18th Jan 2021 | Open Movie | Sprite Fright
Sprite Fright is Blender's new Open Movie, now in development. You can follow progress and updates on the Cloud. Here, we talk Sprite Fright’s design philosophy with 3D Artist Julien Kaspar. Find Julien’s courses on Blender Cloud--they amount to a micro-degree, including everything you need to create a production-ready character.
Julien has worked at Blender since 2017, specializing in stylized characters. Among his credits is the heroine for Spring, a poetic Open Movie from 2019.
For Sprite Fright Julien worked closely with former Pixar production designer Ricky Nierva, translating Ricky’s ideas into Blender. Julien expands, “In terms of character art style, there have been a couple of terms thrown around. Simplify. Rubber hose. We’re trying to go for something very cartoony and different.”
Early on, Julien and the Sprite Fright crew broke with tradition, freely designing in both 2D and 3D, or using both simultaneously. Julien welcomes this fluid process: “It allows for a back and forth between Ricky and the 3D people. We did a lot of paintovers directly on 3D renders."
This helped the team adhere to Ricky's distinctive streamlined style. Julien says, "We added details only as needed. It was surprisingly difficult to build characters from very simple shapes.” More so because of Julien’s experience realizing complex designs. “I’m used to projects where the goal is to keep adding detail in order to make things more realistic. I’m always adding definition.” He grins. “In this production, that includes eyelids.”
In fact, a commitment to simplicity required extra confidence. Julien says, “Working in a way where everything was smooth and undefined is indeed a little worrying. None of the characters has elbows or wrists. It’s very hard to resist the urge to layer on more anatomical details. Every time we’d make creases or fingernails, Ricky would say, ‘No, just keep it simple. We’re going to build it up slowly.’ ”
Julien adds, “It was good to hear that ‘Yes, this is the direction that we’re going in.’ And once you see these characters with materials and animated, it’s all going to come together.”
Fore more on Julien, Ricky and the rest of Sprite Fright’s gifted creatives, take a look at the production logs. There you’ll find inspiration for designing humans. And birds. And rocks. And trees. But not fingernails.