Revealing the Techniques Behind the Production of Jibaro "Love, Death & Robots", Which Took Two Years to Draw the Storyboard
It's been more than 10 days since the third season of Netflix's "Love Death & Robots" was launched, but the lingering effects of those brilliant episodes are still reverberating in the hearts of viewers.
In particular, the ninth episode, "Jibaro", has raised the cry of the audience with its surreal visuals and story of love, death, blood and greed!
But just watching the episodes may not be enough to satisfy the curiosity in you. That's why we've prepared a behind-the-scenes breakdown of the most comprehensive edition of Jibaro for you!
This article is a combination of information and interviews of Alberto Mielgo, director of Jibaro, Remi Comtois and Jacob Gardner, animation directors and Agora Studios.
How many people are in the core team? How long did it take in total?
director Alberto Mielgo
Is Dance of the Banshees mocap or keyframe animation?
Is this water real or CG?
How was the collision of metal decorations made?
What difficulties did the team encounter?
What was the creator's favourite part?
Everything you want to know is here!
From 'The Witness', 'The Windshield Wiper' to 'Jibaro' Many fans should have been familiar with the talented director Alberto from 'The Witness' in the first season of 'Love Dead & Robots'.
The Witness tells the story of a dancer who unwittingly stumbles upon a murder in a hotel across the street and is chased by the killer.
And this year, the winner of four Emmy Awards and two Annie Awards, he took home the 94th Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his work The Windshield Wiper!
But while some people will instantly recognise Alberto's highly personal style, the subject matter of Jibaro is not quite the same as the two short films above.
From cityscapes to enchanting Sirens, vast and vibrant forests and knights in exquisite armour, Alberto says of this: "I always thought of doing something with nature as a backdrop. The visuals in the natural world, such as how the light hits the forest, are incredible sounds of nature, and I wanted to pay homage to the incredible nature through the work. Of course, it's also very challenging because nature is so rich that you can lose yourself in it."
What is Jibaro?
Jibaro means 'people of the forested mountains of Puerto Rico' and is based on the Taíno people, a representative of the indigenous peoples of Latin America. Columbus discovered this treasure on his second voyage and named it Puerto Rico, from which Spain began to rule for a long time. In order to plunder precious metals, slaves and cash crops, the colonists had bloody massacres and enslaved the indigenous people. In 1989, when the Spanish-American War broke out, the United States occupied Puerto Rico and made it its own autonomous state in the Caribbean.
Giant stone sculpture of Taíno’s face in Puerto Rico. /Shutterstock@ eddtoro
This is probably why audiences felt that the director wasn't just showing a fantastic gender relationship in Jibaro, but was alluding to colonial history.
In terms of storytelling, Alberto made "Hearing, Love and Death" as the core of "Jibaro".
The story opens with the hero picking up a piece of gold from the river, but this also awakens a banshee in the river who causes the knights to kill each other with her beautiful dance and song.
The male protagonist, who escapes death by deafness, attracts the attention of the banshee, and tensions between them rise, while a relationship of love, greed and lust ends before it even begins.
Jibaro may also appear to be a fantasy story about love, but it is almost a world away from director Alberto's previous film, The Windshield Wiper, in terms of content.
He explains that Jibaro is also describing a relationship that is closer to that between predators of carnal desire. It is as if two people are trying to communicate, but they are not listening to each other and thus become attracted to each other due to a misperception.
I don't know if you've ever experienced this while watching
When the banshee and the knight kiss in the middle of the waterfall
You think it's the start of a forbidden love affair
And when the male lead doesn't follow the rules
When the he kills the banshee and takes all the gold
I wonder how many viewers' jaws dropped
In response, Alberto said: “Not all stories should go about saving the world, or the hero's good journey. In my conception, it is not necessary and taken for granted that the heroes gain growth, and the real situation is often the opposite of what is expected, that they may turn out to be a worse person, and not learn any lessons, or even lose everything.
Two people falling in love for the wrong reasons is something that is always happening in today's society. We choose each other for the wrong reasons and this causes us all to suffer in the end. Some people are lucky enough to find their partner at a very young age, but for most of us it is very difficult to find our partner for the rest of our lives. I love discussing this topic, it's something that's very personal. When you talk about that kind of relationship, you need to make the audience understand it and make them feel like it's really happening.
And in Jibaro, neither of the two main characters is a hero, in fact they are both so bad that sometimes the audience will love one and hate the other. For example, at first you think the banshee is a monster, but then you see what happens to her and you are flooded with sympathy. I like this state of affairs where the audience doesn't know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy, it makes them feel more strongly when they watch the show."
