March 31, 2021 9:00 AM
by B.N. Reporter
Media Artist Gerrit Kudge shares his story of use of Blender in the short film 814,
directed by Victor van Wetten.
directed by Victor van Wetten.
VFX breakdown for the short film "814"
Hi Gerrit. Congrats on your work in the film 814. It looks fantastic! It's great to have you for our interview!
1. I noticed from your IMDB profile you seem to have an exceptionally wide range of experience in the film industry. How did it all start?
I heard that this is considered a disadvantage if you want to be hired. Productions like “streamlined” people that focus on one thing. : D Oh well!
I studied at an art school with a focus on new-media. There was 3D, there was video-art, there was film, sound, philosophy, graphic-design, scenography … so I got to get a peek in all of these areas. And I think if you want to make films it’s good if you can do most of the work on your own. That way you can do it exactly the way it needs to be.
But the great diversity and freedom had one disadvantage, everyone was doing their own stuff. So it was hard to get somebody for every position. And I filled in many of the different positions such as sound, camera, script etc. But I don’t mind, I like to be self-sufficient.
2. How did you discover Blender?
Before studying I did a little bit of 3D in Cinema4D. But in 2010, when I began studying, I was shown Maya. It was much more complex and intimidating than Cinema4D, a true professional tool. And I thought, that’s good, I want to be professional, so I use Maya. But in the same room, the “3D-Lab” , some other guys had this other tool, and it was open source. I was told none of the big productions used it, so I was very skeptical of this Blender thing.
But there was this one guy who used Blender and did stuff that about blew me away. He was totally on an other level. At the time I was in my first semesters he worked on this stop animation/3D hybrid film called OMEGA. This guy was Andy Goralczyk, who now directed Spring.
That must have been 2010/11. Then all the Blender stuff slowly started happening, Big Buck Bunny, Tears of Steel… much later Eevee. And I felt more and more that Blender is really becoming a big, big thing. But at that time I was more into film than 3D and switching programs is always a big effort, so I didn’t switch until I had to.
3. How have you been using Blender as a filmmaker?
Honestly, not much yet. The UFO sighting was – apart from some small tests – the first real project in Blender I did. But surely not the last. In fact my next film, that we have just started to produce will rely solely on Blender for the 3D stuff.
4. Why did you switch to Blender?
I switched because of costs and the chunkiness of Maya. Maya is a powerful program, but I think it’s designed to work in big production environments. Loads of specialized artists for each aspect, render farms and what not – and a lot of money to buy licenses.
Blender is just great for my small productions. The (multiple) GPU support in Blender is just wonderful and OPTIX makes it even faster than CUDA. Even with my relatively unspectacular setup of a 2060 super and 3060 TI I can do a lot of volumetric lighting that was just not possible before. And now with 2.92 even support for CPU render in OPTIX! I’m so happy!
But what made me appreciate Blender even more is the community. The tutorials, especially Ian Hubert’s lazy tutorials that always tell me: You can do it, it’s not that complicated! That restores a lot of optimism when I’m down.
5. What other tools did you have to use in addition to Blender for the film “814?”
After Effects for compositing – just because I’m more familiar with it than the Blender compositing environment. Also the title was added in and rendered with Cinema4D and Redshift by the director Victor. I tried to convince him to switch to Blender and to render it in Cycles, to get this really good-looking, physically correct bounce light for the neon letters. But it’s unwise to switch the program halfway through..
6. How competent do you think Blender currently is as a VFX tool, and what’s your expectation for it in the future (Such as what features would you love to have added to Blender)?
I haven’t worked to much with the compositing side of Blender yet, so I will not comment on that.
As for the 3D part, it’s great! I love that all the shading is node based. And now even geometry nodes! There are a few smaller hick-ups that could be worked on, but nothing deal-breaking, except maybe light-linking (individual control over which lights affect which objects). That would be the biggest feature that is missing. But I’m not the first one to point this out. And as I hear it doesn’t seem that it will be implemented anytime soon.
7. Would you tell us more about the film “814?”?
814 (eightfourteen) is a 10-minute short film by my dear friend Victor van Wetten. In the opening shot, ominous lights move across the sky of a German city.
Down below in a bar, two friends discuss what objects they would take with them if they could time-travel into the year 814: A pistol or maybe medicine? Help or dominate those technologically less advanced?
Meanwhile, news on TV turn the bar silent in shock. But our two friends are too engaged in their discussion to notice. They ponder the moral implications of technical superiority, while a giant spaceship has been spotted, hovering silently above the Chinese sea.
I got to do all the interesting VFX/CG stuff like the stars in the beginning and the fighter jets in the end. Victor did all the uneventful keying and continuity-error fixes.
The animation of the UFO in 814 was a sort of “test-project” to get familiarized with Blender. Because right now I and the director of 814 are prepping for my next film.
8. What is your plan for the film “814?” When is it going to be released?
We’re trying the film festival route. The film was finalized by the end of January and we now hope it will get a festival release sometime this year. Depending on how well the film is received on festivals, it will take one or two years until it can be shown online.
Most festivals have a very strict online-availability policy. They say: If the film was available online as one point it has had it’s premiere in every country of the world. And most film festivals want to have at least a national premiere. So they won’t select your film if it was online. It’s sad because we would like to share the film – especially with an opportunity like this interview. But to get a foot in the door of the film-w****orld, the most logical route is the festival route.
What is your next project?
My next film will be a 25~ minute animation-film called “Backup”, to the greatest part realized in Blender. It is a film about love and heartbreak between two teenagers, eight minutes before humanity will be extinct:
Lena and David live in the dream-machine, a neural network that stretches time. They are living in there, because there are only eight minutes left until earth – and humanity – gets wiped out by the sun’s collapse. But in the dream-machine those eight minutes get stretched into 12000 years.
One day Davids consciousness gets destroyed in an accident, and Lena has to start his backup. But the file structure of his backup has been corrupted and Lena has to lead him through their shared, long and complicated history to recover his consciousness.
It’s the first project that we got real funding for, so we can work on it full-time and I’m very excited! Right now we are in the concept/design phase. We are experimenting with character- and environment designs (like the environment below, that was realized mainly through projection-mapping in blender). We hope we will be done by November.
Wow, that sounds great. Thank you for sharing your story, Gerrit.