Making of “Something Left, Something Taken”

SKETCH

We first started the design process by listing our flaws—both physical and character. We had been doing so many cute designs at the time that we wanted to make uglier characters.

Another challenge was to make characters out of large, iconic shapes. The scientists were based off of pills and capsules shapes.

CONCEPT ART

We also used loose watercolor studies to explore mood and atmosphere. Though these color sketches were done very quickly, most of the core design ideas were kept in tact in the final frames from the film.

STORYBOARD

Early on, we were interested in the idea of writing the movie with storyboard thumbnails. In fact, there was never a formal screenplay for the film and the dialog was more or less improvised in recording sessions. Keeping a big piece of foam core in our studio, allowed us to change, add, or subtract, but maintain the big picture.

We kept panels loose and sketchy so it was easy to make revisions.

CHARACTERS

Final characters were constructed from fabric, rope, clay, ping pong balls, erasers and soy milk carton. Then they were photographed and assembled in After Effects.
We tried to challenge the limitation of 2D flat characters by creating many replacement parts.

100 hand positions

These hands were Ru’s hand with a padded glove.


All close up shots were pixilation.

50 mouth shapes made out of rope and erasers.

Max rig in After Effects. * VIDEO DEMO w/ audio
This is a glimpse of our character file and the ideas behind. Warning: This is not a tutorial and all the technical steps are not included in the demo.


Artie rig in After Effects.
Artie rig is set up the same way as Max rig. But what makes this rig unique is the back of Artie mirrors the front. This allowed the character and the reflection in the rear view mirror to be animated together.

*Help from Sean Mcbride.

PROPS

All props were first constructed with cardboard and then painted with acrylics.
They were photographed from all angles to be reconstructed digitally in 3D space.

More organic shapes were photographed 360 degrees and used as replacement parts.

MINIATURES

—–airport—–

One of the biggest design challenges was to create a large scale sets in our tiny studio. Part of the process was figuring out how the sets will be deconstructed and stored.
If you look closely, you’ll find our pig friend in the door way. She acts as a stand-in for lighting and shadow.

—–highway—–

—–cliff—–

All the parts were planned as modules so each scene could be easily assembled and stored away. Also by reusing parts & fabric for the landscapes, we saved a lot of materials and space.
Rocks were created with styrofoam, which was also photograph 360 degrees.

This set was used to make the cliff sequence below.

—–forensic lab—–

Forensic laboratory was the most detailed set in the movie. (a whole month to create everything)
Even though the scene is about 10 seconds, and the props go by very quickly, if they weren’t there, the scene would have felt off.


Cousin Miho who is a nurse helped us understand human anatomy and internal organs.

—–San Francisco street view—–

A wide shot like the San Francisco street needed more thinking before construction because of limited space. To give the illusion of depth, we used forced perspective. The houses got smaller and smaller as it got further.

This helped with storage because we could stack them like Russian dolls and saved a lot of space.

STOPMOTION

A great deal of the animation had stop motion elements integrated with digital animation.
Here is an example of how we combined the two.

EXPERIMENTS

—–jello—–

We really wanted to have fun and experiment with materials.
Jello was used for water scenes.

Although the idea was simple, it took quite some time to get it right.
In the end, we ended up using 15 boxes of jello and filming with an HD video camera.


This aerial view of San Francisco was then composited with the jello.
Clouds were sculpted out of cotton.

—–puppet—–


This segment of hand puppets made us respect puppeteers a lot more.
To get the 8 seconds of footage, we filmed for 2 days.

—–rain—–

The rain on the glass of the car was a video footage of water dripping down on a piece of glass. The glass was held up by Ru’s comic books which got wet.
Then the video footage was later composited to the cardboard car.

COMPOSITING


This is one of the examples of a typical composite breakdown.


1.We plotted timing in animatic which was drawn in flash, based on the storyboard thumbnails.


We created a background with modular bushes and trees. Max held the light up at 24 different increments to create the sun rising and setting.


Stop motion element of moss gradually growing on rocks.

Ru created 3 stages of body decomposition.


