July 27, 2006

Kuhfo to be showcased in SIGGRAPH 2006

For the animation duo of Holger Wenzl and Hannes Appell of the Institute for Animation at Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg

in Stuttgart, Germany, the challenge of conceptualizing and delivering animated short films was a close encounter of the amusing kind.

Recent winners of a 2006 Animago award for Kuhfo, a series of animated short films, the team relied on NVIDIA Quadro FX GPUs and NVIDIA Gelato final-frame rendering software to help deliver stylized animation in a short amount of time.

The Kuhfo animated short films will be showcased in the SIGGRAPH 2006 Electronic Theater, August 1-3, at the Boston Convention Center.

The first challenge for the creative team was finding an inspirational subject (or two). While conducting a series of inspired Google Web searches, the team stumbled upon the unlikeliest of muses—cows and UFOs. After settling on the characters, Hannes and Holger brainstormed more than 25 storyboards, eventually narrowing the list to a series of six animated shorts that would average 10 to 18 seconds long. "Every clip should work on its own, but when seen together, the clips tell a perpetual story," says director Holger Wenzl.

With storylines in place, the team crafted the overall look of the project. "We made some rough 2D animatics, and while that was a look we liked, we wanted to create the clips in 3D because it was easier for us to build the set and reuse it for every trailer," explains Wenzl. "However, it was important for us to keep the 2D appearance, so we made simple-shaped objects that had a plastic appearance."

The shorts took shape with Maya 7 software from Autodesk, which the team used to create the 3D models, and Adobe Photoshop and After Effects software on Windows XP for texturing and compositing, respectively. Using Maya's deformer tools, the artists rigged the cows and UFOs to simplify production. "For the cow's head, for example, I created a rig out of several different deformers to achieve different looking cows from one 'base' cow," says Wenzl.

Once the models were prepared, the animation and rendering of scenes was swift. Initially, the team started testing the capabilities of NVIDIA Gelato 2.0 rendering software on NVIDIA Quadro FX graphics with plans to use the rendering technology in future projects at the Filmakademie. "The Quadro FX graphics and Gelato combination gave us the ability to utilize graphics hardware that is normally used for online rendering to calculate our images offline," notes Sebastian H. Schmidt, technical director for the project.

NVIDIA hardware and software technology allowed the Kuhfo animation team to quickly deliver animation in less than three months, while effectively streamlining the creative and rendering production pipeline at the Filmakademie.

For more information about NVIDIA Quadro FX graphics solutions and Gelato rendering software, please visit www.nvidia.com.