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. Mindful of the budget constraints, it was necessary to find a way to reduce the work hours required for the scale of the project.

Breaking down the sequences, 3 types of footages could be categorized for this project. Firstly, we had the matte paintings, which in itself already met the style requirements of the film. Secondly, the live footage of the actors, which usually required manual attention to get the best results. Lastly, there was the animated 3D content, such as the various vehicles in the city.

It was mainly the last category that proved 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 post-processing phase of the rotoscope artists.

Important aspect was that the 3D content matched 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. Based on the live action footage, I discerned that the art direction maintained a remaining level of realism that permeated the line work on the actors, which meant that the 3D content should display some modicum of realism as well.
After some research and extensive testing, I ended up creating a shader that would down build both 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 below, all the vehicles in the picture are using the shader tree to generate their texture variant.

Bus Flip

Another good example of the shader material can be found in the collision shot in the trailer below.

Official trailer EN – Zooks: Follow your nature.


Last updated: 20/02/2014


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