When you see the beautiful dance moves and surreal graphics of the sirens, you might call the production team brilliant, but the basis of all this is also the clear and detailed storyboards of director Alberto.
According to interviews with Remi Comtois and Jacob Gardner, the animation directors of the team behind Jibaro, the director did all the conceptual design and the storyboard alone, which took around two years.
It's hard to believe that the director drew all the drafts himself on paper, scanned them into AE, coloured them and placed them in the corresponding 3D scenes, and the drafts almost filled Alberto's entire office!
Once in animation, Alberto's design went through a number of iterations.
The first was the armor design. The storyboard the director gave the team did not include armor, so the animators had to find it online or go to museums to observe the textures of the different armours and think about their shape and movement.
Most of the characters, including the two main characters, were completely redesigned, and each design change meant that the modeling, binding, animation and other steps needed to be adjusted significantly, which led to facial expressions being added to later. (P.S. It's hard to imagine that all of Jibaro's facial animations were done in a fortnight, and a month in total counting the later additions of details and fine-tuning)
One artist, after viewing Jibaro, analyzed the aesthetics of its art:
- Character style: Klimt
Klimt had an absolute obsession with gold and would put gold leaf, shells and feathers on his paintings, while being influenced by symbolism, Egyptian mythology and Oriental ukiyo-e.
- Environmental style: Pre-Raphaelite
The deep, bottomless inner lake in the animation resembles the dark waters presented by the Pre-Raphaelite.
- Story setting: Siren
This one is certainly the one that people associate with the most. In ancient Greek mythology, there was a siren called the Siren, who had a heavenly singing voice and used it to seduce passing sailors and sink ships.
- Costume and Dance: Salome
The banshee not only sings but also dances. More like a combination of Siren and Salome, and the costume of Salome by Moreau is very close to the character in the anime, but the style of drawing of Salome by Moreau is more like the Indian religion.
- Expression: Schiele
This vacant, unfocused, manic, berserk, neurotic, highly expressionistic expression and gaze are almost identical to those in Schiele's work.
- Medieval knight look + Bamboo Forest by Akutagawa Ryunosuke
Animation Techniques 3D+2D
In the case of the ultra-realistic and beautiful scenes of Jibaro, most people might overlook some of the details on first viewing, such as the fact that certain scenes with more obvious paint strokes are actually in 2d.
This mix and match approach to creation was something Alberto had in mind from the start, and he believes he simply chose the one that was closest to his inner feelings.
"In fact, we finished modeling an entire forest.
And the look of the characters is very simplified, the reason they look realistic is actually the lighting and rendering aspect playing the right role, but in fact they are much simpler than a true hyper-realistic 3D rendering. I tend to remove details that we don't need, and this creates a better, more enjoyable visual experience for the eye."
You can see that the character has no nostrils and the beard and eyebrows are just simple lines
For the modeling and animation side of things, animation director Remi Comtois exclaimed a lot.
There was a lot of pressure on the team members to deliver the best picture that the director had in mind.
And the animators didn't actually set up any of the shots before the main cut, which meant that most of the animation was created within a 360 degree view. They would usually finish on one of the sides, then go around to the back and finally check the coordination of the whole movement from all angles.
Of course, the team has since worked out a few tricks to reduce the pressure of the job. For example, they would assume which angle the director would set the camera at based on the storyboard, so that when the close-ups came up, not too much thought would be put into the lower half of the dress and the legs.
Extremely distinctive camera movements
As the protagonist in "Jibaro" has been given a "deaf" quality, the director has set up the camera to emphasize this unsettling feeling, with the camera moving violently and out of focus as if to give the audience a first-hand experience of the story.
"I do like a camera that's alive, I like to make the audience feel like you're really there and you're holding the camera yourself. Also, in terms of the action, I really like the use of the camera to simulate the feeling of exhaustion. Sometimes it doesn't even have a second to focus properly on a frame. It's like when you're in some kind of action or battle in real life, it's hard to concentrate. Those are the things I wanted to include in the film, because you can convey that sense of stress to the audience."
Mocap or Keyframe Animation？
This should be the most important question for everyone who knows about 3D animation, and here I can give you a definite answer: all the character animations in "Jibaro" are keyframe animation!
It's not that the team didn't try mocap, but for one thing, it didn't fit the artistry the director was after, and for another, the cost of motion capture was enormous due to repeated design changes, so they eventually returned to keyframe animation.
But the director shot a number of references himself so that the animators could replicate the perfect image he had in mind. For example, the scene where the cavalrymen kill each other and fall into the lake was a reference result of Alberto finding a large swimming pool and going to film it himself.
And then there's the part of the Banshee's Dance that everyone is most concerned about.
