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Cinesite's Beans – Animated Short

By Paul Hellard

Web: www.cinesite.com (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 18th December 2013

Beans is the first animated short film to be made at Cinesite. Animator Alvise Avati and animation director Eamonn Butler reveal all in an exclusive 'making of' feature

Words by: Paul Hellard

All images courtesy of Cinesite

Beans on toast

As far as animated shorts are concerned, Cinesite's Beans is pretty short. But as a display of high-resolution, terrifyingly real creatures in stark lighting, it ticks all the boxes.

The storyline is very, very simple. Astronauts proudly plant a flag on the moon's surface before a crazy, angry local suddenly appears. What happens next? Click the link below and watch.

You'll watch it once, and then you'll want to see it again, and again. Each viewing gives you a deeper understanding of the effort taken by this high-end crew of artists at Cinesite.

The Cinesite directors have been looking at animated content as a potential business area for some time. "Over the past few months,” says Cinesite managing director Antony Hunt, "we've been looking at ways of developing and showcasing the skills we have in-house.” Beans is a short, cheeky, 50-second film with an unexpected ending. Written and directed by animator Alvise Avati, it was completed by the London-based team at Cinesite, who were behind the visual effects on World War Z, Skyfall, Iron Man 3 and many other major productions. They have recently also completed work on 300: Rise of an Empire, Jack Ryan, Into The Storm and The Monuments Men.

As you would expect, the short features high quality modeling, texturing and technical effects, but most importantly, it demonstrates the world-class standard of the Cinesite animation team.

Still taken from the Beans short film created by Cinesite

Brief biographies

An internationally renowned animation director, the producer Eamonn Butler is equally at home in visual effects and character animation. Working in the US for 10 years with Walt Disney Feature Animation, his credits included Fantasia 2000, Dinosaur, Reign of Fire and Chicken Little. Since moving back to the UK his visual effects credits have included John Carter, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, Paul and the forthcoming Tom Cruise sci-fi action film Edge of Tomorrow.

Alvise Avati is the director and animator of Beans, and he has worked on a few other shorts lately. Italian by birth, Alvise studied art at the Liceo Artistico Donatello in Rome. He became interested in animation, having inherited a passion for storytelling from his father, Italian film director and producer Pupi Avati. After getting his first break at Weta Digital as animator on King Kong, Avatar and other titles, he moved on to ILM in San Francisco for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, before moving to London.

Eamonn could see immediately from Alvise's animatic that it would be perfect for what they were looking to do


Cinesite was looking for ideas for a short while Alvise was working with them on the Tom Cruise sci-fi Edge of Tomorrow, coming out later next year. He approached animation director Eamonn Butler with a concept and animatic for Beans, which was just what Cinesite was looking for.

"Good commercials are like short films; they are a great way to communicate ideas quickly and persuasively"

"I've always been interested in commercials, and this was a way of building my portfolio and developing ideas,” says Alvise. "What I love about the commercial format is the discipline required to tell a story in just 25-30 seconds. Good commercials are like short films; they are a great way to communicate ideas quickly and persuasively." What appealed to Eamonn immediately about Beans was the opportunity for Cinesite to be creative and generate their own content. From Alvise's animatic, he knew straight away that it would be perfect for what they were looking to do.

Still taken from the Beans short film created by Cinesite

"Beans is self-contained, short and it could also be completed in a relatively short time frame, so it ticked every box for us,” says Butler. "With the skills we have here, I knew we could add great production value and have a lot of fun making it. We began work in May 2013 and finished it at the end of October.” Part of the problem of working so hard on movies at some houses in VFX, is that the reel is full of the studio's IP, and they have to wait for permissions to show what their own crew can do. This was a way for Cinesite to break that cycle. "You have to bid a show, then win the show, then do the work and wait for the movie to come out before you can put it on your reel, and it's that reel that attracts that kind of work,” explains Butler. "Come hell or high water, we needed to update the reel within the year!”

"This had to look extremely real. Right down to the one source lighting, the glare off the lens and the blooming of the stark rock and dust"


Alvise had already begun researching looks for Beans and Cinesite continued with gathering photographic reference from various moon missions, plus NASA photographic footage of the moon landing. This had to look extremely real. Right down to the one source lighting, the glare off the lens and the blooming of the stark rock and dust. "Then comes the lunar beastie!” adds Eamonn. "I'd been waiting to develop a culture of creativity in the company which we could show off in our own time; as soon as possible.”

At the start of the short, it had to quickly establish a realistic environment, to set the context of the film on the moon in the viewer's mind. It had to push the photorealistic effects hard to show off their skills. VFX supervisor Richard Clarke researched camera types used to film on the moon; they were generally 70mm with a fixed focal length. Audiences are used to seeing moon footage with a big depth of field, so Cinesite tried to replicate that.

Still taken from the Beans short film created by Cinesite

"Cinesite is a Maya house for animation, and the creature was rigged in Maya as well. Mind you, it was created initially in Sculptris, the kit that Pixologic bought-out
some time back"

Also, because it is so bright on the moon, cameras don't pick up stars, so they kept space dark in order to be photographically accurate. Adding dust and halation to the lens meant that they could have some visual interest in the part of the frame where the stars were expected to be. Alvise adds: "In Beans, the astronauts move very slowly, which is very close to reality and what we would expect to see on the lunar surface. Unlike the spacemen, the monster's movement is not inhibited by gravity issues; this was a creative decision to have the astronauts impeded by the lower gravity but not the monster. We needed him to look huge, weighty and powerful as he utterly destroys the astronauts."

Discover how the alien monster was made on the next page

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Teresa Santelli on Mon, 11 August 2014 6:45pm
You guys nailed it, great commercial. Should have had it played during supper bowl. Right up there with the best.
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