Project Futurama 3d
3D Concept Art presents, Futurama 3D. A personal project interview with Alexey Zakharov, he is from Moscow, Russian Federation. He created a sequence with the expectation to discover the retro-futurism of Futurama. Trying to find the same mood and touch of Futurama series in his short sequence. He is a director and a 3D generalist focusing in retro-futurism.
3D Concept Art presents a special projects interview about Futurama 3D.
| 3D Concept Art: What was your starting idea, how was it born and what was your main goal?
| Alexey Zakharov: → In its present form, it is a short video and a series of illustrations based on the popular animated series “Futurama.”
Initially, I was thinking of a video that would be like a movie trailer. But time has changed my plans, at some point I realized that it would be hard to create a trailer: too big material and it wasn’t so clear what to do next. I was satisfied only with a model of the shuttle, so I decided to start a “ship and space” series of illustrations.
It cost me less time and energy because you can always create 3D space using NASA photos. I made a few pictures and didn’t remain satisfied with them. So I started expanding the theme of the series: I put the space shuttle in the streets of the city of future as well. And only after this I decided to animate the shuttle in the city. And so the video was created.So, it all started with “Planet Express” office building and its surroundings. I’d like to mention that the building itself doesn’t appear on the video – I had other plans for it.
| 3CA: Making an own intro and trying to convey a similarity as the well-known futurama is not easy. Where did you find proper references and how much time did you spend on researching?
| A.Z: → At first, I reviewed all Futurama series during this work. Also, I watched all the retro-futuristic movies I have found. Finally, there are many concept-arts in the web, what helps me a lot. But I used not only fantastic images. Before creating a planet express ship I have downloaded many images of existing shuttles for recreating some details. I can’t say exactly how much time it took, but not so much in comparison with the production time.
| 3CA:During the time you spent working on the concepts and what should be on the different shots, What initialize the process of creation of the concepts and then what should be in the different views?
| A.Z: → It was interesting to see how a famous cartoon may look in a more realistic format. Because everybody knows only 2D “Futurama”. This video is a result of my passion for retro-futurism and Futurama original series. The idea was a spontaneous one, nothing big was planned. At first, there was just one building, the Planet Express office, then several neighborhoods around it, then part of the city.
| 3CA: As you started modeling, which were your major challenges when modeling your hero model?
| A.Z: → To be honest there is nothing special for me in modeling. I have big experience in environment, architectural, hard-surface modeling. The biggest challenge was to retain a recognizable Futurama view while adding details. When you know how it should look, there is no problem to model it.
| 3CA: Did you use any plugin or script for the different buildings? Did you use any scattering tool?
| A.Z: → I divided this task into two parts: the creation of architectural landmarks (mainly, distinctive skyscrapers that form the horizon), and drawing large urban blocks. I carried out the first stage in a very unsophisticated way: just transferred some buildings from the cartoon into 3D. I was using cartoon frames as references, trying to keep this typical “pot-bellied” form. As a result, I got about twenty buildings.
The second stage was more interesting. A lot of procedures and formalities were necessary here. Since I had a lack of knowledge to create a procedural city in Houdini, I chose Ghost Town script for 3dsmax as the main tool. Using only one script tool, I modified it to achieve the desired shape of the buildings. However, I couldn’t have solved the problem using only one tool. After creating urban blocks, using PFlow and Multiscatter, I decorated the roofs of the buildings with various elements (tower tops, aerials, etc.). Next, the block was converted in a proxy. I used the textures of skyscrapers for mapping the buildings. There was no need for special detailed elaboration and accuracy – this part of the city wasn’t designed for close views. Wires and other similar service lines were generated with Cobweb and WireBundler scripts.
| 3CA: Which techniques did you use for texturing, did you use any PBR techniques? and what were your preferred texture resolution per model for the intro shot?
| A.Z: → My texture methods for this project were quite traditional – unwrapping in 3dsmax/Zbrush and coloring in Adobe Photoshop/Zbrush. PBR – no, not in this project. Also because there was no goal to achieve photorealism. The biggest challenge was to texture shuttle, there are many maps, masks, some of them are procedural, some are hand drawing. Resolution about 4-8 k. Architectural environment shading is mostly procedural, no huge texture maps, about 2k res.
| 3CA: When it comes to animation, was any keyframe animation involved for then express ship or did it just follow a path? Describe a little bit about overall the other elements in the shots?
| A.Z: → Shuttle animation is quite simple, just standard 3dsmax path constraint.
It was inappropriate to make traffic in the background using hi-res car models – each of them took only a few pixels on the screen, – so I rendered a separate long strip of animated traffic. There is also a water transport in the video: I used the same automobiles with a sprite foam tail attached. Monorail, as well as pneumatic transport and elevators on the buildings – everything was animated by traditional methods: Path Constrain with key shifting to randomize movements.
| 3CA: Did you have any pipeline you preferred for the shots and why? any specific workflow? Tell us a little bit about your process with for example the advertising on the different shots, did you add those afterward?
| A.Z: → Some details of the pipeline you can see in making-of video https://vimeo.com/102935595. There is nothing special – modeling-texturing/shading – lighting/rendering – compositing.
To animate billboards in the city I downloaded from YouTube some advertisements of 60-70x. The holographic advertisement is full-CG. As a prototype of “Mom”, I used the image of Meryl Streep. The effect of the head falling to pieces was taken from the movie “Total Recall”. To animate this part I used PolyFx script.
| 3CA: Project sometimes get bigger than expected, what were the biggest challenges and what changed your vision during the project, is that something that you would like to change now?
| A.Z: → The project has been much bigger than I expected because initially, I don’t’ planned to do something big. In the beginning I did not know how it should look. Vision formed during the creation. It is not correct, but it was my way. The most difficult were to save specific Futurama style while adding “volume” to initial 2d flat view, is not so technical but creative task.
I can’t say that I’m completely satisfied with the result, both stylistically and technically, and in the total amount of work done as well. But this is normal. If you are satisfied with your work, it is difficult to find the motivation for professional growth. Perfectionism – it is a great quality if you want to achieve better results. On the other hand, it requires a lot of time, and to finish the project I had to admit that it never will be perfect.
| 3CA: What is your advice when it comes to making this type projects and doing those as a personal project?
| A.Z: → First of all, you should decide what you want to do exactly, what it will be, how it will look, write a script even you do a very short video. Pre-production is very important, maybe the most important part. It will help to save time. The most valuable resource is time, as always. Also, look for the good references, watch movies, pictures and get to work.
3D Concept Art Community thanks Alexey Zakharov for this interview about his Futurama intro. Also, for sharing the difficulties he faced during the development and during that time finding the right path to retro-futurism. A personal project and a finalization with a pursue to uncover the world of Futurama.
For licensing/usage please contact: licensing(at)jukinmediadotcom
Music: Alan Silvestri – “Forrest Gump Suite” (fragment)
Software: 3dsmax, Nuke, Photoshop, After Effects
Tools : Multiscatter plugin, Ghost Town script, Poly FX script