• CGNetworks Feature::Tomek BaginskiInterview
    Fallen Art
    Paul Hellard, 24 January 2005
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    CGNetworks interviews Tomek Baginski of Platige Image. Credited as the name behind ‘The Cathedral', Tomek Baginski is now on the verge of releasing the new Platige short film ‘Fallen Art', a very different, very black comedy.

    Tomek Baginski has been working at Platige for seven years now, but he was only ten when he realized that making computer animation was the cheapest way of making films. “I wanted to make films for as long as I can remember so the choice was natural”, says Baginski. “I started with an Amiga computer. I've gone through many different programs and platforms and then finally landed with 3D.” Baginski's first 3D student film ‘Rain' was good enough to land him a job in Platige Image and straight after the appointment, he quit college where he was studying architecture. “I didn't really like architecture,” Baginski muses, “but in Poland studying something was the only way to avoid the army.”

    While working on ‘The Cathedral', Baginski was thinking about film ideas he'd like to produce afterwards. A folder slowly filled with photos, stories and sketches so he wouldn't forget them. He couldn't work on them but he could save them for later. “I chose ‘Fallen Art' because it was very different to Cathedral and I was sure that I had to make a different film to avoid comparisons. ‘The Cathedral' was quite successful and making a short with a similar kind of mood could have been a dangerous trap. I decided to go the other way.”

    Concept design
    The message behind ‘Fallen Art' changed during production. At the beginning Baginski wanted to make just a funny film about the army, but many things happened in the world while the crew was fine-tuning the storyboards. The army topic has became much more stark, and much more serious. “Consequently, we decided to make the story darker than in the beginning”, says Baginski. “It wasn't only my idea. The music my brother found was much more insane than I've expected. The character design done by the very talented young painter, Rafal Wojtunik was also much more wicked that I though it would be. Of course it is still a comedy, but it is very dark comedy.” Very rough sketches and some written characteristics were handed to Wojtunik and that was all. Baginski admits he wasn't really paying any attention to the design process and the characters and set design have become crazier than he expected. Wojtunik based his drawings on the paintings of the Polish painter Jerzy Duda-Gracz, but most of the ideas were born inside his head. “When I saw the first designs I was quite surprised”, says Baginski, “but at the same time I was really impressed. Giving the designing part to Wojtunik was one of the best decisions I've made during the project.”

    Images :Concept design sketches by Rafal Wojtunik

  • Above :Colour Concept design sketches by Rafal Wojtunik

    Style and software
    Tomek Baginski knew early that he didn't want to make a photorealistic film. He wanted a heavily stylized character and set, with all textures to be hand painted. “I wanted to have dirt in the camera movements, little shakes and imperfections in filming”, says Baginski. One of the results of that style was simplification of production. Modelers didn't have to work on every tiny detail. They could keep models in quite small poly counts so the animation and rigging was also a little simpler. Baginski wanted all frames to look painted or drawn so simple shaders could be used. In many scenes only the character is 3D, the rest is painted in layers and composited. The only part that remained quite complex was painting the textures and backgrounds. “We spent a lot of time unwrapping, texturing and painting objects”, Baginski explains. “Film had to be rendered for 35mm film so most of the textures are pretty big – for example, the face textures of the characters were 4.5K. The animation was done in Messiah:Animate, some was done in Lightwave. We also used Mark Wilson's Point Oven Pro (www.ef9.com) plugin. Point Oven writes and reads an MDD (mesh deformation data) from several packages. We had meshes in 3ds max and to update the animation we were just updating the MDD files. It allowed us to work simultaneously on lighting, animation and texturing.”

    In many shots, a lot of compositing was done to bring the proper feel to the pictures. There were many layers for every shot, both for the characters and the backgrounds, but compositing was one of the fastest tasks, so they could finish three to five 1.5K shots every day. Compositing was done in conjunction with all sound effects. It was the final part of the production.

