Wednesday, 22 November 2023
We chat with Nejc Polovsak about his latest personal project “Birth”. Inspired by the upcoming birth of his son and almost a decade of projects, like Mothership and Pause Fest ident, Nejc went back to bringing another creature to life in his own unique way. “Birth” is an enchanting journey, celebrating the birth of a mythical being - a visual ode to the magic of new life.
Hi Nejc, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Before we discuss your recent project, 'Birth,' could you introduce yourself?
First of all, thank you for reaching out and for your interest in doing this case study. My name is Nejc (pronounced as "Nate's"). I am a director and designer based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I'm 38 years old, and I found my passion for 3D roughly 19 years ago, which means I've been doing this for half of my life. I was studying computer science, but a friend introduced me to 3D. At first it didn't seem anything special to me, but after I realized it opens the door to create pretty much anything you can imagine, I was hooked and fell in love with learning it. It's hard for me to explain it, but I felt the urge to understand it and start creating. It was a hobby for me, and I am self-taught.
I always loved to share my work and experiments online, and during my studies, I got a chance to join a local company/startup, so I started working quite early on before even finishing my studies. Computer science wasn't the right path to continue for me. After four years there, mainly doing game graphics and some commercial projects, I wanted to do more motion graphics and animation.
At first, I started looking for full-time roles abroad, but I also started getting offers to work on freelance jobs. The whole freelance thing happened to me naturally, I enjoyed working with different people and the endless opportunities that kind of work can present. Now, after roughly twelve and a half years of being freelance and countless amazing collaborations, I'm super grateful for the opportunities I got, working with world-class studios like Tendril, Buck, and FutureDeluxe and clients such as Nike, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and Nvidia.
So, we wanted to chat about your latest project,' Birth.' This short piece introduces us to an environment that appears underwater and almost alien, with wavy coral and spores. We then move on to an egg opening. Can you walk us through these first few shots and tell us your inspiration for these opening scenes?
That first egg shot (the second shot of the film) was something I developed pretty early on. The whole process of working on this film was very organic and natural. I had a rough concept idea, but I knew I had to find a good art direction first. So, my first task was to design a creature and create an environment where it could come from. The first idea was that the whole film would happen underwater, but through some experimentation, I decided to end it above water and for the film to have two environments. It felt natural to me that the creature comes from some bubble/egg. After experimenting with the bubbles, I came up with the concept that the bubble is "housed" somewhere before release. An actual flower shape inspired the egg shape. It's a type of eucalyptus flower, and when I saw that, I immediately thought of that being an excellent place to start and where this creature could come from.
What was your process, and what tools did you use to realize this enchanting environment and the fauna?
I worked with Cinema 4D and a bit of Houdini for these shots. After I had the egg in place and was happy with it, I built an environment around it, with rocks, corals, and plants, most of which come from Megascans library but are edited a bit. Many were hand-placed or instanced in specific areas until the scene and composition felt good.
Lighting was crucial; I wanted to get the feeling of sun rays shining through the water, so using fog volumes was an important part, too. The film was rendered with Redshift. After I had established a look of the environment, particles/air bubbles followed and there are tons of them here. From the ones in the simple environment to the ones on the egg being spawned when it opens, to the ones emitted from the tendril-like plants. It all worked together.
A particularly poignant shot is where the top of the egg brushes through the fauna within as spores simultaneously float off. Can you tell us how you created this effect and the environment in the scene?
The central part of the simulation for this shot was done in Houdini and brought into Cinema 4D. Essentially, we have the top part of the egg colliding with tendrils on the inside. After getting such a clean simulation, I decided to make a close-up shot, as watching it felt pretty satisfying. Adding particles/air bubbles followed; the main ones were emitted from the edges of the egg. One crucial thing I did with particles to make them feel underwater was advecting them with smoke. So, for particle simulations to behave the way I wanted, almost every scene required smoke simulation, which is not visible in the render. Still, it advects / moves particles in an underwater-like fashion. Smoke is usually emitted from the same surface as particles and is there to move particles around as turbulence does.
We love how the egg bursts open and the environment around it is affected by this, mainly how the camera pans to the water's surface to reveal bubbles from what's happening below. We're then met with a nice shot of waves lapping over rocks. How did you create the fluid simulations in these scenes?
