Behind the Scenes: Kitsch (Christmas Quick)


I needed to make an animation within the spirit of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with an emphasis on music, jokes and a few type of existential disaster. I knew the manufacturing would hinge on having a robust script. Regardless of how good my fashions look or how delicately I animate the characters, if the story is boring or if the emotional beats do not resonate, then it may all go to waste.

After I wrote the script, I numbered every scene and every line of dialog. This got here in useful later when organizing my lip-synch efforts and scene recordsdata. As soon as the script was carried out, I made a spreadsheet of all of the property I would wish to make. I resolved to make each single mannequin myself so as to get extra apply.


I knew I’d be engaged on the mission all yr, an hour a day, in my free time, so I needed to be organized about it. Though I used to be working alone, I broke my mission into separate recordsdata for every mannequin. This turned out to be a fantastic concept as a result of it stored every file small, which meant they’d load and save sooner when enhancing. I save them into Google Drive, which handles backups and versioning, and since every mannequin is in a separate file, I can restore an outdated model if I must, with out dropping every other work.

I additionally animated every scene in its personal file. This meant I may render one scene within the background whereas concurrently engaged on one other scene, with out worry of messing one thing up. This additionally stored material simulation information separate for every scene, which made issues a bit extra manageable.


The story is about some Christmas collectible figurines. Some are outdated and carved from wooden, others are new and plastic, or porcelain, or material. This meant I received to make use of a variety of completely different approaches when modeling the characters. The crude wood characters of Nutcracker and Mary had been hard-surface fashions. Extra natural shapes like Santa Mouse and Black Santa had been sculpted. I checked out classic collectible figurines on eBay for inspiration.

I discovered a tough lesson too late within the mission. When designing the characters I ought to have thought of their actions and never simply their shapes. My design for Nutcracker turned out to be very problematic as a result of there wasn’t room for him to show his head with out clipping. Ultimately I simply let his head clip, however subsequent time I’ll undoubtedly suppose forward about vary of movement when designing non-organic characters.

Mary was a particular case. As an alternative of getting her face transfer, I needed her face to be drawn on with ink, and the ink wanted to movement throughout her face to vary her expression. There are tutorials for doing this with a set of mounted expression photos, however I needed her face to maneuver easily. I rigged some easy Grease Pencil shapes for the eyes and mouth, animated the rigs, and rendered that animation into a picture sequence that might be included in Mary’s face materials. So after I lastly rendered the precise scene, Mary’s face materials itself can be animated together with her mouth and eye actions.


I modeled the hearth mantel, garland, pinecones and different props utilizing laborious floor modeling, following varied tutorials on-line. I discovered some tutorials on learn how to make flickering candles and blinking Christmas lights. There have been a couple of methods I couldn’t discover tutorials on and needed to give you my very own methods.

I had a star decoration that appears like it’s made out of copper wire. For this I modeled a star decoration out of planes, then used a particle system to distribute factors throughout its floor. Then I wrote a python script to attach the factors with line segments and a subsurface and pores and skin modifier to show the segments right into a steady flexible wire. I used to be actually pleased with making this work and it was the primary time I used to be capable of remedy an issue myself as a substitute of utilizing another person’s tutorial. Now that geometry nodes can be found I believe I may re-do this in a manner that’s extra versatile and automatic.

At the beginning of the quick we see some “tissue paper” Thanksgiving turkeys fly previous the digital camera. These are a little bit of American Thanksgiving kitsch which you could find on Amazon. To mannequin these I made a airplane, made a sequence of loop cuts and bent them right into a zigzag. Then I carved it right into a turkey wing form utilizing the knife instrument. A mirror modifier and array modifier turned it right into a honeycomb stack, after which a curve modifier wrapped it round an axis. This labored surprisingly nicely; it is a very transient sequence within the movie however one of many moments I’m most pleased with.


Earlier than I began the gradual and laborious technique of animating the characters, I blocked out every scene, putting the digital camera and the characters in order that I may perceive the place they’d be in relation to one another and the viewer. This was an enormous assist as a result of I did not need to spend a single minute animating one thing that wasn’t on display screen. The blocking section was additionally a fantastic studying expertise since I’ve no background in movie and even easy subjects similar to framing the characters and utilizing depth of area had been new to me.

There have been a couple of parts I did not hand-animate. One was Mary’s scarf, which was a material simulation. This was my first material sim and I struggled lots to get it proper. I began every scene with the material flat above Mary and let 100 frames go by to let it fall and drape throughout her. This ensured it began every scene in a pure drape over the figurine. However I had a couple of instances the place the material received caught on a mesh by some means and I used to be by no means capable of remedy the issue. That is one thing I hope to realize experience at as a result of the material simulation is so helpful.

Within the scene the place Santa Mouse is throwing holly berries at Snowie’s hat, I used a physics simulation. This labored rather well in making a pure trajectory for the berry and a practical deflection off of the hat. I’m continually amazed at Blender’s broad vary of capabilities and was actually grateful I did not should animate this by hand.

Snowie, the snowman, strikes round by rolling the underside ball of the snowman, like “BB-8”. For this I wrote a Python script that calculates the proper roll for the ball in any course based mostly on the place Snowie has moved for the reason that final body. This meant I may merely drag him round when animating, and my script would appropriately roll the ball later. I used to be glad to lastly use some highschool trigonometry 25 years after graduating from highschool.

My laptop was not very highly effective and in the course of the animation course of I discovered the significance of low-poly proxies. This was the one manner I may animate easily within the viewport and get the suggestions I wanted to make inventive selections.


Rendering the quick movie was essentially the most painful a part of the method, however plenty of the ache was self-inflicted. I stored discovering errors in my animation and sometimes needed to re-render segments after making a correction. Subsequent time I’ll enhance my workflow for proofing the animation in order that it’s good earlier than rendering. Ultimately I reached the deadline for our native movie pageant and needed to submit the quick though it was removed from good. However, as they are saying, “it is carried out when it is due”.


I’m happy that my quick has featured in a couple of movie festivals and received “greatest animated quick” in one among them. I hope different rookies will probably be inspired that you do not have to be a full-time 3D artist to make a brief movie. It simply takes the self-discipline to do some every single day, and naturally a limitless urge for food for studying!