Building the world of Ipok

Led by our talented Art Director, John Liew Yu Liang, the Environment team had a huge undertaking of creating an entire world from scratch.

This post outlines the step-by-step exploration of our concepts, including early inspirations and deleted pre-production done for the film.

Firstly, we identified the sub-themes of our film – Adventure, Journey, Alien Planet.

  Astroneer
Astroneer
  No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky
  Subnautica
Subnautica

These led us to multiple inspirations like Astroneer, No Man’s Sky and Subnautica. We really liked the saturated palette of exploration games, their strange flora and unique inhabitants.

We then started searching for natural, real-life references that uses such a palette. There were a lot of hits, with most of them from travel logs.

  Pamukkale Hot Springs, Turkey
Pamukkale Hot Springs, Turkey
  Skaftafell Ice Cave, Iceland
Skaftafell Ice Cave, Iceland
  Underwater Jungle
Underwater Jungle

We eventually found out that aquatic life is actually very colorful and strange, which made us decide that our planet will be an underwater-world-on-land kind of place.

To get things started off, the team began building the world from the smallest rock to the largest continent. The workflow is to generate an encyclopedia of strange plants/vegetation, compile them into a thumbnail image and then layout into their specific habitat/biome. Finally, the key scenes will serve as concept art.

 

 

 Layout and design by Toh Lay Siong
Layout and design by Toh Lay Siong
 Layout by Clement Tan
Layout by Clement Tan

 

 Workflow for Encyclopedia by John Liew Yu Liang
Workflow for Encyclopedia by John Liew Yu Liang

 

After grinding out the encyclopedia, we started adding in the characters to the concept art. The aim was to have them journey through these places together, exploring and at the same time taking in the scenery. The term, “large and breathtaking” was often used. A world map of our planet – Ipok, was created.

 World layout by John Liew Yu Liang
World layout by John Liew Yu Liang

We also explored the space craft that Ana would use to land in Ipok.

 

 Escape pod exploration by Muhd Faiz
Escape pod exploration by Muhd Faiz

  

 Final SpaceCraft designs by Muhd Faiz
Final SpaceCraft designs by Muhd Faiz

 

At this point, the environments were shuffled around to suit the story’s narrative. Some of the finished thumbnails were unfortunately cut due to the new direction in the story. Nevertheless, we hope you enjoy the rest of the concept art!

 Key Scene 01 - The Crashsite by Muhd Faiz
Key Scene 01 – The Crashsite by Muhd Faiz
 Key Scene 02 - Ana meets Crawley by Toh Lay Siong
Key Scene 02 – Ana meets Crawley by Toh Lay Siong
 Key Scene 03 - Wonder by Karen Mei
Key Scene 03 – Wonder by Karen Mei
 Key Scene 04 - Crossy Logs by Clement Tan
Key Scene 04 – Crossy Logs by Clement Tan
 Key Scene 05 - Lily Pads by Chan Jin Wei
Key Scene 05 – Lily Pads by Chan Jin Wei
 Key Scene 06 - Danger by Clement Tan
Key Scene 06 – Danger by Clement Tan
 Key Scene 07 - Ice Caves by Winona Leong
Key Scene 07 – Ice Caves by Winona Leong
 Key Scene 08 - Ice Mountain by John Liew Yu Liang
Key Scene 08 – Ice Mountain by John Liew Yu Liang
 Key Scene 09 - Farewell by John Liew Yu Liang
Key Scene 09 – Farewell by John Liew Yu Liang

Huge props to our Environment team for building the world of Ipok!

Art Director – John Liew Yu Liang – ArtStation
Asst. Art Director – Toh Lay Siong – ArtStation
Asst. Art Director – Clement Tan – ArtStation
2D Artist – Winona Leong – Website
Spacecraft Design – Muhd Faiz – ArtStation
2D Artist – Chan Jin Wei
2D Artist – Karen Mei – ArtStation

Breakdown of The Way Home

A story is bound to have gone through many changes, and every change is a carefully considered decision. Today, we would like to share the process on how reached the final version of our film. These were the guidelines:

Act01 had to establish that Ana has been searching for a way home, who then bumps into this little creature Crawley, who becomes her companion. The segment had to show Ana coming out of her safe zone (the crash) and into uncharted territories.

