Monkey Thief is a short student animation film that is currently in production at the SCAD. It was created and is directed by a talented character animator named Zachary Ates. I have the honor of being the Visual Effects Supervisor and Lead Lighter and Compositor on this film. This film currently has over 25 artists collaborating and producing this project. From animators to graphic designers to foley artists, this film has the most diverse team of artists working to produce something amazing.
The story is about a boy named Myles whose best friend is his beloved sock monkey, Henry. Myles faces challenges of being bullied by the misunderstood Delores. Myles eventually finds ways to overcome these challenges and makes some friends along the way.
Here is my process blog of all the work I did for the film and keep scrolling to meet the team and watch exclusive behind the scenes footage.
Monkey Thief Trailer
Monkey Thief is currently being entered into multiple film festivals across the world and is being selected. I will keep this area updated on film festivals that it was selected for. Stay tuned!
Maya | Arnold | Nuke
About the Project:
This project has been in production since the Fall of 2019. Since then, 3D modelers, riggers, and texture artists created all of the characters and assets. They were able to hand it off to me to create a movie poster for this film. In collaboration with the film's graphic designer, Hannah Wells, we created a finished piece. I also worked alongside another artist on our team, Lauren Presetenbach, to create the second poster. You can see the concept art and the final renders of the posters to the right.
I was in charge for all the lighting, rendering, and compositing. I created a light rig for the project using an HDR that had a sunset similar to the lighting references I was given. This rig was used by the look development and texture artists as well. I utilized Z-depth in Nuke to make sure the focus was on Henry, the sock monkey, and not the rest of the environment.
The biggest challenge I faced with this particular project was creating the desired mood that encapsulated the whole mood of the film and a sense of nostalgia but in only 300 frames. I used atmospheric volume to mimic the haziness of the afternoon and the dustiness of a school bus. I used spotlights and area lights to create depth in the scene, but not flatten it out.
I composited the twinkling light rays and the dust particles that are floating around in the bus. This saved a lot of time particularly with FX.
Sunset Light Rig
Morning Light Rig
Maya | Arnold | Nuke
After completing the movie posters, I was then challenged to take the movie poster and put it into motion.
Below is the final trailer video that I lit, rendered, and composited.
Putting the poster into "motion" was quite challenging because I couldn't just "pull it off" by using Photoshop. Keeping the same mood of the poster but in 300 frames was something I feel was successful about this project.
MONKEY THIEF 2020 - THE FILM
Maya | Arnold | Nuke
As the Lighting Supervisor and Compositing lead, I was in charge of lighting 33 shots, rendering 48 shots, and compositing 48 shots for the final film. For the environments, I created a light rig for the project using an HDRI and a directional light that had a sunset similar to the lighting references I was given. My lighters were able to import the rig into their shots and adjust any attributes in order to get the desired look. This rig was used by the look development and texture artists as well.
The biggest challenges I faced were dealing with the terrible consequences of COVID-19. Having very limited resources to get the film done proved to be such a huge challenge because we dealt with internet connection issues, transferring thousands of files from each team member, and not being able to collaborate face to face. We had to find ways to cope with time differences and a very limited amount of time to complete the film. Despite all those struggles and limitations, we powered through by helping each other out and with a lot of patience. I am proud to say that we finished the film on time and completed all the deliverables required for production.
Inspirations and References:
The team gained a lot of inspiration from different films. One film in particular that I used was Mr. Peabody and Sherman. I wanted to get the orange golden hour glow on our characters similar to how DreamWorks did in the flying machine scene in Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
I absolutely LOVED working on this film because it not only has a great and meaningful message, but it was great to work on such an amazing and talented team of artists across the board. Being able to complete this film considering all the complications that we faced made it so much more rewarding in the end. The film is currently being entered in film festivals all around the world. I'm so excited to see how far this film will go!
Meet the Team:
None of this could've been done without them! Here are the links to the team's websites or social media.
Lily Adams - Sound Supervisor/Mixer
Candace Mortier - Foley Artist
Development Book Editor
The Making Of Monkey Thief Documentary Video