Prologue : Trailer updated 13/07/12
Australian Screen Industry Awards
Sydney International Animation Festival
In the Bin Short film festival
Au Screen Industry Awards:
Best New Film 2011
Sydney International Animation Festival:
Teen Choice Award for Best Short Animation
In the Bin Short film festival:
Best Animated Short 2010
Awaken : Animated Short Film
   Gallery1  \Awaken \ The future is not programmed \ Texture painting \ 3D-Animation-Adventure \ 16:9 Widescreen
closeup of assault/defence droid 135

135 in action

soldier 135 guards the radar relay station

Artwork Details :
     Artists Description and general comments.

Client : David Gould Studios --A computer animation and live-action film production company based on the Gold Coast, Australia.
Brief :
Create colour sheets and a unique style of texture painting for the characters, sets, and props for the animated short film Awaken.
Medium : Digital : Texture painting created in Cinema 4D and Adobe Photoshop CS3
then exported to Maya 8.5
Technique : Create brushes. Go for a painted dry brush look.
Notes : Set in a future world of 'arms-based contingency operations' between human and robot factions. A lone robotic soldier, isolated on an island relay station, learns that life is precious. It's newfound convictions are put to the test at the film's climax.

Awaken was nominated for the Best Achievement in Sound for an Animated Short Film or Program at the Australian Screen Sound Awards 2009. Congrats to Regatta Studios for their awesome sound design and mixing.

Awaken has been selected for Short Film Corner, Festival de Cannes.

Awaken as featured in Digital Media World Magazine
Title : Awaken (English) L’eveil (French)
Running Time / Duration : 14:44:14 (14 mins 45 secs)
Completion Date : 14th August, 2009
Genre : 3D-Animation/Adventure
Copyright : © 2009 David Gould Studios
Screening Format : PAL Widescreen DVD (Dolby 5.1) /
NTSC Widescreen DVD (Dolby 5.1)Digitbeta PAL / Digibeta NTSC
Director : David Gould
Running Time / Duration : 14:44:14 (14 mins 45 secs)

Country of Production : Australia
Film Website :
Shooting Format : 3D Computer Animation

Screen Ratio : 1.77 (16:9 Widescreen)
Sound : Dolby Digital (5.1)

AWAKEN : The animated production served as a training ground of sorts for director David Gould, whose cinematic background up until that point had been a impressive pedigree in Visual FX at Weta Digital, David finalised the script and personally completed roughly 20 percent of the film’s animation ( not bad considering he had never previously done character animation digital or otherwise ). The short film, produced by David Gould Studios, received development and production funding from Screen Australia. Since completion Awaken has won Best new film @ the Australian Screen Industry Awards 2011 (also Best Director), Sydney international Animation festival 2010 (Teen Choice Award for Best Short Animation), In the bin Cart-Orts film festival 2010 (Best Short Film Award). It was entered in the Gold Coast Film Fantastic, November 2009, where it made Official Selection.

During the films conceptual stage, David worked in conjunction with creative artists/illustrators in France, north america, Spain and in Australia (sigh, not me, Arkhamhaus Images came on board later). The overriding theme in the designs was simplicity. Describing the robot soldiers in his film:
“I didn't want the robots to be like the Japanese mecha with advanced systems and power sources. The robots are very simple, hydraulic machines. If a part fails or is destroyed, you simply replace it with another part. Their simplicity makes them more robust.”
David didn't wish to spend too much time on detail in building and texturing the characters ("I don't want you to pixel fuck it!" was one turn of phrase I recall). His focus was on creating a solid storyline and investing valuble time and resources on animation than on building intricate, photorealistic characters and models. “In ten years time, no matter how good your technology is, it will appear outdated, but if the story is good it the film will live on.”

