Seeing Tomorrow is a thrilling science fiction cable/web series, set in the near future. The three part series, produced by Donna Dabbs and Joseph Primes of Triangle Park Entertainment. Written by Mona Golden and directed by Joddy Eric Matthews, Episode One finds a lonely accountant, Joseph Primes who orders a simple lunch date with a Companion, artificial life-forms that serve as cures for an increasingly disconnected world. In walks Nina (Katrice Headd), a Companion with a complex past and a plan that takes Jeremiah on the ride of his life.
“Science fiction often gives society a chance to look at difficult concepts such as freedom and death without compromise, that’s what this film does. At its core, it’s a film about rights, the right to be free, to live, to determine your own destiny” remarks Producer Donna Dabbs.
Central to the plots storyline are the deeds of global conglomerate, Blade/Hrushu and two of its products, Urban Law Enforcement Drones and the Gerri Robot. “These two characters are important to our story” stated Matthews. “Even though we were operating with a really low budget, the creation of these assets needed to be done at a high level to sell the story” he added. To that task, Animation Supervisor, Chris Kennedy set forth to complete a daunting effort, create engaging images on a virtually non-existent budget.
The Gerri Robot
In the Film, The Gerri Series robots were created by Blade Technologies in 2014 and were constructed as Robotic platforms that would serve a multitude of different services ranging from being soldiers in the military to working in the service industry.
“In concept, we decided that the robotic should rely on as much real world design and functionality as possible. Not scientific accuracy but something a consumer could see as real.” remarked Producer Joseph Primes.
To save on cost, MadWerkz used an existing frame and built on it, reconstructing it’s polygons to be more robust and to ready it for UV layout, to which Chris knew would be difficult considering the models initial state. “It was very time consuming to layout the UV’s since the model contained so many little parts.”
The look development and Vray shader construction was handled by Matthews himself. He states, “The color palette behind the Jezebel robot in Episode 1 is tied to the Cajun themed restaurant, which employs a rich purple and gold yellowish color scheme. Working from the original concept, this particular Gerri Series machine had seen years of service and to illustrate this we used deep scratches and food smudges to convey this to the audience.”
To aid in the up close realism, Kennedy developed several files of decals to add to the Robots look. “Most of them, you’ll never see but it sells the realism of the material. Which Joddy simply had to have.”
That also mandated textures that reached 8K in pixel size in order to accommodate the numerous close-up shots needed. “We needed the image to stand up as real close-up.” added Texture artist Jim Hagar. The ideal tool for the character texturing would be Mari, but because not everyone was experienced in its use, Mudbox and Photoshop were the primary texturing platforms. “Jim did a great job in finding these high resolution metal textures and I painted them, adding scratches and several dirt layers”. The final outputs were linear 16bit Tifs, ranging between 8k to 4k diffuse, specular and normal maps for each metal object. “It wasn’t unheard of for the file size in Photoshop to exceed 2 gigs” stated Matthews. The textures were combined in Maya using custom Vray metal shaders, some of which were supplied by Paul Dreisen or built by Matthews. “We wanted the Jezebel Gerri to made out Aluminum, but not reflect all the interior of the restaurant, as we felt that would look fake”, remarked Primes “I think the final render captured that effort perfectly”.
The final renders were accomplished in Vray using a Dome Light and 2048 pixel HDRI Textures along with Vray area lights for some of the directional highlights mimicking the restaurant lighting setup. “Most of the highlights come from the HDRI Lightmap so the render time was pretty good at about 8 minutes a frame”, states Kennedy.
Police UAV Drone
“Very early on Joddy and I spoke about the fact that the police UAV drone needed to be believable as an urban law enforcement tool but not betray its owner’s future military plans. In other words it had to be constructed in such a way that people would respect it and see it as a possible weapon of war, but not run away in terror from it”, stated Chris.
Different concept ideas were pitched concerning the ship’s overall design and everything from propeller-based engines to jet based engines was discussed. The final product ended up being a car size craft that employed a propulsion based engine set up and a sleek, steel/aluminum body design that civilians would respond well to. The drone employs an arsenal system, camera, motion sensor and two separate engines that can rotate independently of one another. The design decision behind the independent engines was made to allow the drone to be capable of hovering in place, tight cornering while patrolling the streets, and high velocity take-offs.
The color palette for the UAV drone was constructed in a way with colors that were easily identifiable with police vehicles but also would standout with civilians. With this, red and black colors were selected to be added to the plastic rib backing on the drone while the rest of the body would sport a grey, scratched steel and aluminum material.
The drone was constructed in Maya with Look Development completed in Mudbox and Photoshop. The ship was rendered in Vray with HDRI textures acquired onset.
“As producers we’re really happy with the work of Joddy, Chris and the gang at MadWerkz in bringing this story to life, especially given the budget and time frame” adds Primes. “It looks outstanding and we think audiences will really enjoy Seeing Tomorrow!
To see the film, visit seeing tomorrow on facebook: seeingtomorrow