We dissolved between the 3 puppets.


Added shadows, composited all elements together and that is how we create 1 scene!

—– color correction & depth of field —–

After we finalized animation, we rendered out TIFF sequences for multiple layers.
This allowed us to make color changes and to create subtle lighting to the flattened images.
This is the image before color correction.

Using the TIFF sequences, we generated depth mattes for the scenes.
It was very flexible to make depth of field changes as a final touch.


This is how it looks at the end.


Here is the example of layers in After Effects.

FINAL NOTES

It took us 2 years and 4 months to create this movie in between commercial jobs and it was not always fun, but in the end, we cannot be happier with the final piece.
We learned a lot about discipline, commitment, and we fell in love with animation all over again.

We hope you enjoyed the making of “Something Left, Something Taken” .
Feel free to contact us if you want to know more about the production.

160 thoughts on “Making of “Something Left, Something Taken”

  1. SP3KTR

    Thank you so much for the behind the scenes production pron, I love the way you guys work and the hidden glimpse’s into your process

    Reply
  2. tinyru Post author

    >Jeremy G,
    No we didn’t record the audio with the video but we probably should before we release our film. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Reply
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  4. Torben S

    Thank you for sharing this. I work with 3d animation and compositing. But I never thought about making such an elaborate rig in AE. This is mindblowingly awesome! Thanks! And btw your film rocks too! :D

    Reply
  5. Alicia

    Wowwwww!!!! great job!!!! it’ amazing!!!! :)

    It’s really funny. Awesome all the work you have done for this two years. Thanks for sharing (and for do it) ;).

    Congratulations!!!!

    Reply
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  7. Pivo

    This is a genuine animation short, a mix of everything without worring about trends n clichés, only about making art! Very good!!

    Reply
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  9. tinyru Post author

    THANK YOU for all the nice comments!
    It was a very fun process to mix & match various materials so we figured we can share the joy. XO

    Reply
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  11. Ervin Esen

    AMAZING! After seeing this and reading through your “making of”, I wanted to do my own animation (which is, just an idea at this stage :) but the commitment you made and the solutions you have created for the piece is so inspiring. The story itself and the characters are just perfect. Thumbs up!

    Reply
  12. Gabriel

    Gracias! Gracias! Es lo más inpirador que he visto. Y me ayuda a decidirme a empezar a trabajar en mis propios proyectos.
    Es lo más generoso que he visto en muuuuuucho tiempo.
    Saludos, suerte y sigan así!

    Reply
  13. Axton

    I saw your film posted on thedailywh.at and I absolutely loved it. I thought the animation style was great, and I’m glad you guys have this “making of” to explain what you did. It really makes me appreciate all the work you put into it.

    Reply
  14. Mitch Kennedy

    WOW! That was really fantastic and really fun!! I just watched the video about your super-complicated, super-intelligent rigs, too. You guys are insane! In the best ways. :D

    Reply
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  16. Florian

    Stunning!

    I’m deeply impressed, the story is nice, funny and has a calm, laconic quality to it, despite being quite scary and thrilling at certain moments.
    The whole approach is so unique, it’s almost a new way of thinking about 2d, 3d and stopmotion.

    Thank you for this lovely littel gem:)

    Reply
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  23. jimbradshaw

    Hey you guys. I just finished watching the short and I’m officially blown away. I love everything about it. You should both be very proud. Thanks for a thrilling and sometimes hilarious 12 minutes! I’m so inspired, I can’t wait to get off work and hit my studio.

    Reply
  24. JeffV

    You guys are awesome and very inspirational. Thanks for the great film and showing us how it was done.

    Reply
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  29. Dennis Esternon

    Wonderful work. Very inspiring and worth the watch. Hope to see more of your works in the near future. Best regards from the Philippines.

    Reply
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  34. Rick Joaquim

    Wow guys. It’s awesome…

    And love seeing all the behind scenes stuff, it makes watching it that much more rewarding so everyone understands the work you guys put into it.