Alberto had a professional dance team choreograph the dance, and after a two-week rehearsal period, spent another week filming the entire section in real time with a complete 360-degree view as a reference.
SARA SILKIN, the dancer who played the banshee, thanked the director for the "unbelievable and amazing experience" on her own Ins after the episode aired.
Dancer SARA SILKIN
"My voice. My pain. My sadness. My screams. My cries. I am the Bloody Golden Woman, and put my heart into the final scene performance.
My interpretation of JIBARO has always been from her perspective as I relate to HER; someone who destroys and is destroyed by the one she loves.
The tremors in the hands in the final performance represent her shame and terror. I kept repeating to myself while acting the final scene “Why would you do this to me, how could you do this to me?”
Alberto directed me with intense passion and brought out the darkness that lives in my soul. Thank you for not only creating a visual masterpiece but building a beautiful world highlighting the cruelty that can exist within it.”
Liquid, Metal Collision
There is a joking saying in the animation industry: you can measure an animator's ability by how he draws water.
This saying is just as true in 3D animation.
Realistic liquid simulations are always a major source of brain-ache for the team behind the scenes, and the magnificent waterfalls and intense underwater scenes in "Jibaro" almost bewilder the eye!
Is that really not a real shot?
Answer: Not a real shot!!!
Director Alberto answers this: "Technically, the film is very complex and it was very difficult to simulate the clash of armor, jewelry, the splash of water and the effect of them all moving and colliding in the water.
When the team first heard it, they all said, "Oh no! Oh my God! Can we simplify it", but I think that's what we were trying to achieve, it was the one thing that couldn't be simplified, I wanted to push the technology, push the visuals, push the artwork to the limit! And we ended up doing that, which is great, it's definitely not easy!"
Agora Studios, the team that worked with Alberto, also revealed the behind-the-scenes production of the metal accessories in the film.
"When we did the pre-production previews, we realised that the soldier armour Alberto wanted was not impossible to achieve, but also difficult to realise for the type of mass movement. So we suggested adjusting the model accordingly while respecting the original design, and luckily the director approved this suggestion and gave it down to the character team to implement. A good synergy between the teams was essential in pre-production.
It was a huge challenge for our assembler Alex Mann to automate all the metal parts as much as possible, we animated these individually and then automated some of the secondary movements with Ragdoll Dynamics. Finally, we also spent a long time cleaning up the intersecting meshes, which if done properly no one would notice it, but it was a job that required a lot of passion and dedication and a lot of time and effort from the team members."
*Ragdoll Dynamics is a new real-time physics calculator for Maya. This tool allows animators to use real-time physics in character bindings, whether it's mechanical components, fabric, hair or muscles, anything in the Maya viewport can generate realistic secondary motion.
Ragdoll Dynamics demo
What was the favourite and most difficult part for the team?
The two animation directors had the same answer to this question.
Their favourite part of the film is the final dance and scream of the banshee at the end.
Remi Comtois, who was in charge of this section, explained that the kind of performance that seems to use all the strength, trembling and screaming, requires a lot of details, and it is the ultimate feeling that the director was after.
Jacob Gardner, on the other hand, said the hardest part he was responsible for was the dancing cheek-to-cheek at waterfall, as the character design and modeling were tweaked several times throughout, so getting the shape, distance and rhythm right became a challenge.
"Their intertwined hands, the shape of the armor, the shape of the two men's arms, the change in body distance as they dance... There were so many details to imagine."
What is it like to work with Alberto?
In an interview with animation directors Remi Comtois and Jacob Gardner, the host asked the question: was there a particular shot that consistently failed to meet the director's standards and made him go ballistic?
But the answer given by the two directors gave us a real insight into how such a core team of 22 people was able to complete such a crazy project in eight months.
Not once, they replied.
Top (left): Remi Comtois, Director of Animation Bottom: Jacob Gardner, Director of Animation
Alberto respects every creator's opinion, he is happy to see all the possibilities and to see everyone's sparkle, and everyone gets confidence and praise from him. And as an animator himself, he knows exactly what difficulties to expect in a project and how to overcome them.
On one occasion Alberto pointed out a part of the project that a team member had forgotten and everyone was thinking: what can we do about this? But he calmly and comfortably reassured them and remedied the situation in time, increasing their trust in each other.
Alberto did all the preliminary work on this project alone and had everything in his head. Even though there were many iterations in between, as soon as he suggested a change, then everyone was willing to trust that his idea would make the whole project better, rather than a waste of effort, so everyone gave their all from the bottom of their hearts.
Also, Alberto knew exactly what he wanted, so every instruction given was quite clear, which was one of the reasons why everyone was able to finish on time.
There may be many talented people in the world But that's why only Alberto could make Jibaro Crazy and respectful enough
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