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

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  11 November 2013
Old man Samsa relaxing a bit after a day of hard work at the bank:

  11 November 2013
Progress of various characters:

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 04:09 AM.
  11 November 2013
I originally was going to have narration and sound effects. I even went as far as to record my own narration track and played it over an early animatic. I've since decided against that and as previously stated in this thread the entire film will be silent. Also like I said, it is my intention to make this film a true silent film and not like a film that someone just didn't add sound to.

I have more sheets like this for the rest of the film but I'm not going to post them here as these are just for people that may be curious about my work so far on this film.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 04:58 AM.
  11 November 2013

One thing that has been an obstacle the entire time during pre-production has been how I plan to address cloth in this film. I have basically no experience using cloth simulations in any 3d package, so doing so would require me to learn them entirely from scratch. In my very limited experience with them they are buggy, time consuming, confusing, and don't produce great results. What I think I'm going to do is when cloth is needed to be animated in this film is just build some simple mesh, rig it, and the animate it.

There is a scene in this film where the mother opens up a window and lets a breeze enter the apartment. I have done a quick test with a rigged mesh substituting for a cloth simulation:

And a quick animation that consisted of copying and pasting a few key frames:


If this was a realistic film I would probably want to use a cloth simulation, but in my opinion cloth simulations often look out of place in cartoons because they are attempting realism in an environment where realism is not the norm. So to conclude: I think rigged mesh is enough for the requirements of this film in regards to cloth.


There are very few areas where VFX or particles are going to be needed in this short. The only areas where I can think of are:

-Blowing newspapers from an open window. This can probably be accomplished with mesh rather than particle systems.

-Flames from gas lights. Probably rather straight forward and simple. Can be cut out if needed.

-Smashed bottle of spirits. Most likely the most difficult VFX shot in the film, but it only happens briefly and I am confident in by abilities to pull it off. If I can't I will just find a way to shoot around the bottle smashing on the ground.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 07:17 AM.
  11 November 2013
I am in a position right now where I think I have most aspects of production done on an equal level, I understand this differs from the way that people often make films in that they complete certain aspects in their entirety before moving on to other parts of production.

As I have previously stated in this thread, I am doing this because I strongly believe that simultaneously completing all aspects of production helps develop a more coherent artistic vision. I believe that artistic decisions on every aspect of a film affects artistic decisions on all other aspects of the film. The level of realism for instance in character design affects things like shot composition and selection, as well as sound design etc. For instance, if these characters are not designed to talk, then certain design decisions can be made with regards to their construction. How many closeup shots of the characters may affect how they are constructed etc.

So for my next step I think I will continue storyboarding out this film, and trying to figure out how closely I want to translate the original novella into shots. As in whether or not I want to condense many of the long descriptive elements into just a few shots, or go ahead and try to basically translate the story word for word. Like I have previously stated in this thread, it is my intention to translate Kafka's original vision to the screen as accurately as possible. How closely that means sticking to the text is something that I am going to have to figure out in the near future. I don't plan on cutting out any story elements, so this is more of a pacing and shot selection issue, and how much I decide to directly show with some of the exposition passages in the book that are not direct action. This is more of an issue with Acts II and III as Act I is almost entirely action, and character exposition and description is kept to a minimum.

Since I have taken certain liberties with regards to the appearance of Gregor and the absence of dialogue, I am leaning towards a more abstract interpretation of some of the text. I say this though with the full intention that I want to show the essence of this novella as best I can, and try to adhere to what I believe to be Kafka's original intent and vision. Something that I think is overlooked in most film versions of Kafka's work is his humor, historical relevancy, and his appreciation of theater. If I want to accomplish anything with this piece it is to provide what I believe to be a more accurate artistic interpretation of Kafka and his work. I think that people often misinterpret Kafka as a dark anti-social loner, when what I have found to be is the complete opposite. If anything I think that Kafka was an expert social critic and satirist with full knowledge of the social and political undertones in his writing, as well as full knowledge of some of the humor involved in the situations he wrote about. My vision of Kafka and his writing may differ than some peoples, but I have done extensive research into both and these are the conclusions that I have drawn.

With that being said, at this point I am now going to now probably continue to storyboard out this film and start working through some of the more difficult to film passages in the novella.

*edit* I'm going to link this thread in my twitter, not that it really matters because no one reads my twitter, but doing so is just a procedural matter I guess. If this is against the rules just tell me not to do it.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 01:36 PM.
  11 November 2013
Food for Gregor:

Gregor's favorite dish: milk with bread in it

A whole selection for him as well
  11 November 2013
Second cloth test:

As with the drapery, I have tested the cloth rigging method I am going to use on a character. This is just an extremely simple setup that took me a short time to complete.

Just rigged a few bones inside the dress part of the character, and then keyframed them. No need for fancy cloth sims.


This is what I have talked about earlier in this thread about my theory that aspects of production affect other aspects of production. If I found it prohibitively complicated to make cloth on characters I would have designed them in a different way. Fortunately I think I can pull off a decent way to rig and animate cloth so as to not be forced to compromise on character design. The only type of cloth that might be difficult to rig and animate would be baggy pants, and there is probably not going to be any baggy pants in this film.

