Ulp! Time for an update! Just started a new animated series awhile back called I Am Robot You Are Not!. It’s a series that will go about 8-10 episodes at 10 minutes each. I’m designing and animating everything single-handedly so it’s taking some time. I enjoy the process though and it’s given me lots of excuses to watch old and new cartoons for inspiration (Speed Racer woooo!). Check out iamrobotyouarenot.com and The Killer Robots YouTube channel to learn more and watch the newest episodes.
I love Computer-generated imagery (or CGI) for opening up the possibilities of imagination and allowing one to bring their visions to the screen without limitations. For a reasonable price you can be your own visual effects unit with off-the-shelf software. Despite all of this, I find myself building models and compositing photographic backgrounds for The Killer Robots Next Movie.
For my first feature, The Killer Robots and the Battle for the Cosmic Potato, I utilized Lightwave 3D to create the worlds that the characters would inhabit. Now, I did have limitations: my computer was old and slow and my experience with 3D modeling and texturing was basic at best. But, I had a list of 800 shots filled with sets, locations, costumes and alien characters that would have to be realized somehow. Without the resources to build sets and miniatures, I felt CGI was the way to go.
To get around the aforementioned limitations, I modeled everything simply. Instead of gritty realism I went for a cartoonish hyper-reality. All of the monsters and aliens had giant pool balls for eyes. Every set and spaceship glowed with color. The subject matter leaned toward the absurd so I felt an absurd presentation would be best. Some might say that it all looks like a video game and they’re probably right, but I’m ultimately satisfied with the final product in all of its primitive glory!
As happy as I was with the Cosmic Potato I couldn’t help but wonder what it all would have looked like with miniature sets, puppets and models. With production of The Killer Robots Next Movie underway, I thought to myself, “Would folks be more inclined to sit and watch my movies if the settings were more rooted in reality?”
I did some more CGI tests to see if I could approximate a more realistic look. I added extra detail and worked on my lighting. Finally I had to admit that although it was no longer cartoony; my CGI work still looked like illustrations. I decided then that the old-school style of special effects may be more conducive to what I was trying to achieve.
With the advances in digital editing and compositing I began to realize those older techniques were actually within my grasp. I built a couple of robot monsters out of recycled plastics and broken toys. My friend, Samuel Williams began building a series of miniature buildings. I found some open-source photos of engines, tunnels and refineries. I then composited everything in Adobe After Effects and added some rich color grading to the proceedings. I must admit I was quite pleased with the results.
Personally I felt more immersed, but then again I am immersed, so I’ll let you be the judge!