Based in Sydney, David is midway through his Diploma of 3D Design and Animation at Billy Blue College of Design at Torrens University Australia, covering a broad range of content including motion design 3D and animation principles, all setting him up to successfully launch his career post-graduation later this year.
Rokoko's Perfect Loop Animation Challenge Brief
Rokoko’s Perfect Loop Animation Challenge entrants were challenged to create a character-driven, hypnotic and seamless loop. The challenge had two categories – Best Render and Best Original Concept, and was open to all artists, regardless of technical skills and art style with a prize pool of $23,000 USD. The only caveat was to use Danish company Rokoko tools or their Motion Library to unleash the creativity.
“The brief was to create a satisfying loop, a visually appealing loop that makes you want to watch it on repeat, so it has to really take you in,” explains David. “I had to use Rokoko's tools, so I took clips from their motion library where they have a bunch of pre-made animations.”
David wowed an influential judging panel of talented 3D artists to unanimously take out the Best Render accolade in with “Garage Dreams” and win a prize package including $2,500 USD and Full Performance Capture Bundle valued at $3,995 USD. The bundle used for motion capture included 1 Smartsuit Pro II, 1 Smartgloves, 1 Face Capture license, 1 Phone Mount, and 1 Rokoko Studio Plus license, and is now a welcome addition to David’s impressive home studio.
David's Rokoko Challenge Concept - Garage Dreams
David’s dreamy concept for Garage Dreams captured “the sense of unlimited potential, inspiration and wonder that we’ve all experienced as a child” and has racked up over 4500 views on his Instagrampage.
“I thought about this idea for a while, just having a dude stare out into his garage and play. It's that sense of wonder as a kid just imagining what the future might actually bring. I do that a lot. I just imagine what could happen. So, it's pretty personal,” said David of his story concept.
David hopes the recognition can be a launching point for his freelance animation career to ramp up next year. Global connections have already been made and many fellow creators from the community reposted ‘Garage Dreams.’
“It's attracted quite a bit of attention,” said David.
In the lead up to judging David was able to check out the other entries as they had to be published on social media with #madewithrokoko as part of the challenge.
“Obviously I sussed out the other entries because you want to know what you're up against,” said David. “Some of them were insane.”
More than 1600 animations were whittled down to fifty front runners in the Best Render category.
Rokoko's blow by blow judging panel provides incredible critique
The judging panel included industry experts Wren Weichman, William Faucher, Peter France and Clinton Jones, who watched the top fifty animation loops and reacted to their first look at each of them during a live broadcast on YouTube.
They each judged on visual appeal, original theme interpretation, technique, and the use of motion capture as an integral part of the scene, and essential for the loop to work.
“It's good to hear their raw thoughts, their genuine first impression,” said David.
“It was enough of a prize to watch those guys react because they're really famous. They’re guys who are killing it in the industry, so just seeing them give feedback is part of the fun,” added David.
The judges were immediately blown away by ‘Garage Dreams’ with one judge exclaiming “woah, woah, woah! That was such a great loop.”
The exclamations kept flowing as they re-watched several times, “I love this story,” “the mood alone, I love the lighting in that first shot,” “the animation, the crowd, he made a whole crowd,” “this one is special.”
“The surface detail on the finger when the camera gets really close to the finger playing the guitar, that roughness breakup. Nice touch,” “And on the top of the head too,” “All of the surface imperfections, the texture work is great. It adds so much,” the judges bounced of each other to get into the specifics of what made this loop special.
Before moving on to the next loop, they commented, “Dang. That one’s good. That one is really good,” and “Can we just keep watching this one?”
Rokoko Judging Panel in awe whilst watching Garage Dreams
When it was time to assign placings, David’s came up in conversation immediately as the obvious frontrunner, “I don’t think I can say anything. That one is perfect,” said Clinton Jones.
“I think this one is incredible on every level,” added Wren Weichman. “The satisfying fit of the platform he’s on turning into the garage floor.”
“It goes without saying that was everyone’s very much loved one. There was just so much attention to detail, surface detail, great texturing, great lighting, great modelling, great crowd simulation, great everything. The loop is fantastic. I have nothing but good things to say about that one,” raved William Faucher.
