Rollin Safari

CGSociety :: Production Focus

29 January 2013, by Paul Hellard

Visuals of an African chase in the wild conjures up the depiction of sublime native animals in mortal combat. A spectacle some cannot watch for long, but others can’t peel their eyes from it. These scenes are somehow different.

“Our initial idea was to tell a high-speed chase, but just a little different to known scenarios. Imagine the story of a hunter pursuing a fat, rolling deer in the forest. We thought that would be hilarious,” Producer Philipp Wolf says. “We loved the idea of rollin' animals so much, we decided the hunter should be an animal as well! That's even more hilarious! It would also take place in the Savannah because it gives a bigger choice of typical wildlife hunting scenes.”

Rollin’ Safari was a student project, produced as part of the Subject Area Animation at the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction. The production concept was started by Kyra Buschor and Constantin Paeplow who collectively came up in October 2011 with the idea of the bloated animals. In November when the development of the initial idea was done, Ännie Habermehl joined the team and the team started developing the short clips. There was only six months from the initial idea to the final product. “Without our technical directors it would not have been possible,” states Philipp Wolf. “Thomas Hartmann did shading, lighting, rendering and the water. Sascha Langer and Christoph Westphal did the rigging, while David Kirchner and Markus Kranzler did the dust effects. There was an awesome team working on the compositing, motion-design, sound, music and our production department.”


In beginning to create the characters in the short action, the crew knew they had to compromise a little. The animals had to appear enough like their natural counterparts with all the nuances and seriousness of an attack, and an exaggerated version of the same action. “It was a huge challenge to walk along that line. It was an important part of the storytelling that they didn’t behave like an animated animal until the attack and punchline,” explains Wolf.


The characters were all digitally created in Photoshop. After all of this, the three artists were pretty sure about their concept design and so started sculpting the characters using ZBrush and added a clean topology in 3D Coat. For the rigging it was important that the bloated body always stayed like it was and it didn’t deform itself. “As we liked to give the animals a stylized fur-look without using actual hair or fur simulations, we came up with the idea of having a second ‘hull’ around the mesh - which we used to place a painted fur-texture as an alpha. The result was a soft structure on the surface without having the uneven effect of a bump-map,” chimes in one or two of the directors in the background.

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The films were mainly animated, rendered and lit in Maya, while ZBrush and Mudbox were used for the textures and small details of the grasses and water. Everything further located from the camera was painted as one huge matte painting using Photoshop and then projected behind the scenery. The rendering was done using Mentalcore and the compositing using NUKE.

“Honestly, the biggest challenge was the timing,” explains Wolf. “where to place the punch line to get the biggest response? We figured out the timing issues using the animatic, then the next technical challenge was rigging the spherical animals, as they had to be quite flexible in their movement. We needed to have the ability to move the whole legs along the spherical body. The solution was to leave off the spine and place the shoulder-attachment right in the center of the sphere, so they could rotate around it.

Kyra Buschor, Constantin Paeplow and Anna Habermehl have all been studying 3D animation at Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, and all took a year off from studies in 2012. Anna Habermehl went on a creative journey through Australia and New Zealand, while Kyra Buschor and Constantin Paeplow did a creative journey on their own. These trailers were not only choosen by FMX ( as their introduction trailers but also by the Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film ( They founded together with Philipp Wolf a company called ‘Flying Stone GbR’ with the goal of developing Rollin’ Safari into a trans medial experience called Rollin’ Wild (

In the category of 'Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project', at the Visual Effects Society Awards on February 5, two FMX trailers are up for an award: The FMX 2012 trailer Globosome, created by Sascha Geddert and his team, and the FMX 2013 trailer Rollin' Safari, directed by Kyra Buschor, Ännie Habermehl and Constantin Paeplow, produced by Valentina Bruening and Philipp Wolf. Both trailers have been created by students of the Institute of Animation, Effects and Digital Postproduction at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.

Here the full credit list:
Directors: Kyra Buschor, Anna Habermehl, Constantin Paeplow.
Producers: Valentina Brüning, Anna Habermehl, Philipp Wolf.
Animation: Kyra Buschor, Anna Habermehl, Constantin Paeplow.
Camera/DoP: Chris McKissick.
Character Design: Kyra Buschor.
Technical Directors: Thomas Hartmann, Sascha Langer, Markus Kranzler Christoph Westphal, David Kirchner.
Effects: Thomas Hartmann, David Kirchner, Markus Kranzler.
Music: Stephan Schelens.
Sound: Nami Strack.
Voice Actors: Ferdinand Engländer, Gottfried Mentor.
Compositing: Johannes Peter, Constantin Paeplow, Christoph Westphal.
Editing: Anna Habermehl, Kyra Buschor, Constantin Paeplow.

Copyright Filmakademie, 2012