Minor character design issue:

A minor character design issue that I am currently trying to work out is whether or not I am going to model the characters with movable mouths. There is no dialogue in this film, but I am considering still modeling simple mouth movement ability in the characters so they can yap to each other like muppets without any sound coming out of their mouths. This works to my advantage production wise because it means that I don't have to do advanced facial rigging with regards to mouth movement. I am still probably going to make facial rigs so the characters are not locked in static facial positions, but not having dialogue eliminates the need to build in phonetic facial controls.

This is not an issue that I need to immediately address as I am still working out conceptual issues as well as storyboarding. I will cross that bridge when I get to it. The reason why I have been considering this design issue for a while now is because it affects other areas of conceptual development. If the characters are yapping to each other like muppets, then that affects things like the level of realism in the environment. For instance, I am not going to seek to create a photorealistic apartment if the characters are abstracted and cartoony.

Particle VFX smoke:

Another minor design issue is going to be the rendering of cartoon smoke from the cigars of the lodgers. Again, like with cloth simulation, I don't think that hyperrealistic smoke is going to look right in this film so I am going to have to either simply not have the lodgers have cigars or, if I decide to have them have cigars then I will have to find a way to create cartoony looking smoke. After doing some brief research toon shaders don't give the desired look with regards to cartoon smoke, so this may be a bit of a design obstacle but thankfully it is not a major part of the film so I can just cut it out if needed.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 09:32 AM.
  11 November 2013

There is a part in the story where Grete uses a broom to sweep up the food refuse from Gregor. If this was a hyperrealistic short then I would probably have to find a way to use some sort of hair simulation or super complicated rig involving hundreds or thousands of individual bones for the bristles of the broom. Since this is an abstracted cartoon, a simple rig like this will probably work fine and actually look better in the grand scheme of the short rather than a broom with thousands of independent bristles.

One may ask yourself, this broom is a rather insignificant part of the short, why focus on it now? The reason is that figuring out the way this broom works further helps me understand the overall character and environmental design of the piece, and the level of realism that I want to aim for.

quick animation of the broom bottom:


This is just a quick broom I made from some drawing I found on google images. I guess if I included it in the final short someone could potentially sue me for copying their sacred broom design, but I will probably change this concept for the final animation and right now it serves as a conceptual starting point to figure out other parts of the short. Notice the cartoony end of the broom. This is something that could have potentially drastic effects on the rest of the animated short as it represents a rather significant departure from reality and a significant move towards abstractness and cartoonishness. I don't think I have ever see a real life broom taper like that on the end, so whether or not I want to include conceptual elements like this in the environment and characters actually represents a series of rather major design decisions. Again, this broom is somewhat copied from an image I took from google images, so it is meant mostly for conceptual purposes at the moment and will most likely be changed for the final piece.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 11:25 AM.
  11 November 2013
Act II storyboards continued:

These represent a somewhat significant deviation from the original thumbnails I made. I have cut out a lot of the action and replaced it with just a few shots that would be held on camera for several seconds. I don't know if it is better to translate the novella on a shot by shot basis or go with a more abstract interpretation like this. What will ultimately determine my decision will be which storyboard more accurately portrays Kafka's original vision and the essence of the story. So far I have put a significant amount of faith in the source material and have not been disappointed, so I will continue to do so and try to stay as true as I can to the essence of the novella.

The twist:

I've also decided that this film is going to have a twist. Originally the manager's monocle was going to pop off when he first sees Gregor, but I have decided against that. The monocle will remain on his face throughout the film and I consider that a twist because when you see a monocle chances are that it is going to pop off someone's face. This film will have no monocle popping and I consider that a surprise twist.

Last edited by PaulEMcLaughlin : 11 November 2013 at 04:50 PM.
  11 November 2013
Act III storyboards:

For this I played a game called "how much can I cut out while still maintaining a coherent story" and the answer was "a lot". I still don't know what I am going to do for the final film, whether or not it is going to be a shot by shot translation of the novella or something like these storyboards and more abstract and less shots. Anyway, it is nice knowing that if I needed to rush production on this film I probably could and produce the entire story in significantly less time than if I chose to do a complete shot by shot translation.

I know one thing, that this story will end with a rainbow. I know that wasn't in the original text but I am sure that doing so would be very much in line with Kafka's original vision.
  11 November 2013
Sister's violin:

The violin actually represents a significant story element and design decision flashpoint. In Act III Gregor hears the violin playing from his room and is uncontrollably drawn to it. This ultimately results in his demise. Since I have decided to remove all sound from this film, any violin playing will have to be purely visual. Having to choose music to play from the violin was actually one of the precipitating reasons as to my decision to make this a silent film.

With regards to the violin's construction, I have made this version of it low polygon and low quality, but entirely realistic. I will have to decide later how abstracted I want the violin to be and whether or not a violin is actually able to be significantly abstracted.
  11 November 2013
The Samsa family going for a tram ride without Gregor because Gregor is dead:

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