Background models for the pilot

We’ve now started working on the assets
for the “on Earth” shots in the pilot episode. These models are often
not as glamorous, but they take a lot of work, and are very necessary
for the plot. We’re also working towards preparing production rigs for
animated our characters. We also need HELP on character modeling, if you
have Blender character modeling skills, can follow a modeling style
concept, and would like to get involved.


Baikonur, Kazkhstan: 2040

The pilot for Lunatics is an unusual episode in several ways. One is
that it starts on Earth, in the wide-open deserts of western Kazakhstan,
and in the somewhat bizarre little spaceport town of Baikonur, which
has an odd combination of small desert town, fossils of Soviet-era
progressivism and propaganda, and a working town, supported largely by
the space industry and related tourism. Our vision for 2040 is mostly
optimistic — slight improvements here and there, but mostly still the
sleepy town that it is today.

In order to realize this, we are modeling just a few iconic parts of the town, notably the
Stele to Science and Space” (which also acts as a scene transition), the
Cosmonaut / Baikonur Town Monument” (I’m not sure what the proper name for this
is, but there’s a large bas-relief relating to spaceflight, and a stele with words which I’m
told translate roughly to “Glory to the conquerors of space”).
There’s also the train station (though we’re going to futurize it a bit), a marketplace with a
souvenir shop, and the park behind the Cosmonaut Hotel with the
“cosmonaut trees” — part of the rituals associated with going into
space Russian style.

We also have to model parts of the spaceport itself, including the interior set for the
“Aquarium” room and the exterior of Building 254 where the final launch prep is done.

For both the town and the spaceport, the exterior locations will be
“double-set-models” with a main “foreground” set where all the character
action takes place, and a larger, but much simpler “background” or
“context” set which fills in the background vegetation and buildings and
so forth.

Sathish Kumar, our principle set modeler, and his Spark Multimedia
studio is starting on the foreground sets. Meanwhile, I’m starting work
on the background sets. The image associated with this article is a
render of a proof-of-principle test I did based on the setting for the
“Stele to Science and Space”. The monument itself is missing, but this
fills in features from the park and surrounding buildings. My plan is to
render these elements with cel-shading, but no outlines, since they are
meant to be perceived as part of the background plate, with a focus on
color rather than definition of details.

Character Preparation

Bela Szabo has been continuing to work on the major characters. He
has finished models for Georgiana, Hiromi, Tim, Josh, Anya, and Sergei.
Which leaves Rob, Allen, and Sarah of the main characters (the
colonists). None of these characters are rigged for production animation
yet (Bela created a simple rig for Georgiana for the “Soyuz Launch
Demo”, but it was not really a full rig).

I’m working with Gorka Mendieta on the process for creating our rigs
with consistent controls to make animation more uniform over all of
them. We’re looking to the Blender Cookie “Flexi-Rig” by Nathan Vegdahl
and Beorn Leonard for our lead on this. It’s not clear to me yet whether
this means actually using that rig or just being “compatible” with it. But we are
trying to take advantage of shared community resources as much as we

Tying into an existing teaching rig like the Flexi-Rig would have
some nice advantages. For one thing, our characters would operate just
like the ones in the training course, and so any amateur animator who
had taken it would already know how to manipulate our characters. For
another, there may be scripts developed that target the rig — like
Konstantin Dmetriev’s lip-syncing script for the Flexi-Rig, which is
based on the Papagayo lip-syncing aid, which we could then use.

We are a still a LONG way short of having ALL of the characters for
the pilot ready. There is a secondary tier of important character models
to create, some of which will be used throughout the series, and we
need a lot of “walk ons” (brief speaking parts or close-ups) and
“extras” (background/crowd characters, no lines) for the pilot

So we are also looking for additional character modelers now!

This would be a terrific opportunity to demonstrate your skill at
character modeling in Blender, and at following the stylistic lead of
other artists — both Bela Szabo’s existing models and Daniel Fu’s
character modelsheets. These are important skills in a studio/team
environment, so it should look good on your resume and/or demo reel. I
regret that, as we are all working as volunteers at this point, I can’t
offer any up-front pay, although of course, all contributors will be
included in our “pay the artists” profit-sharing breakdown, according to
how much is contributed.

I’ll be posting a more detailed call for character models soon, but
if you are interested, please contact us! You can email Terry Hancock at
either “digitante at gmail dot com” OR “auditions at anansispaceworks
dot com”.

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Terry Hancock is the director and producer of "Lunatics!" and the founder for "Lunatics Project" and the associated "Film Freedom" Project. Misskey (Professional/Director Account) Mastodon (Personal Account)