After sharing our short film and receiving the huge positive response from everyone we are pleased to now share some of the work that went on to bring BB-8 to life in this BB8 in London Making of post. First off though we want to thank reddit, especially subscribers of r/London for helping spread the word and get the ball rolling. It was most likely off the back of that support that Timeout and Mashable picked up the video and we even made the print edition of Timeout London! So read ahead to find out a little bit of how we did it.
Every film, long or short, starts with an idea and getting that down in writing is essential to begin making decisions on the overall direction, pace and themes of the video. So although this in house short film may last under 2 minutes, it was treated with the same process and attention of any of our studio projects.
Hot on the heels of the screenplay is of course the storyboard. This was given a light treatment as we knew when shooting “guerilla style” there needed to be room for improvisation, so after a day of location scouting we sketched out a series of “thumbnails” to begin to think about composition and camera moves.
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 concious 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. Emma Wilson, who was the key frame animator on this project, was on location for the entire days shoot to review the envisioned animation pace on a shot by shot basis.
Armed with my trusted Panasonic GH3, three lenses and Zoom H4N audio recorder we were able to capture all the video and audio we would need. Not only that, but of course we would also need to capture RAW photography to create high dynamic range images (HDRI) for the image based lighting to be used at the 3D rendering stage. This is why I love the GH3 as not only is the video great, but combined with a fisheye lens you can capture almost 180 degree photos to then build into spherical panoramas. So at each location we shot 4 angles to cover 360 degrees with plenty of overlap at 7 different exposures to capture a huge range of image data, ultimately creating 15 separate HDRI’s to be used in 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.
The BB-8 model used in the film can be downloaded for free along with all the textures you need to make your own BB8 projects. All we ask in return is that you help spread the word by sharing this page. This model is for non-commercial use only and is not for redistribution or upload anywhere else. If you put it to use, we’d appreciate it if you would drop us a comment, tweet or email to show us your handy work and please credit: BB-8 Model by getwrightonit.com. To maximise compatibility and reduce the download size the model is a single OBJ file with no normals information, so simply smooth all the normals and hit separate to split the components.
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.
We hope you found this process breakdown of interest and if you are a 3D artist yourself, feel free to have fun with the model and share your work, we would love to see your renders. If you are interested in more making of material, check out our previous project with Mario in Tokyo.