The Harvest — Short Film

One more day until Christmas!

What’s that you say? You’re tired of Christmas already? Seeing the ads and listening to holiday music since Halloween has you sick to the teeth of the whole season? Well, I’ve got just the holiday short for you!

The Harvest is an impressively scary holiday tale from Colombia about a little girl who gets out of bed to try and see Santa and sees… something else entirely. Directed by Jorge Jaramillo and written by Luis Fernando Mora, this short film is guaranteed to keep you for from attempting that midnight run downstairs to snack on one of Santa’s cookies.

Sort (No Man’s Land) — Short Film

Given that today is Armistice Day, this seemed like an appropriate animated short to share. Armistice Day, for those who don’t know, marks the end hostilities on the Western Front in World War I, which took effect “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918.

Sort, also titled No Man’s Land, is an impressively constructed reminder of the living hell that led to the armistice and finally ended the first World War. To be honest, this is a tough one to watch; the filmmakers do not shy away from recreating the gruesome horrors of trench warfare. That is precisely the point, though, as Sort reminds us that Armistice Day isn’t all about the poppies.

In order to create the gritty look of Sort, the filmmakers combined animation (with 3ds Max) and motion capture (edited in Motionbuilder) , and then rendered the film in Iray (Nvidia) from 3ds Max 2014 with a fixed number of iterations to achieve the grainy look of the final product. I was very impressed with that consistent visual graininess, which I haven’t seen in many animated projects, and also with the use of light (or lack of light) throughout the short to really effectively create the panicked atmosphere of the battlefield. This short probably won’t be for everyone, but it’s an impressive memorial of a truly dark period in the history of the world and the sacrifices of the people who were put through those horrors.

Tombes & manèges — Short Film

Another short film to get you in the goulash spirit.

Tombes & manèges is a delightful animated short from France’s ISART DIGITAL Video Game and 3D Animation / VFX School. The story follows a boorish gravedigger trying to amuse his bored son as the pair work in the cemetery for the night. I really love the look of this film — the textures and color palate reminds me a lot of the Paranorman or The Boxtrolls —  and the story is very effectively told without relying on dialogue. I definitely did not see the ending coming, which is unusual for a student film, and really loved how smoothly and deftly they brought the story to a close. Definitely worth a watch!

Animation: Nicolas Albrecht, Jérémie Auray, Alexandre Garnier, Antoine Giuliani, Sandrine Normand, Ambre Pochet and Marc Visintin

Music & Sound Design: Guillaume Bonneau, Arthur Bouflet, Julien Cautru, Florian Desnoyers and Régis-Pol Maisonnave

Fall Film Preview 2015

It’s that time again, dear reader. Fall is officially upon us, and with it the another big season for animated feature films. I know that fall is officially here, not just by my calendar, but by the lament of my 9-year-old neighbor that her teacher actually gave her homework this week. Teachers instinctually know when the torpor caused by the summer heat should give way to the deeper thinking that becomes possible with cooler weather (or, at least, that is my explanation); filmmakers, too, seem to follow this logic, as the high-octane summer blockbusters give way to the more staid, award-seeking dramas of the fall.

Luckily, this fall also has a wide variety of visually engaging, heartstring-tugging, laugh-inducing animated films coming to the theaters. Here are the ones to look out for: Continue reading

Disney’s Practical Guide to Path Tracing — Short Film

This is a slight departure from the short films I normally share on here, but this modern take on the classic Disney training film was too good not to share. Borrowing the format of classic Disney films like “Four Methods of Flush Riveting” (1942) or  “Insects as Carriers of Disease” (1944), this short training film uses the traditional omnipotent jovial male narrator to step the viewer through the world of path tracing for computer animation. Really, all that’s missing here is Goofy or Donald making a cameo to teach you how not to do it!

Ascension — Short Film

I’ve been meaning to post this amazing short for a while now, but the high number of mountain disasters that unfolded in the early portion of 2015 kept it in my stores until now, when it feels more appropriate to laugh at mountaineering mishaps.

Created by five students from the Supinfocom school in France, Ascension is a wonderfully inventive story of two climbers trying to place a religious icon on a snow-covered mountain peak. While I initially was worried that this would be a somber film — some form of think piece on the dark elements of religious devotion — I was soon proved entirely wrong.

Ascension is a beautifully crafted slapstick short, with elements that would have seemed right at home with both Buster Keaton and Bugs Bunny, but with enough serious elements to balance the tone of the film and make the short feel like a complete story. Add to that a gorgeous visual design with stunning landscapes and two completely engaging characters, this student film feels like the complete package and, moreover, feels like something that might have come from any of the big-budget animation studios.

“People who get into animation tend to be kids. We don’t have to grow up. But, also, animators are great observers, and there’s this childlike wonder and interest in the world, the observation of little things that happen in life.”

– John Lasseter, talking to The Guardian