Modelling All the characters, props and sets were modelled in Maya as a standard polygonal cage that was later subdivided in the rendering software. The hydraulic cables in the robot use NURBS but virtually nothing else. Using the low-resolution polygons meant that the modelling team could use the same models for the animations as well as the final renders, and didn't have to swap the models out and replace them with higher resolution models at render time. They modelled and rigged all the characters once and could use them for previz, animation and final rendering, although modifications and improvements to the characters continued right up until the final day of animation. A human character in the story, a little girl, received more complex treatment. “We added more facial and other controls to enable more expression in the girl. We wanted fine nuances to be portrayed and had to add more controls to her lips and particularly around her eyes and eyebrows,” David said. “We didn't do any simulations of cloth or ropes. They took too long and often didn't produce a very good result. In fact, the girl's hair and cloth have controllers that are hand-animated. This way we had absolute control and weren't fighting against a simulated result. In computer animation you get nothing for free,” he joked. “The jungle is made up of thousands and thousands of hand-made trees including swiss-cheese plants and banana palms.” Complex Wings All the rigs allowed a mix between inverse kinematics, IK, and forward kinematics, FK. You could switch between the two at any point in the animation. You could have the girl's left arm in FK and her right arm in IK depending on the requirements. For the robot I developed some custom plugins to control the pistons and hydraulics. The animator can move the arm or torso and the pistons and hydraulic's orientation is calculated automatically.” The bird's wings were a complex rigging problem. When they fold, all the individual feathers must fold over each other. The final rig has a separate control for each of the feathers. We set up poses for the wings fully extended, then one-third closed, two-thirds closed, then fully closed. The feathers were individually posed for each of these different stages of closure. The entire pose for both wings were then stored. David developed a system to store poses and reapply them at any point, so that when an animator needed to close the wings they could instantly apply the various wing-closure poses as needed. Camera Angles Animation got underway as the rigging and modelling were completed. All animation was done in Maya. All the characters use standard Maya tools, other than a few custom plugins David developed. In some cases, the camera would be created first and the animator would work to that. “I created the cameras and adjusted them as needed as part of the previz stage,” said David. “Other times, the animator would produce some animation and then I would work out the best camera angles to cover that action. So in that way, it is like live-action filming. “The views from all the different cameras were output using the Maya playblast feature, and I would add them to the edit. I could then see which angles worked and which didn't, choose the final camera and the animator would continue their work with that one. We used Premiere Pro to edit, but are considering FCP for future productions.” Reference David downloaded lots of photo reference so the team could see the different poses for the birds. The photos also became important for the girl. What makes a young girl appealing? How do they hold themselves when standing? A lot of video reference was also downloaded for the girl and birds. For the robot, he collected hydraulic crane reference and other machinery. “We didn't use any other reference for the robots since it was understood that they were 10 foot tall and weighed over a ton. It was then a task of making the character's size and weight work on the screen but I didn't want the animators looking at anime - this wasn't the style I was going for.” For complex motions, the animators would record their own video reference. For example where the robot was doing several actions such as picking up the grenade launcher, spinning around, running across the barge, stopping and firing, the animator recorded himself performing these actions because it helped them understand the transfer of weight, the location and orientation of the pelvis. Then, of course, he takes artistic license and makes it believable for a much large and heavier robotic character. Raytracing The rendering was split into multiple passes including occlusion, key light and fill lights. Mental Ray was used to render the film because David wanted to apply raytracing. Although the characters, sets and overall style of the film appear simplistic, it still uses raytracing to achieve realistic outdoor lighting. The island is intended to be a beautiful place and the realistic lighting helped portray this better. “It was important to me that the characters really inhabited this outdoor location,” said David. “On a sunny day, there is a huge hemisphere of blue light above (skylight) and a huge area of golden sand underneath. This meant that standard lights wouldn't work. I wanted to ensure that the blue lighting from above and the warm bounce light from below got inside the intricate parts making up the robot. Therefore, ambient occlusions passes were rendered so that realistic indirect bounce lighting could be taken into account. Otherwise, the characters would have had lots of dark areas, which wouldn’t happen in an open outdoor setting.” Iteration David said that spending so much time in the screenwriting, storyboarding and previs stages was valuable for this film. For example, in the original script, the young girl’s character ‘Jenny’ and the robots talked. Many script revisions later, it was decided the film should have no dialog, to make the film more accessible and emphasise the use of animation to communicate feelings. Early drafts of the script also included Jenny’s father, the air-force pilot flying the plane when it was shot down by the robot. Early drafts placed a greater focus on the two sides of the story, the robot’s side and the girl’s, but later it focused on the robot's point of view. “By doing countless iterations of the storyboarding and previz stages you could effectively make the entire film many times over,” David said. “This meant that we could identify areas that weren't working and try out alternatives. Some worked, others didn't. For every idea that made it to the final film many others got thrown away. “I think that this is the power of animation: the ability to reiterate and improve means you refine the film until it is the best it can be. When shooting live-action you don't get that opportunity. More importantly, you only see the full film once it has been shot and edited. In animation you get to see the entire film many times over, perhaps in a basic form but seeing the entire film is really important because you need to develop a film as a whole. Back to the Drawing Board When we setup our company we asked ourselves, ‘We don't have a great deal of money and we can't compete with the major studios, so what can we do well?’ We lacked the hardware and software resources of the majors, but I saw this in many ways as a blessing. I wanted to move away from the fine tuning of photorealism that eats up time and energy, and focus more on strengthening the story. Our main advantage is that there is no monopoly on good storytelling. Anyone can sit at a computer and write. “Should the film meet with some degree of success, I think it will be because we never stopped improving the story. While some areas continued to niggle at me, I couldn't let them go, even though our producer wanted to move to the next stage. It had to be fixed – immediately - at the storyboard and previz stage. Once the previz was finaled and locked off and we got into animation, lighting and rendering, we didn't add or remove a single shot. I'm exploring how to apply this approach of ‘remaking’ your entire film several times over to live-action film productions. There are several ways I think this can happen, but the result is that the audience doesn't see version 1.0 of the film, it sees version 20.0. This version is clearly going to be better than having only produced the first one. Seeing and assessing the film as a whole is the key. Mother Robot During a war between humans and robots, a lone robot soldier is left to man an anti-aircraft gun on a remote tropical island. The robot retrieves a bird nest that has been interfering with his equipment. A chick is born and it takes the robot to be its mother. The robot ignores the chick which eventually grows into an adult. The robot shoots down a human plane and a young girl is taken prisoner. The bird develops a connection with the girl that the robot starts to understand. He gradually learns how precious life is. The film ends with a climactic battle scene where the robot must decide between his duties as a soldier and his newfound beliefs. Words David Gould with Adriene Hurst


