Animated comedy produced exclusively for virtual reality viewing experience with the help of Cinema 4D and ZBrush.
Maxon, developers of professional software solutions for editors, filmmakers, motion designers, visual effects artists and creators of all types, today announced that Cinema 4D and ZBrush were used in the production of animated virtual reality short, Ajax All Powerful. Written and directed by award-winning VR filmmaker Ethan Shaftel and co-produced by easyAction, VeeR and Detona Cultura, the film removes the barrier of the fourth wall to provide viewers with a uniquely immersive perspective in which they experience the events and emotions more acutely through the viewpoint of a protagonist.
Launched August 20th, 2023 on the Meta Store, the animated comedy follows double-crossing genie Ajax, who, in a dark twist, collects souls in exchange for granting wishes. That is until he meets his match when a little girl, who rubs his lamp, comes prepared with her very own lawyer to help negotiate.
Starring Henry Winkler (Happy Days, Barry) as the foul-mouthed Ajax and Chris Parnell (Rick and Morty, Saturday Night Live) as the no-nonsense lawyer, the story uses interactivity, movement and performance to create a perfect state of engagement in which the audience is fully focused on the story.
“When you make a movie in Mixed Reality, it’s really a whole world, so there is so much more animation to do,” Shaftel explains. “All of the characters are alive all of the time, so you have to be really brutal about where you put your production time, polish and energy. The great thing about using Cinema 4D in VR production is that you can use it in several different ways and with Maxon it is such a straightforward process to export files into VR.”
Given the cutting-edge developments in the VR space over the last few years, Maxon CEO David McGavran believes VR may revolutionize filmmaking and storytelling in much the same way the addition of color and sound did in the past. “VR offers artists a plethora of opportunities for content creation and filmmakers need to be extremely clever and imaginative in how they enable the viewer to interact with the film. Ethan has been honing this very craft for years and is pioneering truly unique and immersive experiences in virtual reality. Maxon is committed to providing the artistic community with necessary tools that are primed for working in this rapidly developing medium.”
Cinema 4D and ZBrush were valuable tools for fast, smooth workflows throughout each step of the film’s production, Shaftel says, and the integration with Unity made switching between those solutions and exporting files uncomplicated.
ZBrush, the industry standard tool for digital sculpting and painting, was primarily used for character design, and all the animation was created in Cinema 4D, Maxon’s professional 3D modeling, animation, simulation and rendering software. With Cinema 4D, it was easy to plan and block out action sequences during the writing and animation process, as well as revisit and edit where necessary.
In addition to producing the previz animatics, the VR 360 video tools in Cinema 4D allowed Shaftel to render out frames of 360 video from different perspectives, which were then taken into Adobe Premiere to be edited into a VR storyboard. During the full production process, Shaftel and his collaborators brought the dialogue soundtrack into Cinema 4D to rig and animate the characters in order to match the actors’ vocal performances to their characters’ actions.
“This film is the first time I’ve been able to put together all the components of my vision for how I think narrative VR can work,” Shaftel says. “I’m hoping that some of the techniques I’m playing with can transcend a single project and apply to other VR narratives and become part of the grammar of VR storytelling. That’s the ongoing project.”
About Ethan Shaffel
Ethan Shaftel directs film, immersive, and interactive projects. His VR work includes the comedies Kaiju Confidential (Sundance 2019), Space Buddies (Tribeca 2019) and Extravaganza (Tribeca 2017), as well as interactive installations for brands and musicians. His background is in traditional film, as well as media for immersive spaces,performances, and theater.
Maxon makes powerful, yet approachable software solutions for content creators working in 2D and 3D design, motion graphics, visual effects and visualization. Maxon’s innovative product portfolio helps artists supercharge their creative workflows. Our product lines include the award-winning Cinema 4D suite of 3D modeling, simulation and animation technology; the creativity-on-the-go Forger mobile sculpting app; the diverse Red Giant lineup of revolutionary editing, motion design and filmmaking tools; the leading-edge, blazingly fast Redshift renderer; and ZBrush, the industry-standard digital sculpting and painting solution.
Maxon’s team is comprised of fun, passionate people who believe in building and empowering a successful artistic community. From our popular, inclusive events to our free Cineversity educational resources, Maxon recognizes that developing strong connections with creatives and fostering their professional growth is integral to our ability to stay on top of industry trends and better serve customers.
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