• CodehuntersCodehunters
    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.
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    ConceptEuropean 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.”
    Concept SketchConcept Sketch
    TexturingScript 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.”
    Concept Sketch
    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.”
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  • CodehuntersCodehunters
    Ben Hibon takes up a description of the characters and the story: “I wanted to have a few main characters, to be able to write a variety of threads within the main story. I was also interested in illustrating different aspects of the ‘Codehunters’ world through various personalities, which I could only do with multiple characters. So although they seem to be like a “gang”, they have very different provenances and experiences... separate lives. The main idea behind the creation of the characters was to illustrate different eras within the same society; the past, the present and the future.’

    Zom is the big guy (which in Burmese means “bigger than”). He is a creature from the past, a mark of the past wars and conflicts that shaped the Codehunters's world. He's now just trying to fit in, survive in a new society that created him but doesn't need him anymore.

    Shen, the “cow-boy” guy (which means “spiritual/deep thinking” in Chinese) represents the present... an uncertain present. He's more of a loner, always looking for adventures and always on the go. He has no home, no material or spiritual attachments in a world that's breaking and crumbling. He illustrates the instability of a dying new world, where guidance and spirituality is hard to come by.

    Lawan is a more complex character, that's why her name has a double meaning; meaning “beautiful” in Thai and “fighter” in Malay. She has no origin as she was found at a very young age. She is a divided character, fighting off a regime that created her and then rejected her.

    Nih is the little girl (“little one” in Vietnamese). She is representing the future, the younger generation... showing what it takes to grow up in this world. She is the core of the group, the little sister, the naughty kid that everyone's got a soft spot for!”
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    The film took seven months to complete, from the first early pre-production meetings to the delivery of the finished film. It was the first time Ben Hibon and the crew at Axis had a chance to work on such a long production, and as a director, he enjoyed the possibilities that a long-running project offered to the creative process.

    “It's not so much a short burst of creative energy like sometimes a music video or a commercial can be, but more of a long burning vision of many collaborations,” explains Hibon. “Many different creative people jump in and out, bringing their talent and expertise to the project. I had the chance to collaborate with many good people on ‘Codehunters’, up in Glasgow or down in London, all working towards making the film better and richer. It was a great experience, and a very enjoyable one.’

    ‘I think that the creative brief was answered very well. I wouldn't change the anything about the look of the film, it was spot on. But obviously you start with many ideas and characters, and time and budget always makes you simplify that vision. I think that it's a good thing to work with limitations, as long as it doesn't stop you. What's important is that those realities or restrictions don't change or impair the main idea of the project.”

    “What pleases me the most when I watch ‘Codehunters’ is how different it looks ...............
    and how people are generally surprised and intrigued by its style,” adds Hibon.

    “I really wanted to make something with a different feel; a warm, textured, original animated universe, and I think that Axis understood and delivered that brilliantly. You can stop the film at any frames, and you get a cool illustration. That's a great result for me!” ‘Codehunters’ was developed as an IP with many different ideas attached to it. MTV have been talking about a series, which could be broadcast on TV but also be shown/downloaded on the web and mobile phones. There's also interest to develop a script for longer formats, for feature film or video game.

    But first, Hibon wants to launch a proper home for it on the web (www.mtvcodehunters.com), with some extra drawings, stories, making of the film, info on the characters, etc... to expand the project. The film will be shown on MTV as a whole and as idents, all redirecting towards the website, to try to create a little community online. It's a very open time for distributing an IP like ‘Codehunters’, with multiple formats waiting for good creative content. There is a lot of interest at the moment from many different industries, and Ben is very excited to create more with it.
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    Ben Hibon was born in Geneva, Switzerland. He completed studies in Fine Art and moved to London in 1996 to study Graphic Design at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, followed by a Masters Degree at the same school. In 2000 he joined unit9, a London based design company, where he worked for four years as their Creative Director.

    Ben’s short films, ‘Full Moon Safari’ and ‘Parasite’, each personal works, have been recognized by D&AD, British Animation Awards, Creative Circle, OFFF, Flash Forward Festival/NY and shown at Film festivals such as onedotzero, Resfest and The Stockholm International Film Festival. His commercial work includes clients such as MTV, Puma, Capcom, Channel4, Namco, Nissan and Kwik Fit.

    His recent work includes a horror-comedy animation based on the famous manga by Yusaku Hanakuma, and he is currently represented as a commercials/promos director at the film production companies "Blink Productions" in the UK and "Furlined" in the USA.

    Agency: MTV Asia
    Executive Producer: Charmaine Choo
    Production Company: Blinkink
    Producer: Bart Yates
    Director: Ben Hibon
    Screenplay: Ben Hibon
    Concept and Storyboard: Ben Hibon

    Animation House: Axis Animation
    Executive Producers: Imke Ferhmann, Richard Scott
    Development Producer: Sam McCarthy
    Line Producer: Laura Seymour, Tracey Paddison
    Technical Director: Stuart Aitken
    Modellers: Sergio Caires, Ray Slattery, Mark Brumby, Franco Bresciani, Ian Brown, Graham McKenna, Jan Almqvist
    Junior Modeller: Dave Cleland
    Rigger & TD: Jackub Krompolc, Franco Bresciani
    Animators: Cath Brooks, Joe Smith, Steve Townrow, Karin Mattson, Jan Almqvist
    Lighting & Compositing: Graham McKennna, John Barclay, Sergio Caires, Carlos Corriera, Nuno Conceicao

    Post Production House: The Mill
    2D Producer: Lee Pavey
    3D Producer: Stefanie Boose
    TK Producer: Eva Marie Daniels
    CG Animation & FX: Andrew Proctor
    Inferno Artist: Stefan Coory
    Colourist: James Bamford
    • Watch Codehunters - 320 x 180px
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    • Download Torrent File - 480 x 270px
    (Movie: 78Mb / torrent: 6Kb)
    • MTV Asia
    • Blinkink
    • AXIS Animation
    • Stateless Films
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