Bringing Much More Than Ideas to Life With Maxon One

Bringing Much More Than Ideas to Life With Maxon One

How Something’s Awry Productions created a magical love story for Maxon’s spring 2024 release.

In this article, Mike Hoium, a Maxon One user and 3D artist, explores how Something’s Awry Productions created a magical love story for Maxon’s spring 2024 release.

If a picture is worth more than a thousand words, a compelling visual story is priceless. So when Maxon released Cinema 4D Particles in April, we asked Something’s Awry Productions to create something magical. The result was an emotional tale of a young inventor in her steampunk-inspired workshop surrounded by mystical orbs, working to bring her beloved dog back in the only way she knew how.

We talked with Something’s Awry Lead Animator Kris Theorin about the short, including how he used the Maxon’s new particle system and other tools to bring the story to life.

Tell us a bit about your process.

Theorin: Maxon approached us with an outline of a story, and we had a short turnaround time to get creative with it visually. We thought a long, single take of the inventor in her workshop, culminating in the revival of her childhood pet was the most efficient and emotionally effective way to tell the story.

Once we decided on that direction, we had free rein to be creative. With the help of our awesome concept artist, Nadia Meezen, we came up with a wonderfully cluttered, yet practical steampunk-inspired workshop and a steampunk inventor to match. Our partners at Toonz Animation India modeled all the characters and the workshop, so we could focus on texturing and rigging characters.

Our producer Amy Theorin kept everything on track and coordinated the various teams and freelancers who contributed to the production. Kurtis Theorin adapted the script into an efficient 30-second short we could complete within the timeline.

Can you tell us a bit about the role of motion capture?

Theorin: Capturing the movements of our inventor using Noitom’ Perception Neuron 3 suit allowed us to complete the entire animation in two days as opposed to two weeks. And that extra time truly came in handy because rendering times were challenging, and we had to stay on track to meet the deadline for Maxon’s release.

This project certainly pushed the boundaries of my knowledge of cleaning up mocap data. With the Perception mocap suit, I'm often able to take the raw data I get and assign it to my character without much adjustment. In this case, with the character interacting with so many scene objects, I had to sort out a usable technique for blending motion capture data with IK animation. It was particularly challenging when the character picked objects up and attached them to other animated objects.

Can you describe how you used the new C4D particle system?

Theorin: We designed the entire animation around the new C4D particle system, and the whole workshop was filled with magical energy orbs used to power various electronics. It was the perfect way for the character to bring the dog to life and really showcased the particle system.

Cinema 4D Particles is easy to use and we were fortunate that the Maxon team helped us craft the look of the orbs. While I am by no means an expert at this point, I was able to jump right into the new particle system and start designing some looks that appealed to me. The final design of the orbs came from the team over at Maxon, and we modified them further to look as cool as possible, adding a healthy amount of refraction, dispersion, and glows to achieve the final look.

What other tools played an important role in the project?

Theorin: Maxon products were used throughout production, from ZBrush to model the characters, Cinema 4D with Redshift to create and render the animation, and Red Giant plugins to bring it all together in After Effects. Tools such as Real Lens Flares and Optical Glow were especially handy when it came time to give the workshop its final look.

And with a project filled with so much camera movement, Cineware really helped us import the C4D project file into After Effects and seamlessly extract cameras and nulls, which was invaluable for adding fog cards and lens flares.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about digital storytelling?

Theorin: If there's one thing I've learned about digital storytelling and sharing my animations online, it's the need to keep things short and interesting. This is a double-edged sword in some ways, of course. If you're able to create a clip that gets right to the point, catches someone’s attention on Instagram, and doesn't overstay its welcome, you're more likely to engage an online audience.

But catching and holding the attention of someone scrolling through Instagram is easier said than done and if you compress your animations too much, you sacrifice the story. So I create shorter clips as a means of cultivating an audience for my longer form shorts. But as with anything on social media, even those are their own balancing act!