Interview with the team behind IFCC 2017 Main Titles

We|me:do  is a group of friends from Belgrade, Serbia who had gathered in order to have fun, explore and create amazing things. Until now they have worked on projects: Twitch: LoadoutY-U-G-OIFCC 2017 Main TitlesICONS. Let’s find out more about them…

At the beginning, we want to commend your works that look really impressive. For these works, there is a small but selected team. Tell us more about yourself and how it all got started?

Sava: First off thank you for the kind words! Well for a couple of us it all started way back in school. Nenad, Mihailo and myself studied interior and furniture design at the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade, but we quickly fell in love with 3D. We met Milan, Kristina and IzSvemira (NebojsaJez) later on in our freelancing days. At the start of my career I did a lot of architectural visualization and motion graphics but always wanted to make short films, which we finally got around to doing with our IFCC project.

Milan Nikolic (concept art), Kristina Antic (motion capture,) Nenad Merzel (vehicle artist), Nebojsa Jez/Iz Svemira (music/sound design, graphic design), Marko Bibuljica (motion capture,) Sava Zivkovic (direction/animation), Mihailo Radosevic (character artist)

Many successful people started their project in a garage or basement. What is your story?

Sava: Nothing as cool as that I’m afraid:) I was very lucky to grow up in a family where everyone was very supportive of my choices in life. Got my first quad core workstation from my parents while still at college, and used that to start generating some income and slowly expand further.

How did you design and create the main character for the IFCC 2017 Main Titles?

Milan:With organic shapes in mind I was striving for more natural look and something that’s closer to human design, rather than hard surface with rough and sharp shape language. I was using Photoshop and Zbrush to work out a concept which made our pipeline faster and easier for other members of the team to understand. Also some of the design thinking for the entire look of the animation was that the world is set in so distant future that everything looks different to what we are used to today, introducing organic forms to both the character and his vessel.

Mihailo: I got the base model from Milan, which was imported into 3Ds Max, where I did the re-topo and at the same time added details to the whole suit. After that, three sets of UVs were made, one for fabric, one for metal and one for plastic/rubber. Now having a finished, detailed, and clean model with UVs, next thing was importing that model into Zbrush, for fabric detailing (folds, seams, etc.). For texture painting, I used Allegorithmic’s Substance painter, where I imported low poly mesh from Zbrush for painting, and used the exported high poly model (also from Zbrush) for baking. At the end we used three sets of 4k textures for: diffuse, glossiness, and normal map. The final character in the animation has roughly only around 70k polygons with one turbo smooth level.

MoCap (motion capture) is now increasingly used in animations, however the shooting is very inaccessible because it requires a lot of expensive equipment. Why did you choose MoCap over the classical 3D animation? Did you also MoCap the camera movement?

 Sava: I consider myself a CG Generalist, but character animation is definitely my weakest point. Having that in mind there was no other way of doing it other than with motion capture. We were very lucky with our Twitch: Loadout project, where the guys at Take One were more than willing to help us bring that piece to life. We’ve established a good relationship back then, and they were aboard the IFCC from day one. We didn’t MoCap the camera as we didn’t have an overview of the environments, the camera movement was entirely hand animated.

Kristina: Take One is a motion capture studio based in Belgrade, Serbia. After previous collaboration with Sava and the rest of the crew we saw the potential in this project and wanted to be part of it. Fastest way to get human motion is with using motion capture and since that is our specialty, we went for it. After the processed motion, animation can be used right away or it can be edited and stylized depending of your needs.  When we got the animation we did a bit of editing but still it took so much less time than it would take us with classical key frame animation. As Sava said we didn’t MoCap the camera though we might do that the next time, just to make Sava’s job easier ;D

Many artists use Arnold or V-Ray for rendering, but you use Octane. Why?

Sava: I’ve used V-Ray before in my architectural days, but switched to Octane about two years ago. I still think V-Ray is more powerful and more versatile render engine, but to make the most of it you need access to render farms, especially when we’re talking about animations. I have no preference in choosing one over the other, it all really depends on what are your personal needs. And for me, currently, Octane is the way to go because I can build a single machine with multiple GPUs that acts as a render farm, and not worry about the technicalities of how I am going to render out a project.

