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Pitch & Produce | Making Hundreds of Actors with Character Creator for Stop Motion Animation


Mathias Rodrigues Bjerre

My name is Mathias Rodrigues Bjerre, I’m a film director and digital artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark.m from Copenhagen, Denmark. I sometimes work on projects as a technical director and I also run a social media profile that features my animations called ZeroSum.G which occasionally receives millions of views.

I graduated from the National Film School of Denmark, specializing in Digital Art and Animation Directing back in 2020. The school offered immense creative freedom, but it did not provide its pupils with any technical curriculum in CG, so I built and learned my digital workflow on my own during my school years.

And after having seen my narratives and technical skills, the school ended up hiring me a month after I graduated to help them ‘refurbish’ their brand just in time for entrance exams. I was tasked with delivering a multitude of shorts, doc-interviews, illustrations, and animations that painted a picture of the different educations the school had to offer. My challenge was not only delivering the visual works but also coordinating with different people under time pressure. I am glad that in the end, I’ve made every individual branch of education (Sound Design, Editing, Directing, and DOP) stand out as a strong unique academia on its own, while I at the same time, made the viewer comprehend that film-production is a team effort and that no part can stand alone in the process of making film and art. (link)

Besides the National Film School of Denmark, my clients also include SONY Music, United Nations, Danish Broadcast Corp, Danish Cancer Society, and AKQA. Besides commercial clients, I’ve also worked on multiple, state-funded artistic projects. As time flew by, I started to develop my own personal style of aesthetics, which I’ve cultivated since 2016 — a form of digital stop-motion. And here are some examples of my work.


Why I created this project?

Around 2 years ago, I contacted the production company Angel Films, seeing we had a mutual interest in creating a new direction for animated content based on new technologies.

My Creative space

As a storyteller, I know one of the most time-consuming aspects of creating animated films consists of designing, modeling, and rigging characters from the ground up. The biggest animation houses here in Denmark can spend up to one entire month just to build a single character. Simply making a 3D character blink, could eat up days worth of production time! I realized this quite early in my life when I first started digging into Maya and rigging as a teenager. I was manually setting up IK controllers and skinning characters, only to realize that my joint placement was wrong and I’d have to redo hours of work. It was grueling!

Yet, Angel Films and I had very steep ambitions…

We wanted to tell stories that allowed for potentially hundreds of unique characters, so it became a very obvious goal for us to find ways to speed up that workflow. According to my friend’s suggestion, I delved into Character Creator, and after having generated only a few actors, I never looked back since then.

The place where all the magic happens!

Creating the protagonists in Character Creator

For the ‘We Are All Gonna Die lmao’ film, we wanted to create an ambitious animation about an imminent climate catastrophe that hits the world and triggers a panicked and violent reaction from the Danish youth, who end up overtaking the Danish parliament by force, with the goal of forcing the entire country to heavily reduce their CO2 emissions by cutting unnecessary power grids and transportation services. The rest of the movie would follow the new government and all of the ensuing chaos and disasters that would follow such a radical movement.

For such a project, we naturally had to re-invent a lot of things in our technical workflow, since our story required hundreds of unique characters and sets. Having recently discovered Reallusion and their many software solutions, this couldn’t have come at a better time, and was a huge game-changer for us. Character Creator alone allowed us to save thousands of hours when it came to building the characters for our work-in-progress political satirical feature film. Having spent 6 months creating 20 unique characters for my graduation film by hand, using Reallusion cannot be understated as an enormous revolution for my workflow. It’s a game-changer: since 20 characters took less than 5 days to create with this workflow.

We managed to build a key scene from the film that required dozens of unique characters as they stormed the Danish parliament in the wake of the before-mentioned potential climate catastrophe. 

Using Character Creator, in combination with the huge Marketplace that Reallusion has to offer, we could quickly build out many different characters from different economic classes and ethnicities, giving them make-up, accessories, and unique features. With Character Creator, we were able to create a 2-minute scene from the movie featuring dozens of unique characters — hippies, politicians, regular joes, etc. all storming a 3D copy of the Danish parliament. We could quickly build out the different characters, changing them on the fly without having to manually rig them afterward. It felt like true creative freedom and allowed me to experiment and use our production time much more efficiently.

From CC to Maya animation and Redshift render

I have a unique style of 3D story-telling that I’ve cultivated throughout the years, that gives my movies a stop-motion-ish aesthetic. By having your characters move in 12 fps instead of 24, the audience automatically lowers their quality expectations, as they are aware that they’re watching something stylized — this is very important if you want don’t want to spend hours animating and perfecting your character’s movement, as you’ll be less likely to hit the uncanny valley that comes pretty easily with janky animation in 24 fps.

Reallusion has very nice pipeline tools that allow me to easily get my characters into Maya and ready to animate. I export the finalized characters as an FBX, and I also export their texture maps via the substance painter export function. I can then easily recreate their shaders with Redshift in Maya from those exported maps. For rigging, I used another external plugin, Advanced Skeleton to easily set up animation-friendly rigs. And with a tiny script I built, we could also set up the blend shapes by just clicking a button. After completing all the necessary steps, including setting up shaders, blendshapes, and rigs, the characters were fully prepared for animation and rendering in Maya. And, It only took approximately 10-15 minutes per character!

We could quickly build out many different characters from different economic classes and ethnicities, giving them make-up, accessories, and unique features — Personally, it felt as easy as if playing a slightly advanced Sims.

-Mathias Bjerre, Filmmaker for Angel Films

Zerosum.G: honoring the new Pipeline

In fact, the speed and expressive workflow that Reallusion helped us foster, allowed me to create a channel I run in my free time named ZeroSum.G. The channel features around 30 unique animated shorts that I’ve made throughout the year, featuring characters made with Character Creator. I’ve also undertaken a political satirical project, where I digitized one top Danish politician a day for a duration of 12 days leading up to the Danish election back in 2022. This was enabled by using Reallusion’s amazing plugin, Headshot, which allows you to build a character based off of a single photo of their face. Besides local Danish politicians, I’ve also made Joe Biden, Trump, John Cena, and even Gordon Ramsay. Some of these random shorts have been seen millions of times on YouTube and TikTok. As of the posting of this article I have accumulated around 110 thousand followers on different platforms in the span of around 4 months of productivity.

Final Thoughts

I’m a person who enjoys the creative process, but who’s also very interested in optimizing the technical workflow in a production. Because the less time you need to spend with tedious processes, the more time you can spend on the fun parts of film-making. I must say that Reallusion has been a total game-changer for me personally!

Learn More about Reallusion Products

Character Creator
Character Creator – Digital Human Ecosystem
Reallusion Marketplace

Follow Mathias’s Work

Portfolio / LinkedIn / Demo Reel
Zerosum.G Instagram
Zerosum.G YouTube
Zerosum.G TikTok

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