Valravn: how PocketStudio helped IIM animation students bring their movie to life!

Published on: Wednesday 2nd December, 2020

Valravn is a short 3D animated movie that a small group of students from the IIM school are producing as part of their bachelor degree. Students are free to choose their project but as part of the process they are asked to create an animatic of their short 3D film before actually producing it. The animatic helps them pitch the project in front of other students, get feedback from professionals right from the very beginning of the project (and before it gets too late for making changes to the film), and as a result of that process, understand why visual development is critical.

The Valravn project is very ambitious for a group of students who have only started to learn 3D animation a year ago. I am quite amazed by the speed with which they mastered the tools and the skills necessary to create complex models of characters and environments. But a movie is primarily about the story. And that is a whole different game to teach and to learn. How do we develop a story from the ground up, how do we put a movie together, how do you learn the art of storytelling? When I met with this group of motivated young folks they had been struggling for months trying to put together an animatic for this short movie; they would first design shots in 3DSMax and edit a render of the shots in Premiere. They had already consumed a few months out of the 6 or 7 they had to complete the project; time was ticking, they had a story but hadn’t figured out yet how to tell it and bring it to life, and to make things more complicated, one of the students (one of the two directors) moved to Ireland, and the pandemic forced the rest of the team to work from home.

Colombe based in Ireland, recorded all cameras for Valravn using PocketStudio's native AR app

This method of updating animation in a 3D package, re-rendering, and importing the renders into the cut can get to a satisfactory result eventually. But it’s not the quickest and most satisfying way of getting there, and here is why…

The process itself is cumbersome, and this limits the number of iterations you can try in a day, but the bigger problem lies in that changing the animation of one shot is likely to force you to re-work the cut and the animation and the cameras of the adjacent shots as well. It is a kind of deadlock scenario. And because you have delays between each iteration, working that way makes the process excruciatingly painful. Imagine Picasso waiting between each brush stroke for the paint to dry. And as Joyce Carol Oates put it: “constant interruptions are the destruction of the imagination”.

PocketStudio was designed to solve exactly this kind of problem. It provides a workflow in which these three streams of the process (layout, cinematography, edit) can be worked out simultaneously in real-time.

I suggested this to the team “let’s put all the animations of your characters for all the shots into a continuous animation take (sometimes referred to as a master shot), let’s import this take in PocketStudio, create all the cameras you want there, and cut the scene using PocketStudio integrated editing tool”. And the result? It literally took them 2 days to produce a new animatic which they liked. The 3D scenes for the project were assembled in PS by the team in France, and the student based in Ireland (one of the co-directors) created cameras for them using PocketStudio’s native AR app and a Wifi connection.

“As my role was to create cameras for the project,” said Colombe, the co-director based in Ireland, “going from using a 3D software to create my cameras to something much more instinctive and physical was for me one of the great benefits of using PocketStudio beside its collaborative nature. Using a 3D software to create cameras, is like asking an artist to paint with a spoon. But having the camera and being able to manipulate it and juggle it so easily, made the creative process much more “palpable”. You suddenly can paint with a brush rather than a spoon. We sometimes criticize 3D for being “virtual” and disconnected, but having the opportunity to film your own film as easily as one would have done for a real film, was really another big plus!”

Ennio based in Paris working remotely on Valravn's cut with Colombe (based in Ireland)

The two co-directors (one based in Ireland, the other in Paris) would then connect on Discord and work out how these cameras should be used for the cut, eventually experimenting with new camera angles which they would create on the fly as required. The ability to work collaboratively in real-time on the same project allowed them to work on the project together but also occasionally with me and an experienced film director as if we had all been together in the same room.

In fact, they were both holding the mouse and making concurrent edits. So it is even better than just sitting in the same room looking at the same screen with one person operating the software while the other is condemned to watch and to boil with anger “no you don’t get it, give me the mouse and let me show you”. How remarkable is that? Using NVDIA’s game-changing RTX technology, they were able to physically simulate the depth of field of an ARRI Alexa Mini LF camera and quickly tweak the lighting to get a moon light effect that all contributed to improve the cinematic quality of their animatic and support the story as a whole.

valravn before after

The initial animatic was roughly 15 shots and 1’15’’ long. The new animatic contains 29 shots and is 1’45’’. It’s longer, has more complexity and yet is incomparably better. All that achieved in just a few days of work by people working from different places with a software they had never used before.

As the person in charge of 3D animation at the school told me after seeing the work produced by the students “wow your ‘stuff’ really works”. He is so impressed with the result and the experience went so well that he wants the master’s degree students to now use PocketStudio to create the animatic of their final project as well. That’s a great success story that hopefully will also inspire you to use PocketStudio to boost your storytelling.

Jean-Colas Prunier & the PocketStudio team

Follow these links to learn more about Valravn: Valravn official website and LinkedIn page.

Thank you Colombe, Ennio, Domitille, Yohan and everyone involved in the Valravn project for your support and showing faith in PocktStudio.