    *High 5′s

    Rick
    South Africa

    Reply
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  40. Steve

    AMAZING work guys. Liked it a lot, and thanks for taking the time to share your process. A whole month to make the forensic lab! Your commitment is enviable.

    Reply
  41. Steve

    By the way, how do you get a depth matte out of After Effects? Did you have to duplicate everything in white and use Digieffects Falloff/Atmosphere or something?

    Reply
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  43. tinymax

    Hi Steve,
    Thanks so much! We have used Digieffects Buena Depth Cue – i guess the legacy plugin of Digieffects Falloff- to make depth mattes in the past, but for this project we just faked it. All of the big 3D comps were rendered out as layered Tiff sequences. We were not frugal w/ storage, so there were a lot of image sequences for each scene.
    In a final 2D comp, we duplicated the Tiff sequences and applied fills/ramps with respect to their relative depth. If an element moved through space, we keyframed the change in grayscale.
    I think the technique worked pretty well because the design is so stylized, but might look a little funky if we needed more precision.

    Reply
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  46. Ruben

    Hello, first i want To congratulate you for a exellent
    work, i work in afew projects but i don get the good
    resuls like you, i really like you can explain more about of the rig in after effecs and the composite.
    i realy like your job; sorry for the spelling,luck.

    Reply
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  50. JulPer

    Awesome work guys!!! So inspirational it hurts!!!

    If its not too much to ask, where can i find the expression used for the character rig?

    Thank’s :D

    Reply
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  52. tinymax

    @JulPer and @Ruben

    Unfortunately, some of the expressions are little too complicated to explain briefly, but here’s a great resource to get you started rigging w/ the puppet tool. We link the puppet pins to target shapes set as guide layers, but the idea is the same and the expression he uses is the basis for our rig as well.

    Courtesy of talented NY animator Rob Powers—

    http://www.slipperyrocknyc.com/SlipperyRockNYC/Animation_Tutorials/Entries/2009/3/7_Using_Parenting_and_Puppet_Tools.html

    Reply
  53. dodobird

    Thanks for your sharing.

    It is so great.

    It make me felt in love with animation again.

    You give me the passion that i have to make animation again!!

    Thanks!

    Cheers
    Dodobird from Hong Kong!

    Reply
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  64. amy

    wow this is such an amazing animation, from the start to the finish. all the hard work you have done in the 2 years have definitely paid off! you have incredible patience!

    Reply
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  68. bobbystudcliffe

    That was a fantastic video, and this behind the scenes stuff is great! Thank you so much for working so hard!

    Reply
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  71. Eric

    Love it! Thank you for the demos and wonderful looks behind the scenes! I can’t get over the puppet control rig! That’s amazing stuff!

    Reply
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  74. Tali

    Love your film!! Thanks so much for sharing your incredible creative process.
    I love the mix of techniques you guys have used. Inspiring stuff :)

    Reply
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  76. Lori Samsel

    Wow, this blog is keeping me going today. Just when I thought I was doing too much work on my animation, it’s nice to be reminded by other’s that the commitment and patience is key to making it all worth it. Thanks for sharing -now back to my AE zone with recharged batteries!

    Reply
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  81. Matt

    How did you create a controller in AE to switch between the different frames of the hand? Is there a tuorial somewhere?

    Thanks! Keep up the great work!

    Reply
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  83. tinyru Post author

    >Matt
    There is no tutorial since it was costume made by Sean McBride for us.
    It’s lots of expressions. Sorry I can’t help you much with that…
    http://vimeo.com/14014197
    We’ve shared a bit more here. This probably won’t solve your question but you might get an idea.

    Reply
  84. Jose Luis

    Congratulations. I love your work. It´s very creative and you both must be happy to create this amazing creatures. From Spain, thanks for making me happy in a sunny Sunday Morning.

    Reply
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  90. Antonio Gallardo

    You guys are CRAZY!!!! (in a good way). I’m really amazed by the dedication and quality of your work! I’m a true fan.

    Reply
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  92. al

    wow 2 years! that is a long time, but its a nice little short film. was it only a 2 year person project? and where did you learn to create such a complex expression in after effects for the character rigs?

