CGI and Visual Effects on a Budget
Updated: Jan 4
I'm a fanatical fan of all things futuristic, so when I first heard about Other World, a new film from Sydney-based White Ronin Productions I just had to check it out. The first thing that impressed me was how awesome the film’s CGI looked, the second thing was its budget. For less than five thousand dollars they have produced what most do with a million-dollar budget. Naturally, I just had to find out more.
A few weeks later, I managed to score a few minutes with Stewart White (Director / Animator) and Damian Nixey (Producer)
Thank you so much for your time guys! Before I jump right into it, can you tell us a little about this fantastic looking film of yours?
Other World is the story of two brothers (Matt Oxley & Damian Nixey) who are members of The Fifth Wall, a small group of resistance fighters struggling to defend Earth from an alien species known as the Greys. However, the Greys are not their only problem: Keres, a terrorist group corrupted by alien tech, are also fighting with their own hidden agenda.
The Fifth Wall are outnumbered, outgunned, and losing fighters at every turn. Desperately short of food and supplies, the brothers receive word from a mystery source who tells them of a ‘safe haven’. But the question is can they trust the source?
When the brothers learn that their commanding officer’s daughter is trapped on the outskirts of town, they decide to attempt a rescue. But time is not on their side. For when night falls the Greys deploy deadly Spider Scouters to hunt and destroy humans.
With The Fifth Wall and Keres both inches from being discovered by the enemy, who will survive? And which species will ultimately control the Earth?
You’re on one hell of a tight budget, how did you manage to create realistic looking aliens?
Stu: You’re right, our budget was tight which meant we had to be inventive!
I use 3ds Max and After Effects, arguably the two largest special effects software packages out there, so I knew there were a lot of resources for the taking. So instead of hiring a 3D-modeler or doing it all myself—both costly processes—we decided to purchase our 3D alien models for a few hundred dollars from Turbosquid, a large 3D model vendor. Thus saving our budget and countless man-hours.
Why use CGI aliens in the first place?
Stu: I’ve been working with visual effects for years and this script called for aliens, so I figured; hey why not put that knowledge to good use?
I’m guessing working with live actors and CG can be quite difficult. What problems did you encounter?
Stu: Rendering big action scenes. For those of you who don’t know; rendering is the process of generating a film segment from a 3D model. It can take days for the computer to convert a 3D model into a short 15 second film clip. So, when something goes wrong during the process, it can be very disheartening. Also, creating explosions and entering the right values is an absolute pain, but well worth it when you get it all right.
Many of the CG aliens are biped rigid, so it was easy to use a biped file. This means I could place an animated human skeleton inside the alien’s body to control it. However, sometimes it didn’t work
Damian: The actors really had to dig deep and use their imaginations when interacting with the aliens. There were no Hollywood-style tennis balls on poles or men in suits for point of reference. This made it especially challenging, but also a ton of fun.
The whole process has been a “baptism by fire”, but the cast and crew have been wonderfully supportive and patient. We couldn’t have asked for a better bunch to work with.
What would you do differently if given the opportunity?
Stu: A lot less CGI! It’s been a very full on, time consuming 16-month process for a 22 day shoot.
Damian: I loved the whole learning process so I wouldn’t do anything different. And in spite of what Stu says, we will continue to work with CGI. Recently, in fact, we worked on the CGI for 54 Days which has a ton of awards to its name, so we must be doing something right.
My dream is to turn our studio, White Ronin Productions into something like Weta Studios. I know that’s reaching for the stars, but hey, you have to try right?