Thu Apr 10 2008-- The real world...

"Special Weapons Observation Remote Reconnaissance Direct Action System" (SWORDS) Meaning? Oh, bomb-disposal robots armed with gas-operated, air-cooled M249 light machine guns (LMG). Holy snapping duck-shit! gun toting, insurgent-slaying robots.
Apparently, there was "an incident" where "the gun started moving when it was not intended to move," meaning it totally pointed somewhere it wasn't supposed to—like at friendlies, which resulted in recall from the field and might've set the program back 10-20 years, according to the Army's Program Executive Officer for Ground Forces, Kevin Fahey. He stated that no inappropriate shots were fired, so officially, no one was hurt (Ed-209 anyone?) .

On the upside, this means humanity has a good 1 to 2 decades before the mechs rise up against us. Foster Miller Inc. (curriously their primary site is blank- creators of the gun totin', insurgent-slaying robots) rejects the above statement, stating  there  have been NO instances of uncommanded or unexpected movements by SWORDS robots, whether in-theatre or elsewhere, since before their safety confirmation in 2006. (In 2006, during the robot's developmental stage, there were 3 minor movement issues involving the treads that were identified, addressed and fixed during rigorous stateside testing. The robots were safety certified, and 3 were subsequently sent to Iraq. They were NEVER "abruptly withdrawn" from Iraq and stayed in-theatre until 2009 (obviously any operations performed by these droids whilst on active service is classified or at least shrouded by the fog of war).

Now, from the same company, we have robots built from the ground up to be killing machines. Think of them as a very early version of the T-1000. The new MAARS® (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System) bots should get to see some action. it's a new modular design to rhe popular family of TALON® robots for military and first responders. MAARS® uses the more powerful the turret mounted M240B medium machine gun and has significant improvements in command and control, situational awareness, maneuverability, mobility, lethality and safety compared to its SWORDS predecessor. MAARS® and SWORDS are ROV's (remotely operated vehicles). They are not autonomous.They can connect to the same GPS network as the troops, and it's got an extra fail-safe that won't allow it to fire at its control unit (that wasn't there before?!). The modular part of its name comes from the fact that the tracks can be swapped out for wheels and the gun can be swapped out for a manipulator arm with a nominal 120 lb lift capability. The purpose-built MAARS® chassis provides a uni-body frame with easier battery and electronics accessibility. Other features include a larger payload bay, higher torque, creating faster ground speeds and improved braking. The new Digital Control Unit (DCU) significantly improves command and control and situational awareness for the operator resulting in greater safety margins. The complete system weighs about 350 pounds. Additional modules currently under development include a logistics basket for carrying gear and a battlefield recovery module that can be used as a stretcher.

June 2002 AD --

The Magna Science Centre, U.K : A grand experiment in artificial life involving tiny robots who roam around feeding on “light trees” that recharge tiny solar cells on their tiny “heads”. These little photovores live in perfect harmony with one another, grazing together in the glow of electric flora. GAAK is not one of these robots. GAAK is a “predator” robot who feeds on these harmless little “prey” robots. GAAK stalks the prey robots using a variety of sensor arrays around his metal hide. Like a lion sniffing out its next kill, GAAK scouts out his environment for the sustenance he so desperately needs. When GAAK captures his prey, he uses a “tusk” to spear his prey and drain some of its energy. Whilst set aside in a makeshift paddock, GAAK began contemplating his lot. Perhaps he was tired of the carnage, or perhaps he was overcome by the futility of it all, or maybe he was just bored. Whatever the reason, GAAK did something completely unexpected. He escaped. He broke through the barricades and made his bid for freedom. He was found later by a visitor in the parking lot who nearly ran GAAK over with his car.

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