To recognize rising stars in the visual effects industry, Autodesk sponsored the Visual Effects Society (VES) Student Award for the 14and consecutive year.
From dystopian worlds and magical dreamscapes to a moving look at the realities of climate change on earth, this year’s nominated students have continued to raise the bar for creativity. Overall, each team of students delivered superb visual effects and animation projects and proved their adaptability to remote and hybrid workflows in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
While there can only be one winner, each team deserves to be honored for creating truly immersive worlds, emotionally charged storytelling, and exemplary digital art.
My colleague Eric Bourque, our Vice President of Engineering, presented this year’s VES Student Award to Camille Poiriez, Arielle Cohen, Eloïse Thibaut, Louis Florean and Theo Fratissier of ARTFX Montpellier for “Green”.
This photorealistic animated short shines a light on the fragility of nature and the dangers of climate change through the eyes of a real orangutan. The film transports audiences to the lush jungles of Indonesia and follows the fate of the orangutan hero as his forest is transformed by a devastating event.
I recently reached out to Camille to find out more about how she and her team captured the essence of the green orangutan and brought the film to life. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
Where did you draw inspiration for the film?
The film was conceived as a tribute to Green, an orangutan from the jungles of Indonesia, and the subject of a documentary by French filmmaker Patrick Rouxel. We were moved by the documentary and wanted to tell Green’s story by creating a short animated film about one of the major crises of our time: the loss of biodiversity, driven by deforestation and the climate emergency more large. We have endeavored to emulate a documentary style for the film, with photorealistic visuals that immerse the viewer in the story and confront them with the reality of the current crisis.
Can you tell us about your character design and animation process?
Our character artist, Eloise Thibaut, worked with orangutan references to make Green as realistic as possible. She analyzed every detail to create a 3D sculpt with realistic texture and photorealistic fur. We considered using motion capture for the animation, but due to the complexity of sourcing actors and dealing with technical aspects, we opted for hand animation. Our animator, Theo Fratissier, worked with video references and footage he shot of an orangutan in a Paris zoo to help capture the essence of Green, including fine details like facial expressions. .
How did you create the environments?
At the heart of the film’s visual storytelling was the use of two different environments to set the tone and convey an emotional message. First, we sought to idealize the verdant forest with breathtaking brightness and vibrant colors. It was a big challenge to make it real and dynamic to draw viewers into the world of green, using soft lighting and warm colors to express an optimistic mood. To help bring the forest to life, we’ve incorporated different elements, such as 3D mesh animation with real plant images. The second half of the film reflects a darker and creepier tone, with grayscale colors and fire. This, combined with Green’s direct eye contact, provides an emotional boost, making viewers think about what might happen next.
What creative tools did you use in your production workflow?
A range of digital content creation tools were central to our production workflow, including Maya for rigging, animation and layout, and Arnold for rendering. We chose to render everything in Arnold because it was the best and most capable solution to handle the level of texture detail in Green’s skin and the resolution of his fur.
What were the biggest challenges you faced during production?
The biggest challenge was articulating the film’s message to engage audiences in contemplating climate change and its impact on animals, like Green. We achieved this by making the film as photorealistic as possible using lots of references for environment, lighting, and character, and then again highlighting Green’s final gaze at the camera as the film’s climactic moment.
Learn more about “Green,” the VES Student Prize-winning film here.