Act02‘s purpose was to develop Ana and Crawley’s friendship and show a little bit about the world. Their decisions and personality must play off each other well because this friendship must build up to the pay-off in the next act.

Act03 showcases the culmination of the friendship between Ana and Crawley. Ana will eventually reach her goal, but her resolve must be tested. The ending is bittersweet.

First Draft

 

 

First Draft Act01 – Ana had to fight against the cold conditions of the planet, using Crawley’s natural warmth to get to her destination. This made Crawley very dependent on Ana’s food supplies, which was a little too one-dimensional. We ultimately removed the flash-freeze.

 

 

First Draft Act02 – It contains our favorite moments of the film – the journey. We first envisioned it to be a montage of how Ana and Crawley grew to be friends, with Crawley showing a little of it’s world to Ana and finally accepting her as a friend. We just had to use the theme song of Brother Bear! Despite being our favorite segment, it lacked conflict and very little change to show character development.

 

 

First Draft Act03 – Ana and Crawley navigate the dangerous mountain to her spacecraft. Ana chooses to save Crawley. Ana gives her watch to Crawley, a symbol of their friendship (leashed!) Sadly, this entire segment was axed by our producer because of the sheer amount of character assets. Boo.

Verdict

After completing our first draft, we had a major setback. No one could get behind Ana. Ana had the smoothest journey ever for a protagonist and the montage was extremely flat. We had to inject more ups and downs in the story. It was back to the drawing boards.

Second Draft

 

 

Second Draft Act01 – Ana meets Crawley, but the call to action is slightly faster this time. Crawley is shown to be very curious but extremely helpful, helping Ana out of the brambles. It was better.

 

 

Second Draft Act02 – Crawley taps on Ana to help the crabs out. As Ana has been rushing to get off the planet, Crawley takes the chance to show Ana it’s world. It became more of their journey rather than the journey, which we loved watching much more.

 

 

Second Draft Act03 – The danger scene is better fleshed out. Layout was confusing at first, but we did had to thoroughly decide the course of action for the transition into 3D space. Crawley takes center stage, stepping up to help Ana, calling on it’s friends for help. The Manta saves her escape pod. The farewell scene is firmly established. Placeholder music. Mock-up credits.

Verdict

 

 

A bonus video of the entire second draft, lovingly done in 3D animation. Yes we went into production (Do not ever do this!) and most of it was cut. We are sorry, my dear animators.

Third Draft

 

 

Third Draft Act01 – Ana is shown to have suffered a bit more from her crash compared to the last edit. The mood was established and we felt this was a very compact start to the film. At this point, everything was quickly composited in 3D because we were running out of time.

 

 

Third Draft Act02 – Crawley saves Ana! But Crawley messes up, ruining Ana’s watch and her ticket home. Ana eventually forgives Crawley, and the friendship is forged. We decided to keep manta flight because we loved how their friendship could reach *cough*new heights*cough*.

 

 

Third Draft Act03 – At this stage, we kept most of the animation – the only ones left. Emphasis was placed on the emotional beats of the farewell. Ana cried a little too much, the crew deemed it was too exaggerated. But that’s…animation…right?

I hope you enjoyed a breakdown of our process and gave you a little insight into an animated production! It was definitely a lot of hard work, and the effort behind is often underrated. A big thank you to our storyboard artists – Georgia Low, Winona Leong, Joshua And and Pang Kai Lun!

The Way Home – Festival Run

We have been busy sending our beloved film to festivals, circuits and competitions. It’s an exciting time for us because it not only contains our blood, sweat and tears, but a collective dream to share our passion with everyone. We hope you can join us as we shoot for the stars.

Stay tuned for the premiere of “The Way Home”!