    Above :Scenes from 'Fallen Art'.

    In the production of Fallen Art, Baginski and his crew at Platige used 3ds max with Brazil as the main platform for rendering. All texturing was done in 3dsmax. Most of the modeling work was done in Lightwave and later in Modo. Animation was created in Messiah:Animate and 3ds max (with the CAT plug-in). Textures and backgrounds were painted in Photoshop, and compositing was all in After Effects. The production of Fallen Art took eight months from concept to completion. While Tomek was the only person working full time on the project, the rest of the team (15 people) worked in their free time. “We didn't have a real budget so the team consisted of my friends from the studio, and volunteers”, says Baginski. “Some of the people gave around a week and some gave two months. I was happy with every bit of help I found, and I met many new friends in the process.”

    The biggest challenge during the production was time. While there was a tight deadline, there was an even tighter budget. “There were days and weeks, especially at the beginning when I was the only person working on the film. It was rather like a long race”, says Baginski. “I wasn't sure we would make the deadline until the last three weeks. The people who participated in the project did a great job. Most of them did it in their free time which is much more important. The project could have fallen over dozens of times. I didn't sleep some nights just thinking ‘what if ...?' I knew that one mistake would mean that we wouldn't finish on time but, miraculously, everything went OK. All the animation was finished on time, sound was done perfectly, and film copies were great on first try. Nothing bad happened. But
    considering the conditions I think that we did the best we could. If we forgot about the looming deadline then almost everything went right.”

  • Above :Character Bones Mesh Animation. View the Bones Mesh movie

    A Gypsy band called ‘Fanfare Ciocarlia' recorded the music. In the first few sketches Tomek Baginski wanted to use hits from the seventies but he quickly realized that it is quite impossible. “All the songs we wanted were very expensive and had complicated owners' structure” explains Bagnisky. “Music would be a very important part of the film, so we looked in other places. My brother, Wojtek, who did also a lot of compositing later, volunteered to look for ‘our' music. He spent three weeks listening to all different kinds of tunes, from many different, very exotic places. He was listening to music from the Middle East, Turkey, India, China, Africa, and also some unknown bands from Europe. He was looking just everywhere. Finally, he came to me with a piece called "Asfalt Tango" by Fanfare Ciocarlia and told me that it was the best. And it was. Martin, our executive producer, contacted the manager of the band and set the royalties that we could afford.”

    Fallen Art will be shown on some important film festivals around the world. At the beginning Fallen Art will be screened at the Sundance Festival, Miami Festival and the HBO Festival in Aspen, among others. All details about Fallen Art screenings will be shown on their web page (www.platige.com, www.fallen-art.com). The short film will also be taking part in the Academy Award shorts theatrical program presented by Apollo Cinema (www.apollocinema.com).

    The theatrical program will feature nominated, animated and live action shorts and will be in theatres all over the US and a few select theatres in Canada. People will get a chance to see some great shorts from the previous year too. There will be a Fallen Art DVD with three additional animated shorts by artists that worked during the Fallen Art project.

    Related Links

    Screenplay & Direction: Tomek Baginski, Platige Image

    Production: Platige Image

    Production Team: Jarek Sawko, Piotr Sikora, Tomek Baginski

    Exectutive Producer: Marcin Kobylecki

    Concept Art: Rafal Wojtunik

    Animation: Grzegorz Jonkajtys, Lukasz Pazera, Zbigniew Lenard, Marcin Wasko, Arek Zawada

    Crew: Radoslaw Nowakowski, Szymon Kaszuba, Krzysztof Kamrowski, Wojtek Baginski, Piotr Tomczyk, Andrzej Sykut, Selim Sykut

    Music: Fanfare Ciocarlia

    Sound Design: Kuba Pietrzak, Wojtek Mularczyk, Post Meridian Productions

    Above : Characters Sergeant Al and Dr. Friedrich, shown modelled and textured.'

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