The year is 2073X: humanity has escaped from the bleak reality into a virtual utopia. A new virus, Neoshin, shakes the world of main character Ayuko. This is the story behind the eponymous project Neoshin, which is not only nominated for the Visual Effects Society (VES) Awards held in March, but has won the AUREA Young Talent Award 2022 as well. Congratulations!
Alumnus Ramon Schauer explains what the project really is (spoiler: not just an animated series, but a real band!) and what makes studying Technical Directing at Animationsinstitut so exciting.
What is NEOSHIN about?
Ramon: Neoshin was our diploma project here at Animationsinstitut. We're telling a world that's in the cyberpunk genre: In our version of the future, technical inventions will make it possible to freeze oneself and live in a virtual parallel world in order to stop the process of aging. At the same time, global warming and massive environmental pollution caused the real world to be no longer worth living in, making the virtual world more and more a place of refuge for people. Our main character Ayuko gets infected with a virus through the music of the band NEOSHIN and is excluded from the virtual reality.
The project is a hybrid between an animated film series and a music album: The band NEOSHIN is both a supporting party within our story and a real existing band that creates the music for the film. Each song corresponds to an episode that continues the story.
What is your role as the Technical Director (TD) of NEOSHIN?
Ramon: The tasks as the TD of NEOSHIN are very diverse. Besides the general TD tasks like keeping track of the pipeline and workflows, my tasks focus mainly on our main character. I actually do almost the entire workflow: Supervision of the 3D scanning session of our main actress, modelling, texturing and shading of the 3D model as well as blendshape creation and rigging. In addition, I also work with motion capture and face capture to give our animators a good basis for their work.
It was very important to me that i would not only work on purely technical things, but also to take on artistic challenges while working on NEOSHIN.
What has been your biggest challenge in working on NEOSHIN so far?
Ramon: Besides the general difficulties with every project like brainstorming and animatic, the most challenging part is definitely our claim to have a convincing human character. There are a lot of small details that need to be considered - from the smallest details like skin pores to the deformation of facial expressions. Often it is very difficult to find out which aspects need more work and requires a lot of research and very good references.
Besides the general TD things like keeping track of the pipeline and workflows, my tasks focus mainly on our main character. I actually do almost the entire workflow.Ramon Schauer
Why did you decide to study TD?
Ramon: I decided to study TD for several reasons. After my bachelor's degree I didn't want to start working straight away, but to take a little more time for my own projects and experiments, for which the Filmakademie offers the perfect setting. I also wanted to go a little further in the direction of VFX, as I had mainly gained experience with games before.
I decided to study TD because I wanted to learn more about the technical background of the workflows and at the same time still take on artistic tasks. Since a TD is practically a mix between artists and programmers and the Filmakademie also offers a lot of freedom in terms of content, I chose the TD course.
What did you do before your studies at the Filmakademie?
Ramon: I studied Animation and Game at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences until 2018, where I learned the basics of 3D, programming, game design and storyboarding.
Before my studies at the Filmakademie I concentrated more on games and the artistic side, but at the same time I had always been interested in the more technical facets of game development and also in how film and game productions become more and more similar.
What practical experience did you gain before and during your studies?
Ramon: During my bachelor studies I worked as a 3D Environment Artist at Deck13 Interactive on the game "The Surge" for almost a year. In addition, I occasionally work as a freelancer on smaller projects.
What did you enjoy most about your studies as a TD? Which topics did you find particularly exciting?
Ramon: I liked the versatility of the studies. Since Technical Directing is an incredibly large and sometimes not clearly defined field, there are always new things to learn. Even among TD students, everyone does completely different things. I'm mainly interested in topics like realistic people, 3D scanning and real-time rendering.
I found it very pleasant to have very few strict guidelines. Instead, you work on projects.
What was your study routine like?
Ramon: Everyday life can be very different, depending on which phase the current projects are in. Usually the day started with a few meetings to plan things and discuss the current state of work. After that, I worked at my workplace on the current tasks - but this was usually interrupted by further short meetings, workshops, etc. Since TDs are often responsible for finding solutions to current technical problems, communication with other team members was a relatively big part of my studies.
What has been your highlight regarding your studies?
Ramon: It's difficult to choose a single "highlight" - but all in all the people you get to know during your studies and the general working atmosphere were the best aspects for me.
In addition, it was of course always very exciting to attend workshops and get feedback from very experienced people from the industry or to try out new techniques.
Any advice for people interested in applying at Animationsinstitut?
Ramon: Probably the best thing is to concentrate on the things that really interest you and not compare yourself too much with the other students or applicants. Since the specialization of TDs can be so versatile, you will always find someone who is much better than you in some areas, which can be very intimidating. In general, it is important not to be too impressed by the entrance examination and simply to show what one's strengths and interests are.