WANDA LOEPER

Process breakdown of the animated short film

INTRODUCING WANDA’S WORLD

So far, it’s been an incredibly enriching and exciting journey for us working towards bringing our very own vision of Wanda Løper to life. We’ve communicated across countries and have had many meetings and work sessions in Trondheim. We have raised development funding that enabled us to unite people who all contribute to this project with their own talents and skills to turn it into something special.

In October last year we gathered in Trondheim for a week of testing, to build and shoot miniature sets and shape Wanda into a real three dimensional puppet. All these elements have now been assembled and animated digitally. Bearing in mind that we only had one week to make all this happen we have achieved our goal; We can give you a taste of what Wanda and Wanda’s world will look like. Along the way we’ve discovered alternative ways of solving technical challenges. Above all, we have realized that it takes a great team of individuals who are ready to face the challenges that this exciting experience brings.

Our goal is to tell a story with a unique visual expression and voice, seen from the view of a girl’s eyes; full of mystery and magical moments. Animals come alive in the form of hand puppets, leaves and grass are made of paper, witch shadows turn into mothers. This project aims to be a celebration of all the beautiful imperfections - because Wanda is perfect with all her imperfections.

There’s still a long way to go before we can show a finished short film but we’re all excited to make Wanda’s world come to life. That’s why we hope that this film will get enough interest and above all funding to go into production. Fingers crossed!

BRINGING WANDA TO LIFE

A lot has happened since our test shoot back in October. Initially, the plan was to make Wanda by photographing the different body parts from a lot of angles and then animate her by using these photos as kind of a 2.5D approach. This turned out to be difficult because the lighting and perspective would never properly match, making the character look flat when comped in with the set piece shots that were live action. Also, we would have had to compromise a lot when it came to animating for example running scenes. That’s why we’ve decided to do the character animation in full 3D so we can better integrate Wanda in the set pieces and have more flexibility for the animation.

SKETCH - HAND SCULPTED PUPPET - 3D RENDERED CHARACTER

The first step was to convert the sculpted clay model into a 3D model.
The budget didn’t allow us to get a proper laser 3D scan, so we used Autodesk’s free Catch123 App. We took photos of all the individual sculpted parts from every possible angle, uploaded them to the server and got 3d models back. The models that come back have the correct basic shape but are very rough so we had to manually add details and tweak the raw scan result in Zbrush to match the clay model. We also had to uv-map and re-texture all the parts since the textures we got from the scan software were far to low res.

The next step was to rig the character. To avoid having to do the whole rigging manually we used the Exocortex Species plugin for Softimage, where you basically only have to give it the proportions of your character and the plugin will automatically build the main rig and do a pretty good job of enveloping the skin. We then did test animations to figure out where the envelope weights had to be adjusted and did so accordingly.

ANIMATING WANDA

We don’t usually think about how we act/react in certain situations. That’s why, when you work with animation, you have to put a lot of thought into how your subject (in this case Wanda) behaves. Creating a walk - or running cycle which seems easy is actually one of the most difficult things to do in animation. To make a digitally animated character look like she has weight and to get the timing of the actions right requires experience. Our animator did this for the first time for the Wanda Løper test sequences. To prepare himself for the task (with very limited time), he studied different walk cycles and observed on his colleagues how humans express themselves with body movements, posture and with facial expressions.

Our ambitions are high for the actual production of Wanda Løper. We would like to merge the digitally animated Wanda with the analogue (hand built) world. That means, that we want to avoid a perfect 3d look and bring some of the charming aspects and imperfections of our sets into the 3D animation. Our goal is to get closer to a stop-motion feel. Luckily, we still have a lot of time until we get to that stage in the film production so that we can test out different aspects of character animation and get together a team of animators who can learn from each other. It’s a great project to improve our skills and challenge our limits.

For the facial animation we quickly made some variations of Wanda’s face and stored them in Softimage’s shape manager so we could blend between them.

So far we just have a quick proof of concept character but when the project moves along to the next step we´ll do the whole procedure from scratch starting with a better 3d scan to preserve even more of the handmade look.

TEST SHOOT OCTOBER 2012

In October 2012 the Wanda team gathered in Trondheim to work out some of the technical challenges and to visualize two of the short film’s scenes. The results will be used to apply for the final production funding. Also, it will help us to estimate the budget costs and timing. It was a busy but very enjoyable week that resulted in lots of beautiful elements that were shot individually and now have to be animated and composited.

THE SETS
The miniatures were built with foam board and wood and then painted and textured. Details such as shoes, sea shells and door knobs were made of plasticine. Everything had to be produced within a week so there was limited time to make things perfect. The overall goal was to create the look and art direction and to shoot all the elements so that we had a library of individual elements to work with for animation and composition.

WANDA CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
During the course of the test week we figured out that most of the elements and characters should be created 3 dimensional to have more flexibility when it comes to shooting different angles. A set of eye movements and mouth movements were created in photoshop and will be animated and composited with the 3-d head in post. The character design still needs some work. Hair will be more fluffy and the face of the character will be more chubby during the first part of the film. One of the challenges was to get the shape of the legs right in order to be able to animate them well once shot. We also figured out that most likely we’ll film a bunch of kids hands either covered in paint or with gloves on to get all the movements right. Wanda’s boots were made individually and then shot 360 degrees.

HAND PUPPETS
The Wanda world will be inhabited by a bunch of animals which will all be created as hand puppets; an owl, a snail, a fox and some other birds will be filmed in front of greenscreen and then composited with the landscapes.

STYLE FRAMES
These images were created a while back in 2011 as part of our funding application. Wanda’s world will be full of hand crafted, textured landscapes that will be shot individually and eventually united in post production.