For you one man armY types out there...

As I was working on WATS and wasn't the battle scarred feature animation filmmaker I am today ^ ^ I found these tips in 3d World Magazine VERY helpful at the time... I don't think this text is online so I will post it here... These tips were written by Michael Hegner, the director of "Terkel in Trouble" This is from issue #54 of 3d World Magazine... I reread them recently to reinforce the microstudio ethos... I omitted some steps and text cause like I had to type it all... track down the magazine to read the whole article....

Michael Hegner
3d world magazine issue #54

1- Match your visual style to the budget you have available.
Photorealism is very expensive and from where I'm sitting, its not a lot of fun either. Whats more interesting is creating unique characters and worlds. Its important to appreciate that you can create really good looking CG with a low budget, and that it doesn't have to involve lots of effects or long rendering times.

To do this, its essential to find the right universe and the right story for your budget. You'll then find the style that comes from the story- not the other way around. In the case of Terkel in Trouble, the offbest storyline and subject matter immediately suggested a very cartoonish visual style, ideally suited to low cost work.

In the world of cinema, Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and the dogme films are good examples of how the visual rules imposed on a movie by the limited budget can generate striking, stylised results. By implementing such hard rules in your production, the end product becomes very different and much more creative.

3- Keep Character rigging to a minimum.
The more twisting and tweaking that can be done on joints and areas of the body, the more time the animators will spend doing just that- and often, the audience won't notice the difference anyway. Again, its about working within your limitations. By thinking in a straightforward and just using the basic tools, good artists can be inspired to come up with unique new looks.

4- Keep facial animation simple
Just think about Kermit in the Muppet show. He doesn't blink, all he can really do is open and close his mouth, and yet this glove puppet is able to convey and inspire emotion. If your planning, storyboarding and editing are good enough, you can get away with almost no facial movement at all. Take Japanese animation, for instance. Its possible to move your audience without really moving your characters. The trick is to focus your energy only on the most important action shots and composition to make it entertaining.

5- Find the minimal workable setup
People tend to think there's a parallel between expensive plug-ins and a great look, and thats completely wrong. Once again the trick is to a style that appeals but which requires as little effort as possible to produce. Try going through your production set-up and eliminating every complex or expensive piece of technology that you can. Only retain a piece of kit if you can't find a simple workaround thats allows you to do without it. Obviously, its essential to do this before you go into full production because the setup affects everything in your project., whether its how you light a shot, how you handle shadows or how you convey the impression of fur.

10- Don't worry about appealing to the widest possible demographic
This is one area where low-budget productions can excel. With lower costs, you don't have to worry about appealing to the whole family audience, or even a broad audience from other countries. Instead your free to pursue ideas that are more interesting and unusual.

Interview with Michael Hegner
3d world Magazine Issue #54

This information is EXTREMELY valuable to the one man army animation... I hope this helps you other microstudio people out there!


  1. I've been sweating eventually haveing to delve into the whole super technical perfection level of 3D modelling, but this guy has a point, just keeping it simples saves you time, and most people won't notice the difference. Its always hard to remember that cuz, as a "one man army" we're constantly looking at everything in our production from every angle, so we obviously notice little things that other animators would probably miss, let alone the general viewer.

    These are some great tips man, thanks for sharing.

  2. Yeah, I've become addicted to 3d World, but I haven't read this issue. What a great find. Thanks for the post, I'm going to track down this mag and post at several machinima blogs/forums. Exactly right about emphasizing simplicity and style. So many indie filmmakers get bogged down in details and forget to just create something simple.



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