“It’s just really good. It’s really artfully done, lots of detail, good story. It feels like there was a lot of love put into this,” said Peter France.
The judges unanimously declared ‘Garage Dreams’ “the best one,” and “Number one,” and then deliberated at length and eventually selecting Euan Morrison’s ‘Portal loop’ for second, and Jev Belyaev’s ‘The Corridor’ in third.
David's reaction to winning the Best Render category at the Rokoko Animation Challenge
Due to the Stateside time zone David didn’t catch the live judging panel, instead learning of his win via the Discord channel where he saw comments congratulating him on the win.
“Actually, just seeing the notification on Discord is one thing, but getting to hear their first feedback was pretty beautiful to watch because I look up to these guys, so it hits you in the heart,” said David who watched with his brothers and mum.
“You really put yourself out there as a creative, and it was pretty personal. I'm just glad that they recognise the amount of work I put in. I think that's the main thing, there was a lot of hard work.”
Let’s get technical. How much work goes into creating a 20 second mesmerising loop?
Take a look at this behind the scenes to see how David created “Garage Dreams” and to get an idea of the effort it took to create his 20 second masterpiece. The render was made in Cinema 4D, Redshift & After Effects with the mix of Office Hours and Motion Library assets used to animate the robot.
“I wanted it to be seamless, so, if you notice with mine there are no wipes across the screen, which is an easy cop out for looping, right? Or you fade to black,” said David. “I wanted to do this thing all ‘in engine’ and make it loop seamlessly, which was really tough, so it was really rewarding to pull it off.”
David came across the challenge and was inspired to try his hand at some new skills, and importantly practice his project management by working solidly for a month on the challenge and time managing “the heck out of it.”
“It's just the culmination of building an arsenal that you can use. It's super important,” said David of the new skills acquired and honed during the process of preparing Garage Dreams.
David stopped working to completely focus on the challenge and look at it as an opportunity to gain a learning experience, as well as the possibility of winning. He worked 8-hour days, for 30 days straight, modelling everything from scratch, with the welcome help of a render farm to cut down on rendering time on his machine. Thinking of it as work helped regiment the hours he dedicated and refine his workflow by prioritising the ‘must do’ list, over the ‘would be nice to do’ list.
“Streamlining my workflow process was a big win from this as well,” said David.
Pulling animation inspiration from everywhere
A passion for filmmaking and 3D animation was born when David was young, his graphic designer father instilling a love for design in his early years. Largely self-taught from tutorials on YouTube, David has acquired skills over the years, and is consolidating his knowledge at Billy Blue College of Design.
Making filmmaking and 3D animation his career is a dream that is very quickly looking like a reality for David. After graduating, he is keen to create his own motion design studio, improve his skills and expand his knowledge, and ramp up his freelancing to a full-time capacity.
Constantly learning, the Rokoko Challenge was the perfect opportunity to workshop his looping skills as well as all the layers of work that coincided to create the perfect loop.
“I like being able to imagine something in my head and just create that, and motion capture is really going to help save a lot of time with that,” said David about adding his prize pack to his studio set up.
David draws a lot of his ideas from pop culture, films, TV and the 80s, for example his 80's inspired branding and his homage to Stranger Things. Music is another big influence, as well as games such as the retro futuristic ‘Fallout 4’. He also finds inspiration by looking at art books, going on hikes and being outdoors.
“You can get inspiration from anywhere.”
David’s YouTube Channel racks up views
His YouTube channel has 13,800 subscribers and he uses it to showcase personal projects that push him creatively and technically and publish content that entertains.
His love for creating film started in middle school when he was introduced to iPads during classes and he “mucked around” with the iMovie trailers.
“My friends and I would make movies in high school, and I made a movie for my high school major work which did really well on YouTube, surprisingly and that kind of solidified wanting to do this in the future.”
The movie is called “Unknown Waters” and it has hit 1 million views on YouTube.
“Which is crazy. I was not expecting that.”
“I look back and I cringe because it's my old work. I see everything wrong with it. But the community of the game, Subnautica, really, really enjoyed it.”
The sequel, “Ascension - Unknown Waters 2,” a Subnautica fan film thrilling CGI live action animation, was exhibited at Billy Blue College of Design’s graduate exhibition, INTRO 2021, and racked up 500,000 views on YouTube.