The industry is divided into two camps: Maya and 3ds Mas users. Why did you choose 3ds Max?

Sava: Again this falls down to personal choice. I’ve started in 3ds Max because it has better support for architectural stuff, plugins, model bundles, etc. But I don’t want to start a flame war over which one is better, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a tool. Your ideas and your creativity are the things that matter. There have been countless amazing images, animations and short films completed in Max, Maya, Cinema4d and Blender. And sure some software’s have some aspects better than the others do, but the bottom line is you can do everything in which ever software you choose.

The atmosphere in your project IFCC 2017 Main Titles has a very important role. Did you have some references (in terms of a film, photographs, images …) when atmosphere was designed?

Sava: Thanks! It was the single most important aspect that we needed to nail from the start, and the thing that drives all the subsequent decision making. Setting the tone for your film. We used a lot of reference, whether it be images, film, music or other animations, we used it all in order to convey amongst ourselves what the tone of the project is supposed to be.

Once we got that, the rest of it kind of fell in naturally. We knew from the start we wanted to tell the story of an artist on a creative journey, and all the hardships that come along with it. At the end we kept all of those hints as subtle metaphors, and relied solely on the use of visuals and music to convey our story.

Can you explain in detail about the creation of environment?

Sava: Sure! So for the city and hangar asset there was nothing special going on, just standard techniques. The city was composed of about 20 low poly buildings, some custom made, some from video copilot. All of those are then scattered with forest pack, a plugin for 3ds max.

The hangar design is heavily influenced by ZahaHadid, her design language fits perfectly to that of Milan’s and his organic approach. The asset was really simple to build and it consists of just a couple of sub-d surfaces. Combining these with smaller detail and decals provides the viewer with the sense of scale.

For the rest of the environments I used world machine because we needed a fast and procedural way of producing those. World machine basically uses a network of nodes in order to generate a depth texture. This is then used in your software of choice to drive the displacement which leaves you with a good start. You can then further sculpt the environment but I just used another layer of displacement with RDT textures and some scattered rocks and foliage. We had to use this makeshift faster approach in order to complete the animation on time, and actually I’m pretty fond of the workflow as it provides a lot of flexibility.

What was the main challenge on this project and how did you overcome it?

Sava: Well the main challenge was definitely getting everyone on board. Not to say that we had to persuade each other into working together, but all of us are still freelancers and finding some free time to do a personal project on this scale was definitely challenging, to say the least.

I guess we overcame it by trusting in one another. With projects like these it’s easy to get lost in all of the responsibilities, but if you trust in your team and their abilities to do what they love, leaving them in their own creative space, they will always deliver.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned on this project?

Sava: Definitely managing and working with a team. There were some technical things for sure, but overall just overcoming the hurdle of managing a team was by far the biggest takeaway for me. Also seeing all the benefits that come along the way really start to inform you of what’s possible, and how much time a project will take, so you can really plan better for the future.

Your project Y-U-G-O has caused excitement in the Serbian public and worldwide. Why it is so special and what is the purpose of the project?

Sava: Really? I never saw it that way, haha thanks! Well to me it’s not that special other than the fact it connects me with my childhood, every family had one of those back in the day. As for the purpose we really just wanted to have some fun in our down time. That entire project was completed in two weeks, start to finish, with modeling, animation, music and everything.

Also working with IzSvemira and constantly refining our workflow between animation and music, this was a pretty good test in seeing what he can do with a locked edit, where the visuals drive the music creation. Right now we are finishing a project where the opposite is the case, the music is driving the visuals and the editing.

Any plans for future projects?

Sava: You bet! We’re always trying to push ourselves with personal projects, but they’re also getting bigger every time. For the next couple of months we’ll release some smaller projects, but everything we’re currently doing is building up to the “next big thing” which is a direct result of IFCC titles.

What are the five movies that you can watch anytime?

Everyone: anything with the names Nolan, Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Refn and Fincher attached to it:)

Lastly, in the company of happy three friends and one girl, who is the boss?

Sava: Well…no one…yet. And at this point it’s actually 5 friends and a girl. We’re all still freelancers but things are starting to change, slowly but surely. So we still have to see what the future holds, but I’d say I’m pretty certain we’ll open a studio at some point 🙂


A big thanks for your time!

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