3D Animated Short
Client: NHS Scotland
Seamlessly glide through worlds on a relaxing journey through nature; how many times can you spot the teddy bear?
A short piece commissioned by the NHS Scotland to be used in their experimental treatment within the Royal Hospital for Sick Children to have it therapeutically shown to children to distract and immerse them during potentially traumatic treatments.
Making use of psychological research of what calms people, this film aims to relax its viewers by inviting you on a seamless journey through various awe-inspiring scenes based in serene natural settings. It cannot be said that the same serenity was felt during the production of this film, as I had to harness some significant computational rendering power to churn out the various scenes. At one stage, twelve computers were running simultaneously for 24 hours a day, 14 days in a row, to render the waterfall scene – try not to think about this awesome CPU power while watching the film, but at the same, don’t forget about it either.
I’d never heard of a render farm before embarking on this project. How would I have done? Until this escapade I’d never found myself needing to render complex scenes of wheat and waterfalls. During this project, however, I came to realise that a render farm was exactly what I needed – for if I were to render out some of these scenes on my own computer I’d miss the project deadline by about three years.
A student at the time, I’d heard whispers that the animation department had a render farm. I marched on down and demanded to be acquainted with it, only to be shown a shelf full of computer bits and wires: “That’s it there. We haven’t got around to building it yet.”
Left with nowhere else to turn, I began commandeering computers in the library – setting them to render day and night. One by one they fell, until I had an army of twelve computers running simultaneously, rendering scenes in my own image. After about a week of this the library staff began to crack down and investigate who this computer kidnapper may be. And despite my best efforts to only tend to my machines under cover of darkness, I was eventually caught and asked “what do you think you’re doing?”. Unable to provide a good answer, my rendering operation was shut down. No matter though, for the mission was already accomplished; while they might have had their surface level victory, I had my completed renders.
World Gliding was very much created at the dawn of my 3D career. I’d grown up using something called Source Filmmaker which was a fantastic 3D tool released by Valve for free. It comes preloaded with environments, countless models, and loads of already-rigged characters. I used this tool to create all scenes apart from the waterfall and snowy mountain sequences – for those I used Blender in which I relied wholeheartedly on YouTube tutorials.
Audio is a really important part of the project – and animated work in general. Animation already struggled to compete with live action in terms of achieving weight and a tactile quality – I’ve found that to enhance animation’s texture the use of sound effects is critical. This was one of the first projects that I started to experiment with underpinning animation with sound design, and I think this film would be far less immersive and relaxing if it were to just rely on the music (though the music is lovely; Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No3 if you’re interested).