Tuesday, September 15th, 2020 by Julian Karsunky
This month sees the return of our good friend Pedro Conti, and he is sure to put a smile on your face once again! Following his acclaimed work on ‘In my Heart’ last year, the Brazilian 3D artist recently co-produced the latest music video for none other than U.S. superstar Katy Perry, putting his entire country on the back in the process.
Join us as we check up on Pedro and discuss his involvement in an exceptional project in detail.
Hi Pedro, thanks for joining us once again, we’re so glad to have you back! How are you doing?
Hi there, thank you so much for having me again! These are difficult times for everyone, but things are well over here. Since the world is in so much pain right now, I’m trying my best to use my craft to inspire and uplift people. It’s a great moment for art to shine, that’s my silver lining during all of this!
Last we spoke, you had just joined forces with Fernando Peque and founded Flooul Animation, following a fruitful collaboration on a music video. Please tell us all about your new studio and what happened in the meantime!
When we released ‘In my Heart’ last year, everything was happening fast and spontaneous. Fernando and me had this idea of a collective/studio for a while and we’re still figuring out where to go from here. Both of us are still freelancing, producing films through Flooul from time to time.
How are you holding up in these trying times? Has the current crisis impeded your work?
COVID changed the plans we had for our studio, but we still managed to keep busy, which I’m very grateful for! Like everything else, the animation industry was affected eventually, but not as much as other areas, I feel. We spent the first four months of the year planning, trying to figure out how to get things going with Flooul, but then the crisis forced us to take a step back. Still, life is full of surprises and in the middle of everything going on, we were provided an incredible opportunity!
Right, the main reason for this interview! Once more, you worked on a music video, this time for American pop superstar Katy Perry. Can you first of all describe, how you came to be involved with this project?
Joe Burrascano, founder and CEO of Nathan Love, saw the work we did on ‘In my Heart’ and invited me to co-produce Katy Perry’s new music video ‘Smile’ in just six weeks. Though I should mention that we have known and trusted each other for many years, and had already worked together in the past many times. Basically, he just randomly called me up on a Thursday and told me about the project. As you can imagine, all of us were absolutely thrilled, but it was a bit scary, too. Little time later, he called again, saying we got the job, and we started working on the very same day!
To help Katy Perry get back “that smile”, Pedro joined forces with Nathan Love and Little Zoo.
Looking at the credits, ‘Smile’ is clearly the result of a combined effort of many different parties. Please tell us more about the people involved, the responsibilities of Flooul Animation and your role as producer in particular.
It was indeed a group effort to get the project done. This project was a collaboration between Nathan Love, Flooul Animation and Little Zoo, not to mention all the people involved with the live action parts of the video, of course. While the team at Nathan Love was responsible for the creative direction, we contributed to the visual development and handled big parts of the 3D production, including design, all character and environment development, look development, lighting, effects, rendering and comp. Little Zoo took care of the animation.
We had a lot of work on our plate here. So as a producer, I was managing the budget and putting together a team to achieve the best possible results. Since we are a small studio, I was also supervising the CG, modeling, lookdev and lighting. It was indeed a challenging project for us as a studio, and I had my hands full for the entirety of the production.
Working remotely with so many companies involved seems challenging. Can you briefly walk us through the organizational process?
Trying to mix and match pipelines and workflows from different companies is always a bit scary, but once we had everything figured out, things went pretty smooth. Last year, we worked on a similarly structured project, so we were familiar with the process and knew how to handle things on our side. We used Google Drive File Stream to have all the files in one place, it’s pretty much the same as using a regular server, with everyone having remote access. For us, the only thing that was important was the animated meshes: since we at Flooul didn’t have to work in Maya directly, we used Alembic to export the animation caches.
As an industry veteran, does working for such a famous client still excite you or is it simply another job?
Working with the likes of Katy Perry, director Mathew Cullen and industry heavyweights Nathan Love and Little Zoo was a surreal experience, no doubt. Still, for me, the most exciting part was to bring a project like this to be co-produced in my home country of Brazil. Our domestic industry is very small, with most of the available work being related to commercials. Having the opportunity to collaborate with major U.S. studios and a world-famous pop musician is a huge step! A high-profile job as this would lend us an entirely different level of credibility, and we were all very eager to show what we’re capable of. That really made the project even more special – as if working on a Katy Perry music video wasn’t enough!
