This four minute cinematic sequence was built primarily by just one designer – our creative director Cal Woolcook – working across just ten weeks. Three assisting designers, each working for a short period of two weeks, helped with additional asset modelling. Adding this all up, it is still this is just a fraction of the human output required to execute a project that looks like this, using traditional methods.
How was this possible? Well, Valley of the Kith was built almost entirely using the Element 3D plugin on Adobe After Effects. The idea for Cal was to break newer ground in animation by pushing the boundaries of Element 3D, while capitalising on the available resources of After Effects and other Adobe products. He wanted to create a work that would show production companies and video game studios the quality of work we can achieve using this currently underrated method. Cal says it’s a work of intricate design, balanced with efficiency and innovation.
“Traditionally, to complete a work like this, you would need to pass the assets from one specialist to another through a long pipeline. It’s slow, laborious and expensive. Renders often have to happen over a long period of time, and you can’t see the finished product as you go,” he says. “Using the techniques we applied to Valley of the Kith, we’ve eliminated the pipeline.”
“Renders in After Effects can be seen instantaneously. That means we can work on things collaboratively and concurrently. There’s no rigid workflow, fewer hands on deck are needed, there’s less backtracking and problems can be solved on the spot.”
Instead of creating all the assets in external applications, the team only needed to build the ships elsewhere, using 3D Studio. From there, all the primary work was done with Adobe After Effects and Element 3D, with characters created using Adobe Fuse and animated using Mixamo. Cal says it emotively captures a scenario relevant to many video games, further intensified by dramatic sound design and score.
Cal says Jumbla’s experience working with clients in a broad range of motion graphics and animation styles is something that will benefit entertainment and gaming companies.
“We do a lot of motion graphics, so After Effects and Element 3D are a bit part of our arsenal. On top of that, we’re always working with clients who need adaptability. We’re always treating all our jobs as ‘works in progress’, so we can show client the stage we’re at, or add and amend as we go. I think we can bring this style to entertainment and gaming animation for clients who aren’t suited to the traditional methods or the associated costs.”
Cal says given the project was primarily the work of just one set of hands, such a cinematic sequence could be feasibly executed in even less time. “Breaking away from the constraints of the pipeline method effectively means there’s potential to dramatically compress project timelines,” he says.
At present, he very much believes there’s a gap in the market for high-calibre 3D animation, produced in non-traditional ways.
“It’s unfortunate that many clients perceive 3D to be a big, scary world that might be inaccessible to them. Using Element 3D within After Effects opens a lot of doors. We hope this piece demonstrates that following this lower-cost path doesn’t mean you’re compromising on quality or viewer experience.”
Our team at Jumbla recently applied the techniques to cinematic sequences for the Microsoft video game Forza Motorsport, turning around 12 highly-polished videos in 3 months. We also produced four cinematics for the real-time strategy game Grey Goo. These went on to collect various international accolades, including a W3 Award, a Muse Award and a Horizon Interactive Award.
While Jumbla has been experimenting with pushing the boundaries of this animation method, the technology in this domain has by no means plateaued.
“It’s exciting to think about how extensively we’ve managed to apply this technique as it stands, but it’s even more exciting to think that this is all only in its infancy,” says Cal. “Given how powerful Element 3D is, surprisingly few people are using it. There’s a lot of more room for it to grow, and we see it playing a bigger role in video games, entertainment and motion graphics in the future.”
“Jumbla is absolutely holding out to see where this goes in the coming years, and we’ll be ready to bring that to clients as it develops.”