Die Verwandlung/The Metamorphosis: A 3d animated short film

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  10 October 2013
Die Verwandlung/The Metamorphosis: A 3d animated short film

Die Verwandlung
Story- Franz Kafka
Film- Paul McLaughlin

Franz Kafka Wikipedia page:

The Metamorphosis Novella Wikipedia page:

The Metamorphosis English translation linked from Wikipedia:

After 7 years of both pre-production and trying to teach myself filmmaking, I am finally at the point where I can see some light at the end of the tunnel so to speak on my 3d animated short film based on Franz Kafka's "Die Verwandlung"/"The Metamorphosis".

I am currently unemployed right now so this film is taking up every hour that I am not sleeping, so expect regular updates and hopefully some decent progress.

I strongly believe that conceptualization is the majority of work on a film or any work of art, so I have spent most of my time doing research and figuring out how to bring the novella to the animated art form.

I have self taught myself basic European history doing research for this film, as well as amassed over 150,000 reference images. Most of which are historical images from 1890-1915, which is the time period that I am aiming for. I am not intending for this film to be highly realistic, but I would like a level of authenticity with regards to the time period and region.

I have posted some images of this film before in other forums, but I am not going to get into that as these other forums are less professional than this one (at least I would like to think).

Anyway, my goal is to create a 3d animated film that will last anywhere from 2-15 minutes and at the very least serve as some decent demo reel material. I would like to think my abilities are such that if I make the film that I know I am capable of, that I could possibly win some awards, but my goal is not to win awards with this film, it is to simply make the best film I can. When completed I will release it on youtube directly, even with the knowledge that doing so will disqualify it from a wide variety of awards. Again, my goal is quality above all else.


I am now aiming for a film anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 1/2 hours long. I am capable of telling the story in a much shorter period of time, but to do the story justice will require significantly more screen time.

My contact info in case anyone cares:


Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 07:12 AM.
  10 October 2013
Here is an image dump of some of the work I have completed.

All of this is pre-viz stuff in preparation for making an animatic and storyboard. All of these models are disposable and will not appear in the final film. They are somewhat quickly constructed and will serve as a starting point from which to further refine my concept.

I believe that I am somewhat familiar with the conventional workflow of a film, but what I am trying to do differently is streamline the entire process a bit and start working on the film as a whole as soon as early to hopefully get a much more artistically cohesive product in the end. Instead of looking it as an assembly line where there are character concepts, maquettes, storyboards, animatics, key framing, final animation, texturing, lighting etc. I am trying to develop as many aspects of the film at the same time as to, like I said, hopefully have a more artistically cohesive project in the end.

The only aspect of this production which I am not personally creating is the story which was written by Franz Kafka. I will make the film entirely by myself with absolutely no direct input from anyone else. This may seem somewhat overly ambitious, but I think that I have been able to streamline the process well enough to overcome some of the obstacles in working on a film entirely by myself, in addition I think that doing so may actually result in a better film than if I worked on it with other people.

Because of this, much of this conceptual work is not as polished as some people may be used to seeing. The reason for this is that this conceptual work is made entirely for myself, and is not meant to impress anyone or look good by itself. All conceptual work here is made solely with the goal of producing a better end product. Much of it is going to be somewhat rough and simple looking, but again the goal is to work towards a final product, not create attractive concept work. The advantage of working entirely by myself, is that I do not need to expend extra time and energy clarifying the different aspects of a concept, as I know what I have created and it doesn't need to make sense to anyone but me.

This project is entirely unfunded, and I am currently living at my parent's house so my overhead is essentially 0 dollars. I could theoretically stay indefinitely working on this film if I don't go insane from living with my parents in the process. The advantage of my current situation is that being unemployed I can devote 100% of my time to this film, and don't have any responsibilities whatsoever with regards to career or social issues.

The only thing that would make me change my current situation is if I were to receive major support from a reputable studio while still being able to maintain 100% creative control over my film. Other than that, which I am not counting on, I will stay in my current situation for possibly a few years while I complete this film. It is not exactly where I want to be in life, but I have fortunately put myself in a situation where I can focus entirely on my art and not on much else.

Most of this film is inside my head, but here are some images I have created so far (im using tinypic.com for image hosting, if there is a different site that I should be using for this site then I will use that site instead) :

Intro Screen:

This is the intro screen that I am going to use. Someone once said "I reject your reality and substitute my own". That is basically what I have done here and gone and redrawn the borders of Europe. This is how I see Europe as an American citizen living in New England.

Character pre-viz

These are most of the characters that are going to appear in this film. These are pre-viz early conceptual stuff. I have a sizable stack of paper that I have done 2d character concepts on, but what I have found is that it is extremely useful to switch to 3d once you get a decent idea from paper, because 3d allows you to make major changes in appearance as well as gives you the power to undo/redo. Instead of making 20 drawings, I can just throw a lattice on a character and make 20 variations and choose the best one. Some people may be extremely skilled draftsmen, but I am faster on a computer I think.

