View Full Version : Pigeon: Impossible

05 May 2008, 06:44 AM
Hey all! I just finished the first two video podcasts for my upcoming short film "Pigeon: Impossible"

We're still a few months away from finishing the project, but I'm in need of a little boost to get over this last hurdle, so I figured I'd start the podcasts and make myself even more accountable for getting the film finished quickly.

I'm open to any feedback on either the film or the podcast. If you have any ideas for episodes, I'd love to hear them!

05 May 2008, 03:32 PM
After watching the second video it almost makes wanna make a one week animation short with your plot so you have to make it all over again :twisted:

Just kidding (even though this picture of you crying in the bathroom was hillarious :) ).

Can't wait for the finished piece.


05 May 2008, 08:57 PM
Renders looks nice. Would love to see more character animation. So yeah you already have people waiting for this short film :)

05 May 2008, 04:46 PM
Thanks guys! Yeah I think I'll do one on character animation next. That's definitely my favorite part of the process, and also the one I struggle with the most.

Also, a few people have had problems seeing the podcasts because the movie files are pretty large so I uploaded them to YouTube as well. The quality isn't as good, but they download faster and might be more convenient for some people.

Marco Farace
05 May 2008, 05:17 PM
Hey Lucas, your short look amazing! The models, scene, environment, lighting and effects seems to come from a pixar film!!! The animation also seems to be great but I want see more to judge.
I have some reserve only on the stories, I think them must be very very fun in order to keep the interest of the audience for all the episodes...

Wow you have used an entire orchestra for the music! great!

05 May 2008, 06:21 AM
Incredible...absolutely incredible...agree exactly with the previous comment here that the quality is Pixar quality.

Was the $5,000 to pay somebody to compose, orchestrate and conduct / record the music?, its crazy isn't it. Music and sound is incredibly important though….and it looks like the style, composition and technical side are fine.


05 May 2008, 07:17 PM
Thanks guys! The orchestra is actually a group that I play with called the Austin Wind Symphony. ( The $5k covered the cost of renting the recording equipment, space, and travel costs. It probably would have been more like $50k if Chris Reyman (the composer) and all of the musicians hadn't donated their time. So yeah, I still feel like we got a huge steal on the music. I'll definitely do a podcast on that soon!

Marco Farace
05 May 2008, 08:59 AM
What illumination and rendering engine you have used?

05 May 2008, 03:24 PM
Everything is done in XSI with standard lights and rendered in Mental Ray. However most of the shots have about 30 passes so the "look" is all done in the comp. One of the really complex shots got up to around 70 passes which is just silly.

edit: Actually, stay tuned for more details. I was going to do the next podcast on animation, but I'm just finishing up lighting a big shot so I think I'll do a little series on lighting/compositing.

06 June 2008, 05:48 PM
Podcast #003 is now online and talks about the multipass workflow we used on PI:

Let me know if you have any questions or ideas for something you'd like to see in one of the podcasts! (

Also, if you're wanting to see a more in-depth image of the compositing tree, below is a screen shot of the comp in Combustion. Beware... it's a pretty huge jpeg. (

06 June 2008, 04:53 PM
Podcast #004: Lighting Hacks is now online and shows a few tricks to help speed up the lighting process... (

06 June 2008, 11:44 PM
Podcast #005: Lighting the Eyes is now online and shows a few tricks on how to do the Pixar/Dreamworks style eyes. (

06 June 2008, 09:33 PM
Hey Lucas.
It looks amazing!
I've been following this closely since I saw it on animwatch, and it unbelievable how you can keep focus and motivation.

Your podcasts are great too.
It's always nice to get a glimpse behind the curtain :)

Ideas to future podcasts (in my opinion) would be:

Rigging: Now, I see you use XSI and I am a maya dude myself, but you take on how to set up the most effecient rig, how to set up the spine controls (FK or SplineIK), fingers, face GUI, that sort of non-program-related stuff would be really great.

How do you adapt a script into storyboard:
At least I always face problems when trying to visualize written stuff. It's so much easy'er to write "He was scared" or "He couldn't stop thinking of his dead mother", or something like that, but how to translate that into a visual thing, would be really nice to hear you opinion about.
I guess you must have faced the same problems, somewhere in the process.