Sorria sempre: no matter the circumstances, talking to Pedro is always such an uplifting experience!
Was there a noticeable or significant difference in terms of scale, client expectations or your overall approach compared to other projects?
Oh, definitely! Due to the massive size of the project, the only way to meet the deadline was to skip parts of our usual design process and shift our workflow forward, figuring everything out in 3D as we pushed forward. So, from the beginning we had to make sure all of our efforts were concentrated on what we actually see on the screen.
While we were confident in our abilities to make it happen, we had to convince everyone else that this method would work. Thankfully, I had a lot of support and trust from the team at Nathan Love, and were given a lot of freedom in handling the 3D production!
How close did you work with the director and the overseeing production company for the CGI sequences? Were you provided a complete script or fleshed out character designs?
We worked very closely with animation producer and director Joe Burrascano and the team at Nathan Love. The designs were a collaborative process and the result of an ongoing conversation. For most of the characters, environments and lighting, we began by blocking in 3D based on storyboards, sketches, photos and other references. Following consultations with our partners, we then refined and iterated upon the designs.
In terms of design, animation and VFX, what aspects were particularly important or required extra attention?
We wanted every moment to be as unique and flavorful as possible, so we tried to give every single frame an equal amount of polish. With that said, the lighting was rather challenging, since we wanted to have this big dynamic from sequence to sequence.
What other challenges did you face during production and how did you overcome them?
Considering the intense deadline of just six weeks, I’d say the whole project was on the challenging side. We had around 18 character, five sets, 15 completely different lighting setups and 45 shots. There was no time for mistakes, so we had to be aware at all times, always making sure things were moving according to plan. To be honest, I’m still somewhat surprised we accomplished what we did!
Combining a video game aesthetic with a circus setting meant a lot of quirky and colorful characters and backdrops.
What software did you use for this project?
The project was done in 3ds Max, V-Ray, Ornatrix and Multiscatter. The comp was done in After Effects. The Animation and rigging was done in Maya, though we didn’t get to use that on our angle.
How did RebusFarm factor into your workflow for this particular project?
It was an amazing experience! We started rendering through RebusFarm during the first days of production, testing the pipeline and tools that we were using. We got in touch with the support to get an update for Ornatrix, which was promptly provided. After a few days, we had ironed out all the initial bumps and everything was working perfectly smooth from there.
We rendered the entire film, almost 45 shots in total, in a week and half, and pricing was more than reasonable. This also marked the first time I used the new render manager, which features render previews and the option to play an image sequence directly in the browser. So, I have nothing but good things to say. In fact, I would go so far and say it wouldn’t have been possible to complete this project without you guys!
At the time of writing, the video has 13 million views on YouTube alone. How does this make you feel and what has the feedback been like so far?
That is pretty crazy! The feedback we have received so far has been overwhelmingly positive, everyone loves it. I’ve seen next to no negative comments, which is a very rare occurrence on the internet nowadays. All in all, it was a really fun ride and I think the whole team is extremely proud of what we accomplished together.
Firing a CG Katy Perry from a cannon is not exactly an everyday occurrence, so Pedro and his team made sure to give it their best shot.
How much lasting exposure does a high-profile job such as this actually provide? What is next for Flooul Animation?
A project with this kind of visibility allows us to show what we are capable not only to industry insiders, but to the public at large as well. Moving forward, the idea is to keep making art that inspires people one way or another. We are currently working on a few short films, though realizing these projects is a struggle still, as we are financing them ourselves. Nonetheless, our goal for the future remains the same: connect with people from all over the world through our work!
In conclusion, is there anything else want to say? Any plugs, shoutouts or upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
I would like to thank you guys for supporting the project and continuing to provide all these amazing opportunities. I also want to thank Joe Burrascano and the entire team at Nathan Love for their trust and support. Every single artist that worked on the production was crucial to make this happen, really. Shoutouts to my buddy Victor Hugo Queiroz, who supervised the production with me, to Gustavo Ribeiro and, last but certainly not least, to my wife Karina for the amazing support.
Pedro, thank you very much for once again taking the time and all the best in the future!
Keep up with Pedro Conti’s work here:
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