How CINEMA 4D helped bring a historic battle to life in a new feature-length documentary, Tobago 1677. Trinidad and Tobago-based studio Eye
Scream Animation reveals all.
More than 3 centuries ago, 2 European nations fought one of history’s bloodiest battles over Tobago, a tiny Caribbean island just north of South America. Now, German production company Oceans Discovery Ltd., tells the story of the epic land and sea battle between the Dutch and French in a new feature-length documentary called Tobago 1677.
Relying primarily on CINEMA 4D, After Effects and V-Ray, Lewis and his team were charged with recreating battle scenes on land, as well as a 300-year-old town and fort”
Trinidad and Tobago-based studio Eye Scream Animation was a leading contributor to the film with founder Brett Lewis heading up a team of 6 designers. Relying primarily on CINEMA 4D, After Effects and V-Ray, Lewis and his team were charged with recreating battle scenes on land, as well as a 300-year-old town and fort, with only a few sketches, paintings and a modern-day topographical map for reference.
Though they had been doing 3D animations for advertising and architectural visualizations for 13 years, this was Eye Scream’s first foray into animating battle scenes and enhancing re-enactments and they were excited about the opportunity, Lewis recalls.
True to life
Director Rick Haupt wanted to achieve an authentic look and feel, so he opted to bring the production to Trinidad and Tobago and included as many local creative firms as possible. After meeting with Lewis and discussing their shared vision and passion for the subject, Haupt brought the studio onto the project even though they had limited experience with creating animations for feature-length films.
While Eye Scream worked to show the town and fort before and after the deadly battles, Bristol, England-based animation and VFX house 422 South, the primary firm on the project, handled scenes of the ships, as well as sea battles.
At various points during the project, Lewis and his team collaborated with 422 South by sharing assets. For example, Eye Scream provided fluid simulations of cannon smoke to 422 South and in return they were sent ship models that they rendered and placed onto cards so the ships could be seen in the distance in some of the shots.
“Though they were not familiar with CINEMA 4D, Lewis got them up to speed
fast using online tutorials”
Knowing that creating 6 minutes of footage, including 30 shots, in 4 months was a tall order for Eye Scream Animation’s small team of 3 artists, Lewis brought 6 animation students from the University of Trinidad and Tobago to help out.
Though they were not familiar with CINEMA 4D, Lewis got them up to speed fast using online tutorials. “The guys got oriented on Monday and by Wednesday, they were kicking out houses, shacks, weapons and even digital soldiers – full-character body sculpts,” Lewis recalls. “We were so proud that with just a little direction, so much could be possible.”
“MoGraph was used to clone different characters and place them around the battlefield and throughout the town”
Creating a world
To create the characters, Eye Scream started with rough polygon models, which they refined using C4D R14’s sculpting tools. In all, they made 12 characters that looked like 20 thanks to variations in texture mapping. To help the team stay on deadline, all of the characters were rigged and animated the same way, allowing Eye Scream to copy and paste key frames as needed.
MoGraph was used to clone different characters and place them around the battlefield and throughout the town. To streamline battle sequences, Lewis and his team used a few identically rigged soldiers and then animated different actions that could be randomized as needed. For example, a man could run a few steps, stop, shoot and then get shot in the leg or head and fall to the ground. In all, Eye Scream recreated the killing of 200 men on the battlefield.
MoGraph was also used to clone bushes, shrubs, trees, rocks, people and even birds seen in various shots. While they modeled some plants, they also used HQ Plants, as well as SpeedTree to simulate wind in the palm trees. Additional texturing was done using BodyPaint 3D and Photoshop and After Effects was used for compositing. Matte paintings were created with C4D’s Projection Man.
Eye Scream relied on Jawset’s Turbulence 4D for the climactic scene in which the fort is destroyed in a huge explosion. “We pre-shattered the fort walls with a plug-in called Xplode and modeled some bricks, rafters and other things as debris,” Lewis recalls. Final shots were rendered in CINEMA 4D’s physical renderer or V-Ray.
Lewis says that working on Tobago 1677 has been ‘a game-changer’ for Eye Scream Animation because now “I can see that we are capable of anything, and I can only imagine what we might be doing this time next year.” The film is scheduled to air this year on SkyTV, Europe.