The enduring power of companionship is the central theme of Space Bound, an achingly poignant animated short from 3D artist Ellen Su and animator Kyle Moy, both students at New York's School of Visual Arts.
Space Bound focuses on a young astronaut and his dog, who are stranded in deep space and fast running out of air. Despite the grim hopelessness of their situation, the two enjoy a final, jubilant romp in the universe as their last minutes of air expire.
The colour and movement in Space Bound complements the scale and emptiness of space. There is a graceful dignity to the whole aesthetic. For Su and her partner Moy, the story was something that came naturally from their own experiences.
"The hardest part was the lighting, because it was new to me," Su says. According to Su, the eyes of the astronaut in Space Bound also presented particular challenges. "Since the eyes were a really strange shape, we had to figure out a way to rig them so that when they rolled around, it wouldn't cause penetrating geometry.
"Thankfully, we found that we could create a perfectly round sphere and use a lattice to deform it into the right shape. Then when we attached the eyes to the rig, the lattice would keep the eye in a locked shape that fi tted into the skull, but it would still be able to rotate."
Su says that she and Moy wanted the astronaut's helmet in Space Bound to reflect the "rather cartoony and simple" feel of Space Bound. "We wanted the edges of the helmet to be more saturated
and opaque while the centre stayed clear so we can focus on the characters' faces.
"We ended up using the facing ratio node with a black and white ramp node in Maya," she continues. "This meant whenever the faces of the helmet were directly facing the camera, it would be transparent. All of this was merged with the V-Ray BlendMtrl, which allows you to blend different shaders together.
"For the rim light, we used a surface Luminance node with yet another ramp that with interpolation set on none. This allowed us to create the hard-edged 'toon look to the helmet rim-light."
You can find out more about this short in issue 174 of 3D World, on sale now!
Words: Kulsoom Middleton
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