Hybrids is our graduation short film from MoPA, in Arles (France). It was a 5-year course. The first 2 years were mainly about learning the art basics and reinforcing our art culture. Then in the 3rd year, each of us directed and produced a 1-min short film where we did everything alone to learn each part of an animated production. In the 4th year, we specialized. Kim, Matthieu and Romain learned more about everything concerning the picture (modeling, sculpting, lighting, comp, fx, texturing) and Yohan and Florian focused on the animation part (animation, rig, cloth, script). And the 5th year was for the production of Hybrids.

We were 5 people to work on the project: Romain, Kim, Matthieu, Yohan and Florian. The idea came from Romain, who is diving a lot. With time, he started to see more and more pollution on the floor underwater. This idea was still in his mind when he started creating the characters.

For every challenge, we did small tests of them to see if it was doable or not in the time we had. Thanks to those tests we spared a lot of time for later in the production, knowing already how to solve the difficulties we would encounter.

He started to draw hybrids of fishes and garbage. He first arrived with the design of the shark-car and the crabs-caps. Seeing those amazing designs, the team started to build itself. Each of us has his own speciality and it helped us a lot.

Romain was doing the design, sculpt, shading of the main characters and he did the compositing too. Florian was doing the layout, half of the animation and the crabs’ rigs. Yohan was doing the rigs of the main characters and the other half of the animation.

Kim was doing everything related to the squid and all the lighting and scene assembly. And Matthieu was doing everything related to the crabs and all the fx of the film. We all participated in the directing and sound effects. In addition to that, we did a partnership with a school of music, the MAAAV, and one of the students, Vincent helped us creating the music.

It was really important for us to do dailies so each of us had the opportunity to say what was possible to do and what wasn’t and what we could improve.

After having this first 2 characters, we started to build the story around them. We knew that we wanted something different from the student films and closer to what we see in cinemas.

We were looking at a lot of movies to build some sequences. We added more and more characters and we were looking how each of them can relate to the others and so appeared some relationships arcs. We wanted to have a contrast between them in term of size, number and how they use their hybrid part.

While we were creating all the assets, we quickly did a previz of the whole film, so we were able to detect all the main challenges and set up the production accordingly. We knew that we had a lot of characters going in some very different environments and a lot of challenges so it was crucial to be very efficient.

For every challenge, we did small tests of them to see if it was doable or not in the time we had. Thanks to those tests we spared a lot of time for later in the production, knowing already how to solve the difficulties we would encounter.

Daily reviews

Each of us has his own speciality, we were kind of leads in our department, but all of us were giving notes and advice to bring the shot to a higher level. It was really important for us to do dailies so each of us had the opportunity to say what was possible to do and what wasn’t and what we could improve. Doing that was really our best tool to avoid losing time and it’s perhaps the main key to the efficient making of the film.

In terms of technics, the film had some great challenges. We had to deal with a lot of new things. We never worked with characters underwater before. It changed a lot of things. It’s not the same way to move a camera underwater or above, so we had to adapt the choreography to match what is possible in live action. The weight is quite different for animation as well, and the gravity and other parameters of simulation were quite different for all the effects.

In terms of lighting and compositing, it was quite hard too, because there are no lights underwater and to be realistic all the lights needed to come from above. We wanted to avoid the basic blue effect to represent the water and have a more pictural approach to the lighting. We never did any crowd before, and with the crabs, it was a necessity to learn that quickly. Due to the hybridization, the characters were difficult to animate as well, because fishes are animals who can bend a lot and are really fluid in terms of movement, but because of the solid parts (car for the shark and barrel for the grouper) it became really hard to find the movement without bending this solid part. We tried to cheat that a lot with the camera perspective.

We used ZBrush to sculpt the characters and environments, Substance Painter for all the texturing, Houdini for all the mosses, sand and effects, Arnold for shading and rendering, Nuke for the compositing, Golaem for the crowd and Maya for everything else.

We are now all employed in the industry. Florian is an animator at Framestore London and Montreal soon, he worked since his graduation on Thor: Ragnarok, Mowgli and Disney’s Christopher Robbins.

Matthieu is an FX artist at DNEG London and Montreal. He worked on Black Mirror, Altered Carbon and has switched now on the film division.

Kim works as an environment and rendering artist at Unit Image in Paris where she worked on the last God of War trailer.

Yohan does some animation and rig on a feature film for Primalinea in Paris and he is working on La Fameuse Invasion des Ours en Sicile.

Romain is currently a character modeler and concept artist in DNEG London, where he worked on Avengers and The Kid who would be King.

The film is currently on a festival tour where he travels all around the world. It has won several awards including the VES Awards for outstanding visual effects in a student movie and the Best Anima’t Award at the Sitges festival which make it eligible for the 91st Academy Awards. We are pretty happy with his journey as we are able to meet a lot of amazing people, so if it’s coming in a festival near to you, drop us a message and we can perhaps meet us.