6th June 2015 – Final Update

Watch the above video – it’s our finished piece!

Hello again!

Sorry for the lack of updates these past two weeks, it’s been crunch time and we were very busy finishing our project off!

Each one of us can proudly say that we’ve done very well despite the many hurdles that came with this project, and that we’ve also learned a lot these past 12 weeks. It’s been quite a learning experience and we were incredibly proud to present it all in front of a panel of judges – and we got very positive feedbacks!

It’s time for a well deserved break for us before we knuckle down again – but before we go, we’d like to leave you with what we’ve been working with behind the scenes.

Here’s the animatic we initially had for our plan, and the one after is what we’ve changed it to:

We felt rather than force a small story in a 45 second video, we’d be better off concentrating on the special effects side of things – and shortened it to 15 seconds with some action in it. The first one felt a bit underwhelming compared to our current one anyway!

Here are the animations that Billy and Jin worked on as you see in the animatic (shot 2 and 3):

Curious about why the visual effects weren’t in the animation? That’s because they were added after the animations were finished. Joey worked on the laser VFX with Sapphire in Nuke, and Werner worked on the explosions and the missiles in Houdini:

Missile Smoke Trail Explosion

Laser VFX Screenshot Laser VFX Nuke Script

And here’s Mitchell’s breakdown video, showing how it’s put together:

and a few examples of his Nuke script (click to enlarge):

Mitch Shot 2 Nuke Script 01Mitch Shot 2 Nuke Script 03Mitch Shot 2 Nuke Script 02

Here’s a turntable of Callum’s models with the wireframe if you’re curious about the topology:

And a picture of the glowing robot head by Callum:

Robot Head

Lastly, the texture map of the robot and the RC car with the renders:

Jack’s (click to enlarge):


Jin’s (blue RC car version, click to enlarge):


To finish this post off, let us share a few things we picked up about group projects:

What worked for us?

  • We had enough people to share work around and assist in other areas. This also gave each team member the freedom to focus on their role.
  • We were able to quickly pick up work if a team member was away sick or missed a deadline.
  • Communication in the team was really strong, we had constant dialogue on Shotgun and Facebook.
  • Seeking out feedback from teachers and peers constantly.
  • Proactive in fixing issues as they occurred
  • We all had a “get things done” attitude, and were constantly working. We were all glad everyone had this attitude as all our goals were virtually the same: to work the best we can to deliver a high quality assignment.

What didn’t work?

  • We should have appointed leads. For a group of 7 people, we strongly feel that rather than “everyone’s opinion is equal and must be accounted for”, there needs to be a lead/s to constantly be aware of what’s going with everyone (so the other members know who they can ask questions to and get answers immediately rather than asking around), and to make informed decisions so the group can move forward. This does not mean a dictator, but rather someone who is very organized, and makes smart decisions based on feedback. We initially ran with this “everyone is equal” group model on someone’s suggestion as it sounded ideal, but quickly realized that the cons outweighed the pros (for us, anyway).
  • Idea changing mid way through project. This set us back a few weeks. I think we could’ve delivered something on a much bigger scale if we were set from the beginning!
  • Many different ideas of what should be done, and group not agreeing on a single idea.
  • Mixing naming conventions.
  • Lack of teaching support and help with troubleshooting in Houdini, which made things much more difficult.
  • Unproven and non-flexible pipeline. Set up proper referencing folders and pipelines, people!
  • Down periods for team members throughout. While it was good to have many members, it meant some members didn’t have much work after their initial role was finished – and since we had a research assessment on the side, it was tricky to manage alongside the project.

What did we learn?

  • Things will go wrong – allocate enough time for things and adjust.
  • How to work in a team efficiently.
  • Don’t be reliant on people who aren’t committed to your project.
  • Spend longer in pre-production so the animation does not deviate mid-project.
  • Only use programs that there is adequate teaching support for.
  • New ways to troubleshoot, techniques and softwares.

Special Thanks

Kim Allen – animation advice, feedback, and putting up with our antics

Salim Tighnavard – for constantly reminding us we can be doing better, and kicking our butts when we aren’t 🙂 (also feedback and scheduling advice)

Corin Sadlier – for constant technical advice, feedback, and fixing our mistakes. You’re infinitely patient man!

Dean Finnigan – for rigging advice, which pretty much saved our group.

Brenton Smith – for pipeline and animatic/storyboard advice, and calling us out for being lazy on not fixing our shot 2 issues.

Jared Michael – for helping us do a practice shoot, HDRIs, advice on cameras, lenses, and grading. A lot of things would’ve gone wrong on our shooting day if it weren’t for the practice shoots!

Georgia Lyons – for the camera for the practice shoot.

DigiHire Camera Hire – for letting us hire the camera on very short notice, great discounts, freebies, and advice on filming. Would recommend to anybody looking to hire cameras.

And you – for taking your time to read this blog. We apologize for the sporadic updates, and thanks again for reading!

Till next time, 

Sundogs out.


May 23rd Update – Rigs!

Hello people,

Not sure if I mentioned this before – but Jomar has left the team some time ago. 3D just wasn’t for him and we wish him the best of luck for his future endeavours.

