Read how Nicolas Brunet made the beautiful Christmas in Alsace
Christmas in Alsace 2015 is the fourth film of a series of promotional short films inviting viewers to spend end year's holidays in Alsace. It's a collaboration between Gaylor Morestin (artistic support), Thery Ehrlich (music) and me. The project consists of a poster and 2 films: a 2min50 length version and a 32 seconds long trailer displayed in Paris theatres between October 15th and 25th 2015. This year's theme was "Christmas tree and its ornaments". In the first part of this making of I'll come back to the Genesis of the project, storyboard, design, and modeling.
short film using 3ds Max
Storyboard and concept art
Pre production of the film started very early on this episode, around January 2015. Therefore I had time to think about a little story and I came up with some drawings and concept arts first, then moved on to the creation of a storyboard. The final scenario is very similar to the original one, much to my pleasure, as I wanted to direct a real short film and not a common commercial film.
Going with a less realistic character design gave me more freedom about visual creativity in the end sequence. After years of watching CG cinematic films from Visual Works, a CG studio working with Square Enix
, it was natural that I jumped at the chance to try creating a sequence that looks like those from the Final Fantasy games of the 2000's. With all the knowledge gathered through the years and workflows I start to fully understand and use, I wanted to have fun for the end of that Christmas adventure.
After a few drawings and some designs, Julia, the main character was born. The idea was to design a child aged between eight and twelve years, that's why she wears a huge cloak shaped like a bell and a "kawaii" half bear, half panda hat.
The secondary characters all come from Julia model. I used a method I call "the Miyazaki workflow": it uses the same head with different haircuts, (it worked pretty well!). There were four types of character which shared the same base mesh: girls, boys, women, and men. The men are based on the boy's topology and the women on the girl's.
Secondary character research
Poly modeling workflows were used to create characters. All based on the drawings and details were added with displacement maps created during texturing process.
Anatomies of the characters are based on Toru Ehara
works. The artist has found a good compromise between real and manga anatomy, therefore I used his work as inspiration to create the bodies of my characters.
Most of the film objects are based on real life objects from my house. When I didn't have suitable references, I looked in my pictures database to fill the gaps.
As this project was a professional mission, using plug-ins to avoid time wasting was crucial. The three most useful were GrowFX
and FurGuides Painter
I used GrowFX for tree creation and also the garlands and pine crowns. The most challenging tree of the project was the big pine tree we see all the time in the film. Instead of creating the tree from the trunk to the thorns, I started from the thorns, the tertiary branches attached to secondary branches and so on, until the trunk to get a 30m high tree like the one we can see each year in Strasbourg
Vertex color function helped a lot to spread thousands of lights and ornaments only on branches tips. Pine trees + ornaments + lights are 95% GrowFX creation; the last 5% are coming from instanced objects (baubles, lights, etc.).
Evolution of the great Christmas tree until its final form reaching 3.7 million polygons