Cosmic Dino Studio was formed to produce high-quality animated feature films and TV series for award-winning clients from Australia and internationally. Recently the studio undertook the production of a CG-animated feature film adaptation of the award-winning graphic novel Scarygirl, made for theatrical release around the world for Passion Pictures Australia and Like A Photon Creative. For this project, the studio not only had to significantly scale up their number of employees, but also their animation, rendering and post-production solutions and for those they turned to Digistor.
Cosmic Dino Studio co-founder and director, Ryan Greaves, explained, “It was a monumental task to find the right talent and resources which is why we relied on the brilliant services of Digistor to provide us with the right number of animation, rendering and post-production solutions.”
For the Scarygirl project, Cosmic Dino Studio provided end-to-end production solutions creating all the work from the art department and storyboarding all the way through to lighting and compositing and final render.
Their production pipeline to provide this service was primarily focused on Autodesk Maya, for asset creation across characters, environments, props and rigging, as well as for CG cinematography and blocking and 3D animation. Their lighting department utilised Maya for its lighting and completed its compositing in Blackmagic Fusion 18 and some work in Adobe After Effects. Rendering was completed in Redshift by Maxon, utilising the company’s powerful render farm for the highest quality results.
Cosmic Dino Studio co-owner/co-director, Ricard Cussó, added, “Digistor provided us with all of our Autodesk Maya licenses and we had up to 40 artists working with purchased licenses at a time. Digistor also provided us with our Fusion and Redshift licenses, really efficiently dispensing more Redshift licenses if we needed more render power during some of the heavier months of production. We have been really impressed with the quality of images Redshift has produced, yielding really impressive results for our feature film, which was produced on a limited budget and making it look significantly more expensive.”
Across the entire production pipeline, Cosmic Dino Studio purchased Adobe Photoshop for its art department, ToonBoom Storyboard Pro for its storyboard team, Adobe Premiere Pro for its editorial team and Autodesk Maya for its asset, layout, animation and lighting teams. They also purchased Blackmagic Fusion 18 for their compositing team as well as Adobe After Effects for smaller, incidental effects and Redshift by Maxon to render out every single frame of the film.
Cosmic Dino Studios’ end-to-end animation workflow for CG-animated feature films is a very regimented, structured process to get to the final image. They start with the script, traditionally created by an external client and writer, break it down for their art department to start drawing designs of characters, sets and worlds to then provide work for their asset team to start building this world and characters in 3D.
Greaves said, “Consecutively, our storyboard team will be breaking down the script into scenes and drawing out every single shot of the film to showcase to the directors the blocking and framing of every single beat of the story. Once finalised, these storyboards will be shipped off to our editorial department which will edit them in Adobe Premiere Pro into something called an animatic. This animatic utilises these storyboards as well as scratch voice recordings of characters, sound effects and temporary music to create and pace out scenes in rough forms, to show to the directors what the final scene might look like. This animatic also acts as the bible for every department from that moment on.”
Once the animatic has been finalised, this is shipped down the studio’s bespoke and highly efficient pipeline to their layout department who take the storyboards and match the camera framing of them within Maya in 3D space. They in turn ship that to the animation team who will study the performance of the voice actors and will bring the inanimate 3D characters to life, adding nuance and flair to their movements. This is then shipped to the lighting and compositing team who add digital lights to each set the characters are in and they render out the final image, using a mountain of computer processing power to see all the departments’ hard work combined together.
Cussó added, “It is a long process when you break it down but we run an incredibly tight ship at Cosmic Dino Studio that produces world-class animated feature films on very tight timelines. In terms of animation solutions for CG-animation, Autodesk Maya is still the industry standard and is what the majority of artists in the industry utilise. It is a powerful tool that can really bring characters to life. Redshift by Maxon is still our golden child when it comes to CG rendering. We have tested a number of different rendering solutions for our feature film productions but Redshift has always beaten out the competition, due to its crisp image out of the box and low render times, which is essential for our type of productions that have fast turnarounds and hard deadlines. Blackmagic Fusion is our compositing software of choice as it’s cost-effective yet powerful, providing artists with a node-based interface that they’re used to with other more expensive programs but still providing them with impressive features to produce stunning imagery.”
According to Greaves, Cussó and the Cosmic Dino Studio team the wow factor regarding the Digistor-supplied animation, rendering and post-production solutions always comes when they see the final image come off the render farm for the first time, after every department has tirelessly worked on it for so many months.
Ryan Greaves concluded, “That is a really special moment for us and is always better than you could have imagined. Digistor has provided Cosmic Dino Studio with a competitive edge in the Australian animation industry by providing us with fast and efficient turnarounds on software solutions, so there is zero idle time for our artists when hiccups on the road occur. Digistor have always been a joy to work with and have been a great collaborator in producing this really stunning feature film that we are excited about audiences from around the world seeing in 2023.”