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Eye candy: R’ha

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 | Posted by Jim Thacker

We featured R’ha earlier today, as part of io9’s round-up of shorts that have picked up Hollywood movie deals, but really, the six-minute CG animation deserves a story in its own right.

Initially, the short treads familiar sci-fi territory. (Skynet-esque sentient machines threaten to exterminate organic life? Check. Cavernous Prometheus-like interiors? Check. Vast Star Wars-style cityscapes? Double check.)

What makes it more interesting is that the protagonist is an alien – and one who might, in a movie like Prometheus, be bent on exterminating all other sentient life himself.

But what makes it really special is that it’s all the work of one person: 22-year-old Kaleb Lechowksi, a film and animation student at Berlin’s Mediadesign Hochschule.

Seven months of hard work
The short was created over a seven-month period, using Blender and ZBrush for modelling; Maya for shading, rigging and animation; mental ray for rendering; and Nuke and After Effects for compositing.

According to Lechowski’s blog, the detailed digital cityscapes were created entirely in Blender.

“I modelled a bunch of buildings and duplicated [them] a lot, then I changed [things] here and then, and added random debris. I focused on the big buildings to get variation, as well as the streets and the towers.

“In the far [distance] a particle instance effect helped me get fast results: four different source models randomly spread with random size and rotation. [I used] distance fog, as well as sky and mountains.”

Lechowski, a Blender user before he started college, also used the open-source package for dynamics effects and to render the exterior city shots.

“It took about 4-6 minutes per frame, but I rendered most of it a second time: about 9,200 frames in total. You can do the math if you like.”

Next stop, Hollywood
Although R’ha only came out last week, The Hollywood Reporter reports that Lechowski already has professional management, and is due to arrive in Los Angeles later this month.

Incredibly, Lechowski says that he only considered himself “good average” at art when he was at school, and initially considered studying product design. The manufacturing industry’s loss is clearly Hollywood’s gain.

Visit Kaleb Lechowski’s blog

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