The Olympians was an idea for a short we have had since late 2011. The idea came from a book that Karl (@karlmaddix) was reading at the time Ilium which sees the Gods of Olympus set in a very different time and place. As the Olympics was fast approaching we thought it might be really interesting to have the Greek Gods duking it out in modern London and thus The Olympians was born.
We live, work and play in London so we wanted to capture some of the paradoxical vibes you get with this wonderful city like classic historical architecture such as Tower bridge clashing with modern architecture like the Shard. We went through many iterations of the storyboards until we had a sequence that we felt represented parts of London we are very fond with but kept up the pace and flow of the action as much as possible . We also wanted to highlight key Olympic events like the triple jump over Tower bridge, shot put from Hades throwing the meteor, hurdles once again from Hades on the train track and finally the javelin from Zeus which morphs into a pole vault for Olympia in the last sequence.
Here we have a version of the winged boots gifted by Hermes. But we had to cut it as Hermes imbalanced the story. Would have been cool though!
And lastly, some early concept art of Poseidon. As he is one of the main Gods we wanted to feature him in the Thames. But we couldn’t really find a good fit in the story without disrupting the pacing, so sadly he had to be cut . We love Poseidon, he rocks!
Our original inspiration for the look and feel came from Constructivism and the Vorticists. After some research we soon feel in love with the incredible illustrations by Zaha Hadid . Her drawings pretty much captured the urban, fractual, low poly style we were looking for.
The character design was a bit more fluid and drew from inspirations such as Aeon flux and the animated short from the Animatrix “World Record“. With our heroine, we wanted a lithe, almost panther like character, with a long and muscular frame.
Olympia herself is based on real life demi-goddess and gold medallist Jessica Ennis, but given how amazingly well Team GB’s Women did during the Games, we dedicate the film to them as a whole.
With Hades we wanted an “anti-Olympic” character. We began with the version (above) which was inspired by the Demon Aku from Samurai Jack (which we are big fans off). But as we went through various iterations of his character he began to turn into someone who’s ideas and actions subvert the positive, athletic aspect of the games. With that we made him obese, ugly and damn right nasty. Him being fat and puffy fitted nicely with thunder clouds, so we combined them both. The thunder and lightning was used to communicate when he gets angry or upset in the story.
Developing the style in 3D was quite a challenge and took many iterations before we were happy with it. We love the fractual, low poly style that has become quite popular as it feels very raw, like the first stages of a sculpt. What this imposes is a strict appreciation for shape and form so we had to make damn sure our characters and architecture felt good and animated smoothly.
When you apply the low poly fractual effect to organic things like water and smoke, you start to get some really interesting effects happening. For example, our puddle splash shot.
Smoke was also a major challenge. We used DPIT Effex in Cinema4D which has an effect called mesher. This essentially creates a mesh from particles. By cranking down the quality and effecting the particles with forces like wind and gravity we were able to get the effect we wanted.
And lastly, here is a step by step breakdown of one of the shots.
One of decisions we made early on was for the story to happen in daylight. We have seen some great low-poly 3D shorts set at night to create shape and lighting contrast. By setting it at dawn, we could explore the lovely pinks and oranges offset against cool glass and concrete in the city along with it feeling almost dreamlike, the gods fighting over London in an ethereal dimension. This led to a lot of work with the lighting and rendering, using Cinema4D and Vray along with heavy post in Aftereffects to get the right look and feel.