Zooks: Follow Your Nature

Rotoscoped cinematic project Zooks: Follow your nature directed by Kristoff and Dimitri Leue.

Art direction: Joost Jansen

Developed by Sancta Media.

The 13 year old Robin lives in a world where nature is taboo.

Plants are considered filthy, butterflies are considered dangerous and going into the woods is strictly forbidden. The reign of terror by King Ferdinand and his Bureau of Nature Control maintains a strict separation between man and nature. However when Robin’s mother Marjolein suddenly disappears during an expedition, Robin ventures into the woods looking for her.

There she meets a mysterious boy named Wolf, an ‘enfant sauvage’ who seems to hold answers to her mother’s disappearance…

The film is envisioned as an animated feature, yet with rotoscoped live actors blended into the camera mapped 2.5D environment.

Technical Artist

  • Environmental camera mapping; 3D asset creation.
  • Previz animation blocking.
  • Creating and rigging crash deformables.
  • Creating custom cell-shader to automate parts of the rotoscoping process in post-production.

Rotoscoping usually requires either long hours to ink over the sequences frame by frame the old-fashioned way, an adaptive algorithm as a plugin during compositing or a combination of both.

The animated 3D content proved the most problematic, as is the nature of the current film making process.
Retakes are commonplace and changes in animation or shots could happen in pretty much any stage of development for any number of reasons.

If a sequence was to be revised after rotoscoping had taken place, the line work would pretty much needed be redone entirely. To minimize the potential workload in such a case, I focused on creating a custom cell shader that could be easily applied before the rotoscoping process.

The main focus was to match the 3D content with the final look of the live action footage as closely as possible. To give the final rotoscoping artist somewhat of a baseline content that would match their workflow and therefore integrate easily in their pipeline. Art direction required a certain level of realism in the line work of the actors, which meant that the 3D content should match that visual style as well.

For this goal, I ended up creating a shader that would decrease detail and realism depending on the cell-shade progression, while maintaining certain shader elements globally, such as paint speckles in the cars and edge lining. 

The same shader tree could then be repurposed for generating other materials such as windshield glass, highlight could be altered and animated locally depending on the need and the mood of the scene.

The cell shading itself was editable using lighting attenuation and could be dynamically altered on the fly, allowing for stylized freedom as one could alter the diffuse material through light sculpting, while having the specular and reflective aspects ‘normalized’ with the scene lighting.

Use of this material can be seen in the still above, all the vehicles in the picture are using the shader tree to generate their material variant.
The actors were filmed in greenkey, composited and rotoscoped separately and then recomposited into the final scene with the 3D animation.

Another good example of the shader material can be found in the collision shot at the end in the trailer above.

Official trailer EN – Zooks: Follow your nature.