While I’ve been waist-deep in character animation, two friends have pitched in to add color and light to the environments. As of last November, all environments for Merge are complete! Many thanks to illustrators Hikari Kobayashi and Alexandra Badiu; we could not have completed the environments to this degree without their hard work and expertise.
There are two types of environments that appear in this film: 2D static, and 3D animated.
2D static environments are painted in Photoshop, and exported as 2D plates for compositing.
They can be divided up into foreground and background layers to create an illusion of parallax, and they work well for shots with simple camera motion (like zooms, trucks, or pans).
However, several shots in the film require more complex camera movement. For instance, the camera may fly through an environment, and rotate! For these shots, I had to find a different strategy using 3D animation.
The 3D animated environments were painted in Photoshop, then mapped onto a three-dimensional dome and animated in Maya.
The resulting video can then be used as a background, with 2D animated elements (like characters and flying debris!) superimposed on top. I hope it works with the animation… we’ll find out soon enough.
Alexandra and Hikari handled color for the 2D static environments (which account for most of the environments in the film).
Alexandra Badiu is a Romanian children’s book illustrator, who has done visual development on many animated shorts. She worked primarily on the indoor environments for Merge. Alexandra has an amazing sense of mood and storytelling with light! You can check out more of her work here:
Hikari Kobayashi is an illustrator from the east coast, with a background in sequential storytelling. She worked on the outdoor landscapes and abstract dreamscapes of Merge. Her exuberant use of color and expressive textures helped bring these environments to life! You can find more of her work here:
Animation updates are on the way. Thanks for reading!