Emmy-winning VFX artist Kevin Kutchaver has joined with The Digital Animation and Visual Effects School to produce “Captain Sternn,” an animated short based on the popular anti-hero from the 1981 feature, “Heavy Metal.”
Kutchaver, a seasoned VFX artist whose credits include Return of the Jedi, Ghostbusters II, The Adams Family, and all three Robocop movies, co-founded Flat Earth Productions in the 1990’s and went on to create visual effects for television shows such as Hercules, Xena and most recently, the Emmy Award-winning ABC hit drama, LOST, for which he won the 2005 Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series.
Kutchaver, a long-time fan of illustrator Bernie Wrightson (whose work includes the critically acclaimed graphic novels Frankenstein and Swamp Thing), approached the artist about turning Captain Sternn into an animated series.· Wrightson loved the idea; however studio development executives weren’t so quick to sign off.· They wanted to see a sample.· “I offered to do it with hand puppets but they wouldn’t go for it,” joked Kutchaver.· That’s when he turned to the DAVE School.
“The DAVE School is one of the leading Animation/VFX schools in the world,” said Kutchaver.· “They have a reputation for producing talented artists who are prepared for the challenges faced during actual production.”
Kutchaver met with Executive Director, Steve Warner, who loved the idea of creating a Captain Sternn teaser and green-lit the project for the school’s Block 4 Production class.· “We are very proud to be working with Kevin and Bernie on this project,” said Warner.· “Both are amazing artists who bring a lot of experience to the table.· Having Kevin on-site to guest direct the project has been incredible.· The students are extremely fortunate to be working with him on such a high-profile project.”
The current Block 4 students are creating all aspects of the three minute stereoscopic CG production, from pre-viz and staging to final stereo comps. “The students are doing a great job,” said Kutchaver.· “I couldn’t be happier with their attitude, commitment and quality of work.· Bringing Sternn to life has been a long-time dream.· Thanks to The DAVE School, that dream is finally becoming a reality.”
Recently, former instructor for The DAVE School and LightWave evangelist, William Vaughan was featured in Computer Graphics World for his creation of Tofu the Vegan Zombie.· Vaughan utilized the student body of 20 block 4 students over a two and a half month period to complete the animated short.· With extreme deadlines, a huge work load and tremendous attention to detail, the students stepped up to the challenge presented to them by Vaughan.
Vaughan explains why and how The DAVE School students became involved in the project.· Below are a few of the words he used to express their involvement in the article:
“The fourth star ascended at The DAVE School, where Vaughan was teaching. Earlier, New Line Cinema had optioned the Teddy Scares property, but the deal had fallen through. So Vaughan suggested that DiDomenico and Nannay let the students at the school create an animated short starring their Teddy Scare characters. “It was a good opportunity for them, and a good opportunity for the school, since it was such a fantastic property to work with,” he says. (Every year, the class is divided into groups, with each tasked to complete an animation project prior to graduation.) So, under Vaughan’s instruction, a class at the DAVE School created an animated short centered on the Teddy Scares, using LightWave along with Adobe’s After Effects for compositing.”
“The Long (and Short) of It Eventually, Tofu and his zombie cast became fodder for a class as well. “Tofu is very special to me, and I didn't plan on it being done at the DAVE School. The students do really good work, but I had decided that I would rather not have them make the short unless it was exactly what I wanted. But, I had this one class and knew that if anyone could do it, they would be the ones to pull it off,” Vaughan says. “And they did. I was blown away by their work.” Thus the students became the fifth star in the Tofu constellation.”
“The sheer number of assets in the short is astounding—the fully furnished rooms in the house, the fully stocked lab, the book-filled library, the food-laden dining room. Throughout, there are statues, paintings, ornate mirrors, and more; if you look closely, you can even see a replica of Vaughan’s head in a jar on a shelf and a few Teddy Scares here and there. Perhaps even more astounding is that the students were able to complete the work in just two and a half months. “The deadline was crazy, but I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity so that if we got picked up for a TV show or movie, we would have a lot of the assets to work with,” says Vaughan.”
“According to Vaughan, the students did not cut any corners in the production. “You are handed a team—one that never made a movie before—and you are at their mercy in terms of the quality [of animation] they produce,” says Vaughan. However, while Vaughan and another instructor, Lee Stringer, were devising the script, they didn't steer clear of any concept, model, or scene. “There was not a single thing that we said, ‘No, we can’t do that because the students wouldn't be able to handle it.’ In fact, it was just the opposite. We said, ‘We are going to make them handle this.’ ” Vaughan recalls.”
“Lee and I pushed them hard. We told them this was their job. We were preparing them for production,” says Vaughan. “What you see in the short is 100 percent of what they did in those two and a half months. We didn't make any changes [to the finished animation.]” Approximately 20 students worked on the short.
If you would like to read the article in its entirety, visit Computer Graphics World
To watch, Tofu the Vegan Zombie: Zombie Dearest:
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