“Under Your Skin” is a collaborative short film created by SCAD’s School of Digital Media during the 2018-2019 school year. We knew from the start that “Under Your Skin” is above all a love story, and figuring out how to introduce, test and resolve Tate and Iris’ relationship in a convincing manner was a cycle of introducing ideas, working them into script and storyboard, and then changing them when necessary. Brainstorming was essential. What began as the story of a blossoming romance evolved into an established relationship that faces obstacles but ultimately strengthen as Tate and Iris learn to work together throughout the course of the film.
With a rough script in hand, the first priority for the visual development team team was to start defining the look for our cast. Initially, the story called for Iris (then called Natalia), to have a greater part in the plot than her partner Tate, so the group spearheaded her design first, with his look created to compliment her design. As the script was edited the needs for the characters changed. What began as a cast of 13 was whittled down to the final six seen here.
The process of modeling the characters started with a sphere in Zbrush, using a dynamesh we created the primary and secondary forms. Then we imported the generated mesh to Maya and did the retopo and UV layout. After that, the retopoed characters were imported in Zbrush to finalize details like folds and wrinkles. The last step was painting them in Substance Painter and rendering in Maya using Arnold. Each character has at least six UDIMs (The head, eyeballs, hair/facial hair, arms, hands, body, legs, cloth and props). Since they will have tattoos on different parts of their body, we will need a high-res texture for that specific part.
The Parlor itself went through a whole variety of ideas and drafts. At different times in the process, it was a modern office set in the side of a sky-scraper sized building. At others, it was a more humble, worn down place situated in a renovated old home. In the end, the team split the difference, with both modern and more traditional elements making up the interior space. As the script and the storyboards progressed, it was also decided that the camera would remain inside and with the small role the windows played, little of the exterior would need to be explored beyond what would help establish interest and spark ideas within the concept group.
Props and Set Dressing
From our research, the group knew that tattoo parlors typically house an eclectic collection of items. For the purposes of defining out characters and interests, we chose to focus on Tate’s interest in nature and plants, as well as Iris’ love of pop culture and comics. It was while developing the plants that the team was able to finalize the visual style we wanted.
One of the core elements in the plot of “Under Your Skin” is the tattoos, which comes to life when they’re completed. once it was decided that the film would be primarily 3D, the tattoos were planned as 2D animations that would be laid on top of the character models.
Iris’ personality was described to the animation team as confident, rebellious, bold and sometimes loud. She absolutely loves coffee and is slightly messy but not unsanitary. She is also a fan of action figures and comic books that cover her desk along with sticky notes. Knowing this, we as an animation team wanted to portray Iris as a fun, confident, bold, but smooth individual. We focused heavily on her expressions as we can also tell a lot about what she is thinking through her face. Many of the animators utilized the facial expression sheets for reference as well as the posing sheets completed by Art Director Andrew McKinney, which can be seen in the reference examples.
Our male protagonist, Tate, is a bigger character with a soft personality. It was important to get how a guy as big as Tate would move with a soft personality. He was quite the contrast from Iris, who is significantly thinner than Tate. Most of his movements are in his shoulders and back so our main goal was the incorporate gingerly and small actions into a big size. Tate is a gentle giant who loves plants, drawing and Iris. It is important that Tate maintains an upside down triangle, which is a contrast to Iris’ body, which is in the shape of a triangle because of her large pants.
Take a look below to see all of the awesome students who worked on this film!