Stories | Teapot Meets Potzilla

Teapot Meets Potzilla

Stomping PBR with New Features for Hand-Drawn Stylization

Today, we sit down with digital artist, Dylan Sisson, to talk about how his latest animated short, Teapot Meets Potzilla, served as an R&D test for the new Distorted Lines feature in RenderMan Stylized Looks, a new feature for creating animated linework. Picture wavy lines that move slightly from frame to frame, delivering the artistic charm of a hand drawn flipbook, all within the confines of a physically based renderer. In this conversation with Dylan Sisson, we’ll explore the creative and technical aspects of his R&D experiment, Teapot Meets Potzilla, to uncover the artistic possibilities of distorted lines and their impact on creating more authentic stylization. Hang on tight, because things are about to get delightfully twisted!




What inspired you to create the short film Teapot Meets Potzilla?

Since I was a kid, I’ve always found Marv Newland's animated short, Bambi Meets Godzilla, hilarious. It's a classic hand-drawn short from 1969, and I thought it would be fun to pay homage to it when I started my technical R&D exploration of animated linework for Stylized Looks … why not create a little short based on a great example of hand-drawn lines? And it seemed like a fun project, too.


Bambi's in for a big surprise


How did distorted lines contribute to the visual storytelling?

In Teapot Meets Potzilla, distorted lines played a key role in the visual storytelling of the film, and needed to capture the same feel from the linework from the original short, Bambi Meets Godzilla. The distorted lines helped to convey a sense of imperfection and unpredictability, evoking the feel of an animation created by a pencil on paper, and not rendered in a computer. By applying slight variations and irregularities to the lines, I was able to give the RenderMan Walking Teapot a charming presence, even when standing still. The lines themselves come to life, which adds a layer of visual storytelling that enhances the audience's connection with the character. The hand-drawn aesthetic established a sense of warmth, not only evoking memories of traditional animation techniques, but also playing a vital role in this R&D experiment to prove the value of this potential feature.


How did this R&D experiment impact the recent release of RenderMan Stylized Looks?

For the teapot, I used the previous RenderMan's Stylized Looks toolset to create a hand-drawn style that emulates the original Bambi Meets Godzilla animation … it looked great, but the overall setup was quite complex, probably overly complex to describe here. Ultimately, this experiment led to many discussions with our lead developer for Stylized Looks, Christos Obretenov, about how to create this look in a more straightforward way. After much collaboration, Christos implemented an elegant solution, Distorted Lines, which creates beautifully distorted linework that’s both nuanced and highly controllable. This new tech is now shipping in the latest release.



Straight, splotchy, and distorted lines.


How do Distorted Lines enhance the creative possibilities for artists?

By tweaking a few parameters, artists are able to shape the quality of lines to match their creative vision. Lines can move off the rigid form of the base geometry. Now artists can embrace the beauty of imperfection, creating unique looks and line behavior driven by any kind of arbitrary texture or procedural pattern. With Distorted Lines, artists are free to explore new horizons, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in stylized rendering. Artists can embrace the quirks, the wobbles, and delightful imperfections, to create completely new kinds of looks and stories.

RenderMan Discord


Did you know RenderMan has an unofficial Discord server where you can chat with developers and users?


What were some of the technical challenges you faced while creating Teapot Meets Potzilla?

One of the biggest challenges was rendering the entire animated short “in camera.” There was no compositing involved. Even the camera dust was rendered geometry. Essentially, we took our fancy physically based renderer and broke it, so it would render 2D linework instead. One benefit of this approach was that everything could be animated and edited during a live rendering session, which allowed me to work fast by seeing final stylized pixels as soon as possible. The total time to finish the entire short was just three days, from concept to final render. Another challenge was creating the linework, which in practice was a matter of layering several types of lines together, which created a simple looking line, but with a lot of subtle variation and character.



Stylized Looks demo in RenderMan for Maya.


How do Distorted Lines enhance the creative possibilities for artists?

By tweaking a few parameters, artists are able to shape the quality of lines to match their creative vision. Lines can move off the rigid form of the base geometry. Now artists can embrace the beauty of imperfection, creating unique looks and line behavior driven by any kind of arbitrary texture or procedural pattern. With Distorted Lines, artists are free to explore new horizons, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in stylized rendering. Artists can embrace the quirks, the wobbles, and delightful imperfections, to create completely new kinds of looks and stories.


What were your favorite aspects of the final project?

I love how the teapot eyes turned out, which look great in 2D, but didn’t necessarily make sense when viewed in 3D, as they really require the linework to read correctly, one reason why rendering everything in camera was crucial. I also like the pun “Teapot Wardrobe by Catmull Clark” because who doesn’t like a good subdivision surface joke?


About the Artist

 
 
 
 
 
 

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