Waterton Light

Working closely with Jason Wilsher Mills we recently provided the concept and final digital modelling for a new sculpture that was erected in Wakefield city centre. We provided the digital modelling for the concept and final sculpture. 

The process of the sculpture can be seen here.

To accompany the sculpture Ian McMillan was commissioned to write a poem and we were asked to bring it to life with a short animation. The poem told the story of Jason’s parents meeting when his mother lived and worked at Charles Waterton’s residence, Waterton Hall.

We initially storyboarded the project, bouncing ideas back and forth with Jason and quickly progressed this to a very rough animatic. 

Character developed began early on in the process. There were three main characters; Jason’s parents, Irene, Peter and a friend, Maria that Irene lived with at Waterton hall. Each character had to be designed at different ages in their lifetime and therefore different eras of fashion.

Blocking out the characters was done in Zbrush before re-topologising the models and experimenting with visual styles in Blender.

The characters were to cover different ages, fashion styles and work roles, and yet had to be consistent in look. We setup a workflow in substance painter to texture all assets throughout the animation which helped maintain the ‘family’ look. We used Blender’s new hair tools for the various hair styles required.

Whilst using Jason’s original sketches as reference we had to progress the design of the characters to a three-dimensional environment, adding cg hair and more detailed clothing for Peter, while Irene’s clothing would rely on a cloth simulation run in a separate software to be incorporated into the final scenes. All characters were rigged with AutoRigPro and animated in Blender.

A darker theme that drove Irene’s departure from her home life was to be portrayed in an ambiguous manner. This is how the smoke character evolved, a dark nondescript entity that symbolised the pain in her earlier life and would eventually cause her to flee her home and seek a new life at Waterton Hall.

This was achieved by animating a basic figure and running smoke simulations directly in Blender based upon the figure’s movement.

Charles Waterton makes a brief appearance in the animation riding a crocodile in the moat, but however brief his appearance, his costume had to be designed and created. We’re pretty sure he didn’t ride a crocodile in the moat, as he does in the animation, but there is imagery of him ‘riding’ a Cayman. So it must have happened, right ?

There’s a constant scene change in pretty much every shot of the animation. This called for a lot of props and environments to be created, all were designed and built in-house. They ranged from simple rowing boats and buses to larger environments such as Wakefield town centre in the 1950s and the ‘star’ of the show Waterton Hall.

Wateron Hall was a character in the film itself and again with great reference we built a digital recreation from the ground up. Including a surrounding moat, trees and surrounding the environment features.

Thanks to Jason for commissioning us to produce this short animation and allowing us such creative freedom. We’re happy to take you concept or script and develop it to the final animation, feel free to contact us to talk about any projects you have in the pipeline.

The final film can be viewed below. 

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