For those of you who are interested to know how CGI films are made, here are some basic explanations. The software used is Maxon Cinema 4D with various plugins for effects.


Every single item or object that you see in the film has to be constructed in 3-dimensional space on the computer. These MODELS are made up of polygons that look similar to a wiremesh frame representing the shape of the subject. A typical simple example is shown below.There are no curves in 3D models, each "curve" is made up from many tiny flat polygons positioned closely together. A detailed model can take many hours to make, Rummage for example, took several months.
In this film, there is an extra process whereby all the models are distorted to give it a quirky stylised feel, this effect can be clearly seen in the opening page of this website where the buildings are elongated and bent.

A model that needs to be able to move various parts of itself, such as a character, has to be WEIGHTED and RIGGED. This entails creating a skeleton-like internal frame that drives the moving parts in much the same way as our skeletons do. This is quite a complex process and perhaps best explained with a video at a later date.

After the models are constucted, they have to be carefully TEXTURED. This entails giving each component it's correct material along with it's characteristics, eg. metal may also require reflection and shine or it might be bumpy and pitted with rust spots. In the case of the phonograph above, the base would be wood, the turntable would have a green felt mat (no shine) and the horn would be a yellow reflective metal, you can see the completed textures on the phonograph on the right. In many cases a TEXTURE MAP is required to ensure any features of the material fall onto the correct place on the model. If you look closely at the steam engine below for example you can see wear on the corners of it's base, this has been carefully painted on to a flat texture so that when it's wrapped around the object, it falls exactly in the correct position on exposed corners.

Next, the scene has to be lit. Many of the same rules apply here as in the making of a physical film in the real world. If you look at Rummage (top right) he has a key light to illuminate him generally, but there is also an orange rim light to bring him out of the background and emphasise some features. You can see it on his shoulders, on the side of his nose and his left eyelid. A blue fill light can also be seen on the right of his face and shoulders. You can see the source of these 3 lights reflected clearly on his nose. A single character or scene can require many carefully positioned lights to give the required effect. In CGI animation, it's possible to have lights shining on a character alone without affecting anything else around him. You can also have "negative" lights with a brightness of less than zero, which can be placed in a dark corner and will "suck" the light from it.

ANIMATING a character or object can be done before texturing or lighting is applied to save computer power, the models will move more easily without the burden of textures. I personally like to texture and light before animating so that I can keep a close eye on how it's looking as they move.

After the animating is complete and everything is moving as it should, it's time to RENDER each frame of the sequence. Unfortunately texturing and lighting is only half the battle... rendering is where it all comes together... where the light bounces from the surface textures, where shadows, reflections and highlights are created and where the whole thing forms into a set of super-realistic images. Rendering takes forever. It takes so long that it can be quantified in units of "Render Years!" Each frame is rendered seperately and a complex scene can take many hours for each one. Our British system uses 25 frames for every second of film, so that second of film can literally take days to render. A typical Disney film can easily take 100 million CPU hours to render, so if you used 1 computer to do the job it would take about 10,000 years! Your average domestic PC might have a 2 or 4 core CPU, so I'm quite proud of my 60 core render farm, but when you consider Disney's 55,000 core farm, it makes poor old Global Animation look pretty pathetic.

The final post production stage is the addition of any layered effects, colour correcting and general editing to give the film a consistent quality. Credits are then listed and DVD's are authored with a menu and scene breakdown with any extra bonus features added, then it's pretty much ready for distribution.

As you can perhaps now see, we are in the early stages of Upstart and Rummage and any support, help or encouragement will always help the very long process we have ahead.

As final rendering takes so long, it is neccesary to test-render a shot to check it for accuracy or mistakes and to check the timing and flow of animation. This is done by rendering at very damped-down low resolution settings to render in minutes rather than hours or days. Often it is neccesary to do several of these test renders, tweeking things after each one, until I'm happy to set the farm up for a full on render. See some test renders HERE

Here's some final tests of Rummages body rigging......

....and some facial expressions testing...