Again, these are very early pre-viz characters and are meant to be something simply put down on paper to get a starting point for future character concepts. They will also serve as nice standins for animatics and storyboards.

I understand that the conventional pipeline is to complete character design before starting on animatics and storyboards, but like I have said I am trying to develop as many aspects of this film at the same time as possible.

Environmental pre-viz:

Again, just simple environmental pre-viz meant for early animatics and conceptual stuff. Most of it is directly referenced from photographs and there isn't much artistry done with its construction.
  10 October 2013
Reference images:

I have a bunch of reference images on my computer. Some of which are screengrabs taken from movies etc. I am not going to post any of that in this thread because I don't want to confuse anyone with regards to authorship. However, here are two images that I took from gettyimages that out of the 150,000 or so reference images I have pretty much sum up everything that I am trying to create. I don't know if anyone "gets" the direction of this film from these images, but again they make sense to me and since I am the only one working on this film that is all that matters with regards to production. I didn't create these photos, they are simply reference I took from the internet.

A few of the characters are inspired by real life individuals but I am not going to say who is inspired by who because I could get sued or something... I don't know. I am not trying to directly make any money off of this film so I think I should be alright with regards to copyright. It is going to be released directly on youtube and is basically just a glorified demo reel. If I can't get a job in the industry after completing this film maybe I'll get a job in construction or something.
  10 October 2013
I have done a lot of very early storyboarding on this film and digested the original novella into story beats a bunch of times. Here is my latest story beat list. I could have typed this out I guess but I think handwriting it gives some advantages with regards to notation and ease of access:

I guess there should be a spoiler tag if you have never read "Die Verwandlung", but whatever.

  10 October 2013

For the most part I am trying to stay as true to the original story as possible with regards to all aspects of production. The one thing that I am changing is that Gregor is going to be changed into a "bug" like this rather than the usually accepted cockroach or beetle:

The rest of the film is going to be made to resemble classical animation as possible, except for Gregor. Gregor will be a horrible abstractly animated monstrosity.

I am aiming for an affect similar to this Sprite Commercial:

(I didn't have anything to do with this commercial, it is used as reference in terms of humor)


This film is also heavily inspired by "rejected"

Or the "Dancing House" in Prague:

(I didn't take this photo and I obviously did not design the building)

In my opinion, animating Gregor in such a way will be actually more similar to the original concept that Kafka had for Gregor when he wrote the original story. These are a few quotes from "The Metamorphosis" wikipedia page:

Quote: English translators have often sought to render the word Ungeziefer as "insect", but this is not strictly accurate. In Middle High German, Ungeziefer literally means "unclean animal not suitable for sacrifice"[5] and is sometimes used colloquially to mean "bug" a very general term, unlike the scientific sounding "insect".


Quote: However, in Kafka's letter to his publisher of 25 October 1915, in which he discusses his concern about the cover illustration for the first edition, he uses the term Insekt, saying "The insect itself is not to be drawn. It is not even to be seen from a distance."

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 10 October 2013 at 02:28 AM.
  10 October 2013
That is all I have with regards to this project as of right now. Most of this film is inside my head at the moment, so I am still trying to make sense of everything. My next step is to create a very basic 2d storyboard, which will then be used to create an animatic for basic pacing purposes so I can start figuring out whether or not this film is going to be 2 minutes or 15 minutes long. The next storyboarding step will probably be drawn with stick figures and basic geometric shapes, as the main goal of it is to get the most basic understanding of the flow of the entire film, not create a finished looking product.

The major issues in addition to the overall pace of the film I am trying to figure out are with regards to whether or not I want to have a film set type environment or do things on a shot by shot basis. This is somewhat influenced by the pacing because I am trying to figure out how "artsy" to make this film.



This is going to be an entirely silent film with no sound effects. My goal is to truly make a silent film and not a film that looks like someone just forgot to add sound to. Which should make things.... interesting.....
  10 October 2013
Thumbnails for Act I:

Again, extremely early conceptual pre-viz stuff. This is about as simple storyboards as one can do, but the goal here is to get something down on paper and get a very basic understanding of the overall pace of the film.

These are meant to be visual story beats, not actual shots. No attention has been paid to composition, camera movement, or anything but bare bones story beats. Once I complete the other 2 acts I will put together an extremely basic animatic in windows movie maker or something that will start to give me a decent idea of the pace of the film.

These are not final storyboards by any stretch of the imagination, they are extremely preliminary thumbnails meant to give the most basic understanding of shot timing.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 10 October 2013 at 01:01 PM.
  10 October 2013
Act II:

Act II has some montage-like moments that I don't know how I'm going to film yet. So for now the storyboard just says "montage?"

I am not concerned right now with runtime or rendering issues or anything regarding production. I am concerned at the moment with telling the story in the best and clearest way possible. Technical issues such as render time and animation work load will be figured out later. It is self defeating IMO to get caught up in production issues when you are storyboarding and let fears of technical problems interfere with the storytelling process.

