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MODO and NUKE-powered whimsy and wonder for Roof Studio

Four seconds isn't a lot of time at all, but it's enough for Roof Studio to convey an incredible and eccentric sense of enthusiasm—one that proves infectious upon viewing. The Brooklyn, New York-based studio did so in its charming bumpers for TF1 France, providing the television network with little bursts of imaginative bliss to intersperse amidst between its programming and advertisements.

Despite the brief runtime of the individual animated videos, the project was quite sizable overall, with Roof and collaborator Naked Compagnie tasked with creating 45 such bumpers—each different than the last. This proved an ambitious goal for the still-new studio, which was founded at the start of 2013 by a trio of seasoned creative professionals. By using MODO and NUKE, the team at Roof Studio was able to harness its creativity and spin out an array of diverse and dazzling clips united by a common spirit.

Roof Studio worked closely with the Paris-based design team at Naked to conceptualize and execute the project, which took place over the span of just five months. "Together with Naked, we felt that the campaign offered us a great opportunity to show our creative ideas together with our skills," explains Vinicius Costa, director and Roof Studio co-founder. "Even as a young production house, we had a very special team and a strong cloud and management pipeline that we had been building since the day we opened our company."

Each bumper video had to be distinct in content from the others, yet all had to be joined by a recognizable and immediately familiar design language. Naked conceptualized the idea of having each depict the network's "PUB" logo spinning to reveal some type of machine within, and that premise set the Roof team's imagination wild.

"Respecting this system, it was really interesting and unique the way we could play with so many themes, styles, colors, and textures," says Guto Terni, also co-founder and director at Roof Studio. "It was also a good platform to explore anything we felt interesting to produce in 3D, from an airstream snow-making machine to a volcano with a coffee machine inside."

Indeed, the visual variety of the footage is astounding, as is the level of detail in each, especially considering the compact timeframe for producing so many unique clips. In one, a seemingly innocuous row of dusty books with the PUB logo atop might spin to reveal a vibrant carnival within, complete with twirling rides and brightly colored balls rolling down ramps. In another, the main object is an alarm clock, but a quick rotation reveals a series of musical instruments pumping out a jazzy tune. Each clip is beautifully rendered, impeccably manicured, and utterly charming.

"If we needed to change something with the animation, it's just one button to update inside MODO. Everything works perfectly without losing any shader connection and the preview render is crazy fast."

MODO's unifying force

To complete a project of this scale with a relatively small core team, Roof Studio relied on a variety of collaborators from around the globe to create artwork. MODO proved an essential tool for prototyping the wide array of concepts needed for the whole project. "The ability to quickly create shaders [and] renders and preview results fast gave us incredible speed to try out ideas," says Costa, "and allowed us to achieve not only a very realistic look, but also added unique visuals to the films."

"I personally like using the render when still in the modeling phase," he adds. "I like avoiding spending long hours for wireframes, and I always try to see progress in render mode even if I have a scene with no shader. I like the visual aspect of MODO and the process of building and visualizing something easily."

MODO was used for animation in many cases, but with such a large team of spread-out contributors on tap, not everyone utilized the same software. Roof worked with collaborator Paulo Nogueria on Nasset, a tool that allows footage animated in Maya to transfer into MODO with ease. MODO proved an effective solution for rendering nearly all of the footage that came in, thanks to this handy tool that helped bridge the gap between software.

"If we needed to change something with the animation, it's just one button to update inside MODO," says Terni about footage converted using Nasset. "Everything works perfectly without losing any shader connection. MODO sped up this creative process substantially, and the preview render is crazy fast. We could set the render much faster than [with] any other software."

© TF1 France. Images courtesy of Roof Studios

"NUKE was an obvious choice, due to the fact that we wanted to have an extreme amount of control over the look and feel of the scenes after they were rendered."

Nailing it with NUKE

When it came to compositing work and finalizing the distinctive look of each bumper, Roof Studio relied on NUKE to complete the job and pin down the myriad tiny details that help make the work magnificent.

"NUKE was an obvious choice, due to the fact that we wanted to have an extreme amount of control over the look and feel of the scenes after they were rendered," says Shane O'Hara, 3D artist and compositor. "NUKE offers a clean and organized approach to multi-channel compositing that makes building and sharing comp scripts a breeze. Cleanliness and simplicity go a long way, and not having to search through layers to figure something out saves a lot of time and sanity."

O'Hara notes that the team decided to give every shader in the renders its own matte, so they'd still be able to alter the look of each object post-render. That kind of work could have led to a lot of headaches for Roof, but NUKE made it easy to manage. He also credits NUKE for saving precious time on renders when it came to creating skies for the backdrop of each clip.

"In NUKE, we just projected spherical maps onto a sphere, added a little displacement to give it some shape, and then scaled it properly using the world position pass for reference," says O'Hara. "We also used things like gizmos, toolsets, and Python scripts, which we had in a centralized location on our server. We then pointed the workstations to see those script locations. This way, all the artists had the same tools, and the same versions of those tools. Very handy!"

The next step

With the TF1 France project complete, Roof Studio has moved on to other exciting endeavors, though nothing they're able to share quite yet. "All top secret of course," says executive producer Crystal Campbell with a laugh. "We plan on continuing to build our pipeline and infrastructure utilizing all of The Foundry's products. MODO and NUKE have been such essential tools for us to this date, and we know that they will continue to be as we go toward the future."

Costa confirms his collaborator's thoughts, adding that The Foundry software allows his studio to have the "potential of a huge company" while retaining the nimbleness and flexibility of a smaller organization.

"We can go forward with no fear," he asserts, as a result. "When we pitch, we are able to create beautiful things in a short amount of time and impress people with the quantity and quality of work. The Foundry’s software has helped us to grow and to generate results fast using their magical tools."

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