Production Studio Explores Rendering Workflow for the Creepy Netflix Short
From Fight Club to Mank, David Fincher is a master at using low-key lighting and dark palettes to explore the pitfalls of human morality. Now, the director has taken his characteristic aesthetic to Bad Travelling, a thriller about a dishonest crew sailing alien seas – and a monster who strikes a murderous deal with the ship’s captain.
The Love, Death + Robots episode marks Fincher’s first completely computer-animated film. It’s also the first time he’s directly contributed to the Netflix anthology he executive produces alongside Tim Miller. To create the nautical world of Bad Travelling, Fincher worked with the team at Miller’s animation and VFX firm, Blur Studio, who used V-Ray for 3ds Max’s lighting tools to help Fincher embrace the darkness.
“David Fincher read the original short story that inspired Bad Travelling 15 years ago, and I guess the idea never really left his mind,” said Co-CG Supervisor at Blur Studio, Jean Baptiste Cambier. “Even though Bad Travelling was his first animation project, we quickly understood that Fincher was naturally curious, always looking to find new ways to explore his craft. However, there were definitely new things for him to learn about working with animation as a medium. Unlike live action, animation does not often leave much room for on-set happy accidents or instinctive decisions – everything is thought about, planned, and calculated.”
To counteract this, the Blur team leveraged V-Ray’s Light Selects and Physical Camera Exposure controls to bridge the gap between live action and CG. By rendering sequences this way at an early stage, they were able to achieve more intuitive results with shots that didn’t look overworked. The team also built a proprietary tool for Nuke called Light Rig, which allowed them to treat V-Ray’s Light Selects as a cinematographer would on set. The exposure of each individual light could be controlled interactively, without re-rendering, ensuring that the environment, characters, and fluid sims could be lit on the fly, in real time.