Well, that two fast topics.
I'll let you know, if I come up with any more :)

Cheers, and keep up the AMAZING work! Really inspirational!

06 June 2008, 08:23 AM
Hi Lucas,

First able congratulation for the nice work you have done so far in that Inspirable project you are involved.

I would like to say that you are doing an exceptional quality film. And that in my opinion is really hard when the project is that huge and doing it along. You also spend time to inform people on how you accomplished difficult tasks along your journey, in a very fun and helpful way to others. Only that already takes a lot of time. Those videos are very useful for people who love this art and wanders how to achieve things and don’t have where or who to ask.

I think the most difficult part of a project like yours is how to balance Quality with Time. Because although we have to assume one has to have the skills to be able to deliver quality art. We all know that quality is also a matter of dedicating time to your artwork. And with the among of work there is in an animated film, one has to sacrifice some of that, other wise it could take much more time than it already takes.
If one wants to dedicate more time to your project in order to raise the quality it would then take much longer than it already takes. And a project like this can easily take 5 years.

So for me you are achieving the most difficult part witch is progressing on your project at a good speed achieving quality results.

Therefore I think this would be a helpful topic that you could cover on your next video on your Blog. Just giving us your opinion on how to find that balance with time and Quality.

Again congratulation for your work and good luck with the rest of the journey.

06 June 2008, 02:56 AM

Doffer: Excellent ideas, that gives me a good idea on a way to do the rigging stuff without being package specific. Stay tuned for the storyboard stuff. I'll definitely have a few episodes on that.

Adolpho: Great idea as well. The quality vs. time thing is something I struggle with constantly. I've got a few other episodes planned first but don't worry, its coming soon!

06 June 2008, 11:28 AM
Great podcasts Lucas. I should have checked by the Pigeon Impossible website more often. Looking forward of seeing more of your film soon!

07 July 2008, 12:29 AM
Hey guys, Podcast #006 is now online and covers some cool camera projection techniques.

Hope I see some of you at SIGGRAPH! (

07 July 2008, 05:35 PM
Podcast #007 is now online and covers some tricks for rendering mattes and particles with RGB separation. (

07 July 2008, 08:29 PM
It seems like you don't get a whole lot of comments on this one, but I can tell you, that I watch these podcasts with a lot of interest.
It's great to see how other people work, and it's always nice to get something on video instead of reading it.

So please keep it up.
Can't wait for the rigging casts :)

07 July 2008, 06:59 AM
Just found your podcasts Lucas, really interesting and funny too!
Amazing work on the short, that dedication makes me feel a little ashamed at my own laziness...

Keep it up man!

07 July 2008, 04:54 PM
Thanks guys, I'm glad you're finding them useful! I was actually considering putting the podcasts on hold for a bit because they've been taking time away from finishing the short, but I think I just need to get over my own laziness and push through this last month of animation. :)

07 July 2008, 05:25 PM
Well, if it comes down to either podcast or shortfilm, please put the casts at hold. We wanna see the film. We're just demanding the casts because we are a product of the spoiled youth (well, I am at least) :D

Would be nice with a status of the film?
Where in the production are you, and what's left? Estimated timeframe, stuff like that... :)

07 July 2008, 09:43 PM
I've only got about 1 minute of animation left and should have that finished in a month. Then the rest of the lighting shouldn't be too bad. I'm thinking it'll be done October-ish

And don't worry, the podcasts will keep coming. I just need to stop procrastinating and get that animation finished.

On a related note, I've gotten a bunch of emails from people who were having problems viewing the Podcasts. Here are the YouTube versions for the episodes thus far. They're not as good of quality but at least you'll be able to see them. :)

07 July 2008, 02:30 PM
Great stuff, I am enjoying seeing how you work it inspires me, I am going to start taking a course in the fall and seeing this pumps me up. You have a level of animation that is on par with pixar. Btw I like th podcasts keep them coming.

