In advance of the first of the recent Star Wars trilogy being released, we were inspired by the BB-8 droid character to make a fun short film. With a major part of the film production shooting just in neighboring Pinewood Studios it seemed apt that BB-8 take some well-deserved time off to explore London.

Pre-production

It all began with a short script and some quick thumbnail sketches to thrash out the idea on paper. These rough sketches meant I could quickly test ideas in sequence and rearrange the running order until the short story felt well-rounded. Complimented with a bit of location scouting across London, we set a shoot date where we saw a brief window of good weather on the horizon and caught the first tube into central London for a full day of shooting.

Production

As this is a 3D animation heavy short with 21 of the 28 shots requiring BB-8 to be added digitally we had to be very conscious of how we would integrate the droid when shooting. This meant making camera moves imagining BB8s height, action and timing while essentially shooting an empty scene. 

In addition shooting the on location footage and audio, we also captured 360 HDRI spheres for the 3D rendering. At each location we shot 4 angles to cover 360 degrees at 7 different exposures, ultimately creating 15 separate HDRI’s.

Post-production

While developing the screenplay and storyboard we were also working on the 3D model at the same time. Using a huge bank of reference taken from the variety of Star Wars trailers and real life appearances of the droid we tried to get a glimpse of every angle of the real BB-8 to rebuild it in 3D accurately. Modelling in Maya and texturing in Photoshop we also created highly detailed textures for bump and reflection mapping to add the panelling and minute surface details.

To actually animate BB-8 required some simple rigging to add controls that allow BB-8’s body and head to roll around independently of each other. Check out the video below to see the process of creating one shot from start to finish.

To finish things off, we put the BB-8 model up for grabs for other 3D artists to download. We received some great messages from artists all over the world who made some lovely work of their own with our BB-8.

The film gained a lot of attention, making it into TimeOut London. I was even lucky enough to be invited to the crew screening of the Star Wars film and meet BB-8 for real!

Comments are closed.