|n 2005, Ben Hibon, with Stateless Films and Blinkink, created an animation for MTV Asia's weekly film show called MTV Screen. After a very good response, MTV Asia commissioned his company to produce a short film on the back of it. “As I was creating concepts drawings,” explains Ben Hibon, “MTV Asia was starting to plan their annual Music Awards. They then came up with the idea of ‘launching’ our project by using it to brand the show; posters, banners, trophy design and intro/bumper animations. So the brief changed from ‘short film’ to ‘branding package’ for the MTV Awards show.” It formed into a seven-minute prologue / intro animation to the world of ‘Codehunters’, an on-going MTV/BLINKINK project launched around the MTV Asia Awards 2006 in Bangkok.|
This was obviously a great opportunity for the project to be in front of such a big audience. There was going to be about 400 million people watching the show! There was the challenge of making an animation that would have to work as one film, but also broken into nine scenes to be used throughout the show as a prologue animation, setting the tone, pace and style for a bigger story.
|European TV was full of cheap programs in the early 80s and Ben Hibon was also a big fan of European graphic-novelists like Bilal, Moebius, Mattoti or Liberatore. “I think that my inspiration lies there”, he begins, “in the middle of two totally different narrative worlds; between the more static illustrative style of the west and the fast-moving stylised techniques of the East. ‘Codehunters’ is an accumulation of those ideas, where characters and worlds are not so culturally defined; it exists in between those genres and styles.|
‘The main visual ideal for this film was to try to make the CG feel textured and warm, just like an inked illustration on paper,’, says Hibon. ‘We tried to create a different look by reproducing the ink lines and the hand-drawn feel directly onto the CG models. I also wanted to approach the direction/animation style differently, by applying 2D techniques to CG; not use motion capture or realistic animation, but work with stylised motions, key frames and parallaxes. I think the end result has got a definite feel; a combination of all those ideas.”
|Script writing and storyboarding happened simultaneously, as the company had a very short lead time for pre-production. “We started the production based on the boards, creating concepts and artworks on the way,” Ben explains. “Production time was tight, so we had to be creative throughout the whole process, both with creation of assets, techniques and solutions. Although the vision of ‘Codehunters’ was very much defined from the start, the process of making it was very organic, which made it fun and exciting for everyone involved with the project.”|
The crew were going for a stylised look in the texturing and the rendering, so the use of 3D with a 2D feel created a very original finish. “It was also important for the sets [the desert and the city] to feel vast and open. Converting to 3D allowed us to create such scale, including camera movements and depth,” explained Hibon. “The original 2D drawings for the characters were intricate and very detailed, from shapes to textures. We tried to retain those details in the modeling process, for the characters to stay truthful to their original concepts. Those are things that would have been difficult to achieve in 2D, and almost impossible to that level of detail.”
|The modeling and the texturing of the characters/elements was the most important and difficult stage in translating the animation. Hibon worked closely with Axis's modeler Sergio Caires, who got the feel for the characters straight away. The texturing/line art style was then meticulously reproduced on each model, matching the original artworks using different drawing/3D packages. “It was a great process to see 2D concepts become ‘real’,” says Hibon. |
“For the environments, we decided to keep the modeling easy to render, but instead spend a lot of time designing or drawing intricate textures for each specific item, to bring as much detail and richness as possible to the backgrounds and keep that 2D/3D contrast. It was a great process to see the layers of ink, dirt, hand-drawn details and painted textures dress the 3D world and make it come to life.”