07 July 2008, 03:35 PM
Thanks for posting the podcasts. I am not into lighting but your podcasts helped a lot in understanding what goes in lighting. Can't wait for the rigging one :)

07 July 2008, 02:25 PM
Thanks guys! Podcast #008 is up and talks about building the control panel for the character rigs. (

07 July 2008, 04:19 PM
Very informative I look forward to seeing more.

07 July 2008, 11:33 PM
VERY inspirational!

I'm in a similar situation and feel your pain!!! I was beginning to think I was the only one with these production frustrations. I particularly like your "Writing is re-writing" podcast. I had a similar kick in the guts last year. You've given me some great tips for lighting and rendering too, thanks!!

I'm very much looking forward to this short film. The production value is amazing, and I wish you all the very best of luck with the rest of the production and for when the film is released!

Great work. I can't wait to see it!!

07 July 2008, 05:47 PM
Thanks guys! Podcast #009 is up and talks about setting up an FK arm with some extra functionality. (

07 July 2008, 08:02 PM
Nice two podcasts.
Very interesting. About the shoulder, I usually make a ikchain from the spine to the shoulder, at link a little control curve to that, so I can move the shoulder back and forewards and up and down manually, without moving the elbow and wrist. It's really fast to set up, and it gives a lot of freedom. I don't know how it is with IK chains in XSI, but in Maya it has a build in twist attribute, which also helps fixing deformation issues. Seem like a nice solution to make it react manually though - never thought of that :)

07 July 2008, 02:31 PM
Yep, that's exactly how I did it as well. The automation happens on top of that, but you can still move the shoulder by hand. I should have mentioned that in the episode. Thanks!

07 July 2008, 04:15 AM
Podcast #10 is online and goes through a pretty standard way to set up IK-FK blending. It also shows some handy tricks for tweaking and optimizing it. (

07 July 2008, 05:20 AM
Cool, man. Great vidcast; I watched 'em all over the past two nights. I am genuinely excited for this!
You seem to know a bunch about every part of doing CG... is it really just you? Amazing!
I anxiously await what you have to say about my area of expertise, the character animation.
love, luck,

07 July 2008, 02:18 PM
Yeah character animation will probably take at least 10 episodes. I have had a lot of help from different people on this short, especially with animation and modelling. Overall, I'd guess I've probably done about 75% of it. That last 25% is still a TON of work though and I've been very fortunate to have such great people working on it. :)

08 August 2008, 04:05 PM
Wow, very cool!!! Just watched all you 'casts, cant wait to start doing stuff like that myself!
You got another fan now Lucas! Keep going!

ps - you might have been able to save $5k if you got a program called reason, and a few reason refills. maybe... the real thing is always better though!

08 August 2008, 09:14 PM
Podcast #011 is up and talks about how we handled the cloth simulations (or lack thereof). (

08 August 2008, 11:42 AM
Hi Lucas,

Great stuff! I've been looking forward to PI since I saw it on animwatch a year ago. I'm working hard on a short film myself (and I'll be in it for the long haul too...been working on it for a year and still have about 2 to go) I find your stuff very inspiring :)

04 April 2009, 08:00 PM
Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. The good news is that we're finishing final sound this week and final picture is exporting as we speak!

Also, I wanted to let people know that I'm teaching another course at FXPHD: There should be an introductory video up soon, but the general pitch for the class is that it's a "tech for artists" sort of thing. We'll be covering a lot of scripting, expressions and ICE stuff using examples from Pigeon: Impossible. You don't need to know any scripting or have programming experience, in fact its probably better if you don't because some of the techniques will be down and dirty ways to get results, not necessarily the "proper" way to do things. The class is designed to open up parts of XSI that some people find intimidating at first, but if you know just a few simple things can harness a lot of power and really speed up your workflow.

The podcasts will resume later this month, but this class will let me go into way more depth and focus on XSI specific stuff (which I usually try to avoid in the podcasts.) Hope to see some of you at fxphd!

04 April 2009, 09:17 PM
Great! Glad to see you're still at it.
Let us know about the festival schedule (and which ones you'll be attending: I'd love to shake your hand).
And lastly, enjoy the reward for all your hard work!