    Reply
  93. tinyru Post author

    >Al
    2.5 years in between commercial jobs& teaching. It was just two of us so it took a long time.
    Sean McBride helped us rig the characters. Max also watches crazy amount of tutorials and that’s how he learns compositing & rigging.

    Reply
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  103. tinyru Post author

    >Tomas
    Thank you! Unfortunately we were disqualified from the Academy Awards because we released our film on the internet before we received the academy-qualifying award.

    Reply
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  105. pooja

    hi… m in2 stop motion animation and have alwayz done experiments with it.. m doin my degree project on stop motion.. i just lykd the method u have used.. its just mind blowing… i just wantd ur help tht hw did u do the eye blink of the charcter.. it will be really gr8ful of you if u help me out with this.. i dont hve 2yrs for this project but just have 4mnths…

    Reply
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  107. Bryan

    Brilliant! Great story to with your fantastic animation. I know how difficult it is to do what you did — and you did an amazing job!!!! I loved it!!!
    Bryan Michael Stoller – author of “Filmmaking for Dummies”

    Reply
  108. Rodrigo

    Hi, I’m Rodrigo, I congratulate you for the excellent work they do and very creative! I am an animator and professor of Fine Art and Cartoons in Argentina, I have always reference their work and also recommend them to my students to study. I wish I could get in touch with you. to make further inquiries. Excuse my English is not good when I write, except when I speak. A big hug and thanks again.
    pixelote@gmail.com

    Reply
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  112. Mikkel

    Wow!

    If you should ever wish to create some educational or training material, for instance a book that goes indepth with your process and technique, I would like to support the creation and of course buy such a book :)

    Reply
  113. Ricardo Roehe

    Amazing work! The mixture of techniques gives it an outstanding visual! I like it very much!

    We have just exhibited SLST here in Brasília, DF, Brazil, for the International Animation Day!

    Two questions:
    1) Is that “San Francisco” music just a sample? Or is it a full music? Who is behind it?

    2) Is this story autobiographic? A couple, with an asian girl… Did something like that happened to you?

    Best regards!

    Reply
  114. Amanda

    I am in love with this film. Recently I’ve started playing around with animation in after effects and it is really inspiring to see how much can be done with it. I hope you two keep making things like this.

    Reply
  115. tinyru Post author

    Ricardo>
    Thank you for your kind words!
    Re 1): The music is original by Erin Kilkenny. She is an amazing designer in the animation community but also super talented sound designer/ musician.

    Re 2): Yes it is based on a true experience that Max and I went through and modified for a short film.

    Amanda>
    Thank you! Our upcoming film is mixture of miniature and Cinema 4D, so we are not intensely using AE anymore but we’ll come back with other projects!

    Reply
  116. Dennis Triplett

    This is a wonderful piece of art. It is so full of imagination and creativity. You two should be so proud. I love the materials used in making this and I think it really adds to the whole experience and ambience. Love it!

    Nice work. I really enjoyed this movie. One of the best animated/digital videos I’ve ever seen. Keep up the great work.
    Dennis

    Reply
    1. Ru Post author

      Dennis, thanks SO MUCH! How nice!
      Using those materials (balsa, fabric, clay etc) was my favorite part :) Our sound designer/ composer did a wonderful job adding extra layer to the warm, cozy, vintage feel.

      Reply
  117. Rodrigo Del Pino

    Hi Ru, I need make question about their animation procces, “Something left something taken” How did you render secuence TIFF with depth matte or Z-Depth? Did you make export render from After Effect or another software? Did you use some plug in for that? (I’m sorry, my english is not very good). Yours animations are fantastic, I love it. Thank you for all. I send you a big hug and I hope that you have a good luck.

    Reply
    1. Max

      Hi Rodrigo,
      Yes. We split the AE 3D layers into TIF sequences (i.e. Foreground01, Midground01, Character02, etc). That helped us finesse the comps without having to worry about heavy files. We were also able to fake a depth pass by using fills and gradients on the rendered tif sequences. Hope that helps!

      Reply

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