There might be people who disagree with me on this, but I am not going to change my opinion that storytelling comes first and figuring out technical issues comes last. Everything here is intended to be fully rendered and made with the highest degree of visual quality possible. Obviously corners may have to be cut and shortcuts and workarounds might have to be used, but technical issues are somewhat easy to fix. What matters is the story, and whether or not it is properly told.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 10 October 2013 at 02:46 PM.
  10 October 2013
Act III:

Next up simple animatic. Just a matter of taking these things into photoshop, cropping, renaming, and then putting them in windows movie maker/premier for whatever period of time each for a full length animatic. That should give me a decent idea of the overall screen time of various story beats and help me work towards further refining the storyboard and animatic.
  10 October 2013
animatic time:

uploaded to youtube:


Current run time is about 12:30 minutes. That could change drastically though, most likely not any longer than that. Right now it just feels good to get something down on film even if it is a total preliminary thumbnail animatic.

Next up I'm going to break the story beats into actions which can then be made into shots for a more refined storyboard.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 10 October 2013 at 04:28 AM.
  11 November 2013
Remade the thumbnail storyboards from Act I into larger ones with more detail. Really didn't make that many changes so I think I am going to switch gears from storyboarding right now to doing some basic lighting tests. After that I might do some character design updates, then switch back into storyboarding. There really isn't any direct production reason from switching back and forth like this on different production or conceptual aspects of the film but I find doing so keeps me fresh and from getting bored.

Again, these are storyboards and mainly for working out pacing issues and trying to find a decent general idea of the overall flow of the film. I will figure out individual shot compositions when I start getting into making a 3d animatic. From there it will be as simple as replacing the temporary character and environmental models with finished ones. Then I will texture everything, rig the characters, then start producing animation. If I keep up a decent pace I can probably finish this film in about 6 months. I could probably complete it within 2-3 months or less if I sacrificed quality, but since I have worked on this film for so long I am not going to sacrifice anything with regards to the final product to finish a few months earlier. I am not working under any deadlines thankfully so when its done its done, and quality is by far the most important thing.

With regards to rendering, a lot of these shots might end up as a static background with some character animation layered on top. Which could potentially cut down on overall render time significantly. I am not going to make any design decisions based on render times, but it is nice to know that render times could be minimal for a lot of the scenes in this short.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 06:40 AM.
  11 November 2013
bare bones lighting test:

Don't know exactly how I am going to render Gregor, but he will possibly be on an entirely different layer than the rest of the film.

Here is a quick walk cycle for Gregor for anyone that is curious how the "bug" will move:


Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 08:38 AM.
  11 November 2013
Here are some character sketches that I did previously, there is still a lot of work to be done on character design but I am comfortable with the direction they are taking:


Pre-transformation Gregor:



Next I'm going to go back to storyboarding. There is still some Act II stuff that needs working out with regards to the montage areas when the novella has some areas of non-linear storytelling.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 11:53 AM.
  11 November 2013
Act II has consistently been difficult to storyboard. There isn't much action and a lot of it is character exposition. The action that does happen only appears for a few story beats and then doesn't have much affect on later story beats. Most of Act II is just the family dealing with Gregor's transformation, and Gregor being confined to his room. Eventually I will find a decent way to storyboard it, but it has been very difficult from the start.

Anyway, here is about 1/2 of the act redone. I changed a bit from the thumbnails and condensed a few scenes for the sake of clarity... This whole story is very weird, I have to take extra care to ensure that I am able to maintain and interesting film while still staying true to Kafka's original vision.

I don't want to cut anything out of the story, but at the same time I need to make sure that the film is constructed in a logical way. Like I said it has been difficult to both faithfully translate the story while still trying to create an interesting film. Like I said this act has a lot of character exposition and not much action which is difficult I have found to translate onto the screen. Stuff like "Gregor wanted to send his sister to a violin conservatory" is extremely difficult to show on film without some sort of flashback scene. I still am considering doing something like a flashback type thing with regards to the story, but the question remains of whether or not showing things like that is essential to the film, or whether or not it will make the entire thing boring.

This could very well go from a 12 minute film to a 30 minute film if I decide to film every bit of character exposition, so I am in a lot of ways at an important crossroads here. I do kind of want to make a boring film, but not boring in a certain way... if that makes sense.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 07:06 PM.
  11 November 2013

Another storyboard. I was working on another page until I realized that I have made a minor mistake. There is a part in the story where Grete runs off to another room to get some spirits to revive her mother after the mother faints again. I interpreted this as a bathroom, when in fact that it is just the main room off to the side of Gregor's room. The spirits she gets are not medicine, but in fact spirits as in alcohol or something. Which means the bathroom that I modeled is completely useless from a production standpoint, but I guess it gives me a better idea conceptually of the apartment. Much like the sister's room that I modeled that does not have any significant screen time, but helps me visualize the apartment and get a better idea of characters.

Perhaps I'm being a bit too frivolous with some conceptual stuff so for the rest of the project I'm going to try to stick to the essential parts of the story.
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