04 April 2009, 09:31 PM
I can not wait for some more podcast. The one on multipass rendering helped me out a lot on my latest project. Thanks alot.

04 April 2009, 11:13 AM
Ohhh! Sweet! :D
In fact, I thought about this project the other day, and really hoped it hadn't died off.
So it's great to hear from you again!

Good job, mate.

04 April 2009, 07:19 AM
Hey Lucas the stuff you are doing very inspiring and impressive. just saw all the podcasts and read your whole blog. quite informative and interesting stuff you are talking about. wish you all the best my friend. i will stick around.

best Regards

04 April 2009, 11:07 PM
Podcasts are great! Animation looks superb. Keep up the great work.

I'm following with interest! :) :thumbsup:

04 April 2009, 07:50 AM

Your attention to detail, skill, method and finesse are all to be aspired to.

Thanks a lot for the fantastic tutorials.

04 April 2009, 11:34 AM
Really nice, I love it ! :cool:

Keep going

04 April 2009, 11:04 PM
Thanks guys! Podcast #012 is up and talks about the importance of promoting and supporting your film as it begins its film-festival run. We'll be back to more CG-related matters next week. :) (

04 April 2009, 09:39 AM
Nice "pimpin' :D

05 May 2009, 04:14 AM
Podcast #013 is up and shows an idea for achieving real-time motion blur, as well as a more cartoony smear blur that could replace motion blur entirely in certain animation styles. (

05 May 2009, 04:25 AM
I would pay an arm and a leg for motion blur in the Maya Viewport with deform. Great stuff! :D

05 May 2009, 04:31 PM
We just released the Pigeon: Impossible trailer! There’s several viewing options available, including HD versions on the top of the homepage: (

05 May 2009, 11:47 PM
Podcast #014 is online and explains why the film took so long to make, and how you can avoid the same mistakes. (

05 May 2009, 12:47 AM
Congratulations Lucas! *cake* *cake* *beer* *beer* *beer* *beer* *beer*

I think it’s a incredible achievement to have got...

1) The quality this high on the visuals and character animation.

2) To have completed the film.

(this is really the most important thing...somebody once said to me, it doesn’t matter how long you take, as long as you get it completed. This is a controversial thing to say...but, I feel that it's kind of true...I mean lets just take Yuriy Norshteyn for example here...who has made some of the best animations ever...if indeed they have taken a very long time)

3) To have such a great musical score done (with orchestra) for Pigeon Impossible.

It's looking / sounding great...and the very best of luck with the next one / future.

05 May 2009, 01:00 AM
Thanks Michael, I've been following your blog for a while now and always look forward to more animation from you! And thanks for mentioning the score! Sound never seems to get quite as much props as it deserves. (BTW, all of the budget was spent on the score and the sound design, we didn't spend a dime on the visuals)

05 May 2009, 04:06 PM
Podcast #15 is up and talks about motivating a character’s actions with thought and emotion, as well as physical anticipation. (

06 June 2009, 08:50 AM
I've found your podcasts really informative and useful.
can't wait to see more.

06 June 2009, 07:15 AM
Thanks! Podcast #16 is online and covers how to develop a "motion language" for a character that helps to create a consistent and unique personality. (

06 June 2009, 11:26 AM
I truly admire your perseverance (or what ever word fits :D ) on this project.
Not only to produce such a huge project, but also to keep on with these podcast.

They are really great (love your very scientific charts!).

Best of luck with in every aspect with your film. You really deserve it :)


06 June 2009, 06:53 AM
Thanks Doffer, yeah I wish I had more time to keep up with these podcasts, I've still got quite a few more planned, but once a week is really taking its toll on me. In the meantime...

Podcast #17 is up and talks about the wing controls, broken rigging, and other tricks we used to rig the pigeon. (

07 July 2009, 06:39 PM
Podcast #18 is online and talks about a few shots we lit “all in the render” and how that compares to a multipass approach. (

07 July 2009, 04:50 PM
Amazing amount of inspiration!! Awesome that you share it ! Stunnin what you have accomplished

Best of luck to you!