Fluids are made with X-Particles. Sadly, I did these before NeXus. Otherwise, I'd love to approach it by simulating on GPU, as these two shots were quite heavy to simulate. Fluid particles use xpFluidFX modifiers to give them water-like properties, with xpWave on top to simulate wave forces and xpFoam to emit foam particles on top of the water surface. Shots also use the xpWetMap tag to get rocks to appear like they're wet from the water.
Fluid particles use xpFluidFX modifiers to give them water-like properties, with xpWave on top to simulate wave forces.
Overall, the setup is relatively straightforward; it requires an emitter and container for the water and the collider. In my case, those were rocks. It was very tricky getting the resolution of the simulation right so it meshed well. Meshing was another tricky part of the process, trying to nail the balance between density and different filters applied on top. Overall, I'm still not happy with the outcome, but since it was a personal project, I had to stop and say it's good enough to communicate what's going on.
After the wave scene, we meet the mystical creature born beneath the ocean. There is some lovely animation in this final reveal. Can you briefly explain what elements of INSYDIUM Fused you used in this scene and how?
In the final shot, Fused was used for the environment with TerraformFX tools. It allowed me to come up with shapes that work well for the background hills and mountains and terrain beneath the creature. I procedurally sculpt shapes with C4D's Fields and add modifiers like Thermal weathering and Erosion on top, creating a believable landscape. One thing I also used for the ground was exporting elevation maps, so I could instance shells and rocks on specific areas like the edges where the land meets water.
Fused was used for the environment with TerraformFX tools in the final shot.
In the final shots, there's also a bunch of particles used, like the ones emitted from the creature and the system I developed working beneath the creature, where we see sand, dust, and particles being lifted and carried around by the force that the creature creates.
You mentioned you used X-Particles for quite a lot of this project. Why did you choose to use INSYDIUM Fused?
I've been using Fused for years now, and I love it; firstly, the tools feel like Mograph tools but for particles, and secondly, they're very nicely integrated into Cinema 4D, my main 3D application. They do offer a lot of modifiers and pre-built tools, but generally, I don't need to use a lot when trying to come up with complex systems or motion for the particles. I also love the integration with Redshift for rendering.
NeXus brings another level of performance to the table, so I'm looking forward to playing with that more in the future!
Nejc, thanks again for chatting with us today; you've provided some fantastic insight into how you create in 3D. Before you go, please provide us with some advice for a motion graphics student looking to get into the industry.
Usually, I like to give people advice from my own experience and what helped me get to the place I am currently in my career. Find your style and passion and put your work out there to be discovered instead of chasing that perfect project or client. When you're passionate about something and share it with the world, unexpected things happen. Funny, I can almost string together my projects from the beginning; each of those opened up new opportunities for me in the past - this is also why I'm still doing these, and I can't wait to see what follows!
As well as this interview and premiering the film on a pyramid in the desert, Nejc prepared a walkthrough course that breaks this project down and shows how all of it was created.
Designer, Director and Producer Twistedpoly
Music and Sound Designer Roger Lima
Territory use X-Particles a lot when it comes to detailed simulations for feature film UI. The ease of use means we can turn work around quickly without sacrificing a demanding quality bar. - David Sheldon-Hicks / Territory Studio
INSYDIUM Fused helped me to accomplish the hardest shots of my career, but more important is the pleasure I get out of playing with these awesome tools! - Francisco Sánchez de Cañete
Designer-friendly and technically advanced, simply powerful and art direction-able, X-Particles is an integral tool of my workflow, always impressed how Insydium are constantly developing and refining the most important toolset for Cinema 4D. - Brett Morris
X-Particles is my all time favorite plugin for Cinema 4D. Complex designs with very easy workflows is an art director's dream. - Thanos Kagkalos / MotionPunk
I use X-Particles at every opportunity because it offers limitless possibilities for creating amazing imagery and animations. I couldn't do without it! - Matt King
Using INSYDIUM Fused, we've been able to illustrate complex scientific breakthroughs accurately and beautifully on high-end ‘Life & Health’ projects for global brands. - Remy Williams / Fluent Studio