Our VFX artist Werner took over his role of rigging instead – it was a tremendous amount of work for one person to do both rigging and VFX, but he’s pulled through and managed to deliver some quality rigs that emulate a real RC car’s functions!

Here’s a top down view of the RC car’s rig to see the range of motion the front wheels have:

Here’s a front view of the RC car’s rig for the suspensions

And here’s a finished RC car rig, just as a showcase (not the best showcase video, sorry!)

And here’s a video of the robot’s rig, this was very early in the WIP stages:

Werner has implemented a auto wheel rig for both the RC car and the robot so whenever the models move forward, the wheels spin automatically. This makes animating so much easier. Both rigs are 100% complete and are currently being used for animation. We’re almost there, only two more weeks till the due date!

We’d also like to thank Dean Finnigan (second year games teacher at AIE), who pointed us in the right direction for the rigging process.

May 13th Update – Renders

Hello visitors!

For this update we have something cool for you: renders of our models!

Few renders of the robot (DDO and photoshop for texturing, Arnold for rendering), textures done by Jack:

robot_render04 robot_render01 robot_render02 robot_render03

Few renders of the RC car (DDO and photoshop for texturing, Arnold for rendering), textures done by Jin (sorry about the watermarks!):

RC_Car_Render01 RC_Car_Render02 RC_Car_Render03

May 11th 2015 Update – Concepts and Shoot Session Photos

Sorry for the lack of update these past 4 weeks! Things have been extremely busy. Our team has made a lot of progress since we first started, and we are happy with how our project is turning out.

Since I don’t want to just dump a whole lot of information in one huge blog post, here are some concepts, ideas and storyboards early stages of our project (weeks 1-4) with commentaries mixed in. Enjoy!


With our assignment having such a heavy focus on VFX, we initially wanted to go with a futuristic jet fighter flying past the Pyrmont Bridge, which then soars in to the sky – and throw in a lot of explosions for that Michael Bay style of film.

We found out we had to come up with another idea as it would have been too difficult to get a camera on top of a high rise building, much less get a (incredibly expensive) RED camera mounted on a car to film a cruise across the bridge.

Instead, we came up with this:

original_storyboard02 original_storyboard01

The story is about a little robot invader who comes to scout the Earth for intel, and fails not even a minute into his mission. We would take a live backplate and comp the CG elements in (with a little bit of matte painting to change the background).

While we initially liked this idea, for a team of 8 we felt there wasn’t going to be enough work to go around. We then expanded on this idea to make a much longer skit, where our robot character is just as clumsy.

Here are some concepts, references, and a AO render of our robot model we were going to use:


A two-wheel robot "MiP" keeps balance for a demonstration as Japanese toy maker Tomy introduces the new toy robot in Tokyo on April 7, 2014. The 19cm tall robot, developed by Canadian toy maker Wowwee, can perform dancing and running, operated by smartphone.       AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO

cute-robot-looking-up-e1360724167150 IMG_0217 robot_arm_proportion robot_concept_20 robot_hand_indepth older_robot_AO

One of the issues we ran into was that we could not come to an agreement on the story of our short film, and the design of the robot. We would constantly bounce ideas off each other and that dragged on for too long. We’ve learned that in a group as big as 8 people (for a student group anyway), there needs to be structure, and project lead/s appointed for the group to make decisions faster and progress quicker.

We also realized that we lost sight of what we were trying to achieve in the first place: a short and sweet film with lots of special effects. Trying to fit in a story for our film just didn’t make sense anymore. We rewrote the “story” and redesigned the robot, so we had lots of room to stuff in the Michael Bay factor (while we can’t show off our storyboard because we don’t want you knowing what happens in it, here are some concepts and models of our new idea):


rc_car_AO new_robot_AO

(I know rendering a AO pass on a white plane and a black background is terrible, but they’re just screenshots of a quick test).


We got our backplate fairly late as we had issues finding a quality camera at school, so we ended up renting our own (Blackmagic 4k camera).

We had a lot of fun going out and shooting our backplate. The weather was great, and it was exciting to have proper equipment all to ourselves. It certainly felt more genuine, and we were pumped to make this a really high quality project by the end.

We’d also like to thank Jared (a teacher at AIE) for coming out with us and guiding us through our practice shoot!

Here we have Jack mimicking the movement of the robot with a tripod bag during our practice shoot:


And here we have one of our actual backplate:


Some of our team during the proper shoot:

shoot_session02 – Callum, Joey, Mitch (left to right)

shoot_session01 – Mitch, Joey, Callum, Billy (left to right)

First post of the Sundogs!

Hello visitors!

First of all, thank you for visiting our team’s humble blog.

We created this blog to post our progress on our college assignment. We figured it’s a great way to share it with other people and students who may be interested in behind-the-scenes details that goes on behind a VFX film.

Sundogs is a group of 8 students who attend Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) in Sydney. We were tasked with creating a VFX film that incorporates 3D elements into a live backplate (concepts and other images soon to come).

We are:

Callum Lyons – modeller

Werner Gradwell – Houdini VFX artist

Jack Robertson – texture artist

William Lawton – animator and SFX artist

Jomar Mandingiado – rigger and animator

Mitchell Woodin – compositor

Joseph Hensen – compositor

Jin Yun – producer

–We will be updating this blog regularly, please look forward to more content to come!