07 July 2009, 02:59 PM
Thanks Melmann! Podcast #19 is up and shows some tricks for optimizing your renders and dealing with expansive environment shots. (

10 October 2009, 09:10 AM
Wow your work and podcasts are awesome! I really want to know about how you went about texturing your animation to get that cartoon look. What shaders were used etc.
That would be a great podcast.

10 October 2009, 02:53 PM
There will be another podcast on texturing soon, but I think the "cartoon look" is more in the lighting by pushing the direct light warm and the shadows/bounce light cool. A big part is also the eye-light and using rim lights to separate the characters from the background. Its a more controlled studio look that is similar to the offset lighting they use on 2D characters.

10 October 2009, 06:46 PM
awesome, it would be great if you could show alittle of the shading tree on some of your buildings. Im not sure if you are using mental ray or maya software but it looks great.

10 October 2009, 07:06 PM
Hey Lucas,
So you have inspired me enough to get off my ass and get my next short into production. I just finished reading your blog, and your thoughts on formula's. Great stuff! I really enjoyed your breakdown of Groundhog Day also. Great stuff man, keep the energy flowing!

Congrats on all yoru success on the festival circuit!

Chris (

10 October 2009, 09:40 PM
Thanks Chris!

Sybexmed: we used XSI with the MentalRay renderer. However, the buildings are all just a single diffuse texture plugged into a lambert. A couple of the close ones also had a bump, but the look was all achieved in lighting and compositing.

11 November 2009, 04:46 PM
We just released Pigeon: Impossible! I started a different thread:

Or you can go directly to to watch it.

11 November 2009, 06:16 PM
Oh my freakin god...that was incredible Lucas.

You’ll get the front page with this for sure.

All the years of sweat and tears are here to be seen in this!…I think its wonderfully done and very funny. Love the part where the needle opens up, and the entire chasing after the rocket sequence is brilliant...the detail and light quality is great.

The score is also extremely good. Kudos to both yourself and Christopher Reyman!

11 November 2009, 10:22 AM
WOWOWOWOW... men!!! it's simply fantanstic!!!:applause:

And thank's for your explanations... ... in my language we said : RUOSSS...!!! (great!!!, but much more emphasized ) ;)

11 November 2009, 04:31 AM

@Michael Yeah I was so thrilled with the music and that we were able to do it all with live musicians.

11 November 2009, 09:06 PM
Podcast #003 is now online and talks about the multipass workflow we used on PI:

Let me know if you have any questions or ideas for something you'd like to see in one of the podcasts! (

Also, if you're wanting to see a more in-depth image of the compositing tree, below is a screen shot of the comp in Combustion. Beware... it's a pretty huge jpeg. ( your animation. It looked like a walt disney movie. I loved your creative on the bird. I was wondering if you could do a podcast on the animation.

11 November 2009, 05:08 AM
Episode #20 will be focused on the animation, and probably there will be one more animation-centric one after that. I had a hard drive crash so its taking me a while to rebuild some of the stuff from various backups.

11 November 2009, 03:47 PM
Hey Lucas!
Just wanna congratulate you with finishing the film.
It has been truly inspiring to see the progress.

I wish you all the best with festivals and everything and waiting for the feature film, which obviously must be the next thing from you :D


07 July 2010, 07:22 PM
Hey everyone, I know its been a while, but I'm finally starting to release the last episodes of the podcast. #20 is now online and talks about the two different approaches to CG animation: Pose-to-Pose and Layered (

07 July 2010, 03:50 PM
Well, its finally coming to a close... the final 3 podcasts are now online! Also be sure to show your support for Pigeon: Impossible by buying a DVD!!! (

#21 shows several tips and tricks that didn’t fit into the other podcasts:

#22 is an audio interview with composer Christopher Reyman:

#23 is an audio interview with sound designer David Bewley: (

07 July 2010, 05:01 AM

I just want you to know that watching P.I. about 3-4 months ago was the final piece of the puzzle that pushed me to become motivated enough to start teaching myself modeling/animation/everything else, and I plan on attending a grad school once I graduate to further pursue this.
So thank you! :beer:

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