a/

Nadine De Boer: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nadine-de-boer-b5b3731a3/

Elisa Drique: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elisa-drique/

Chloé Lauzu: https://fr.linkedin.com/in/chlozix/

Vincent Levrero: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vincent-levrero/

Solenne Moreau: https://www.linkedin.com/in/solenne-moreau/

Pipeline credit:

Autodesk Maya

Autodesk Maya Xgen

Pixar’s Renderman

Adobe Substance Painter

Maxon Zbrush

SideFX Houdini

Blender

Foundry Nuke

Backlight Ftrack

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