Kuttu, a 3D animation film for children has been made by a young animator Shiju James, all by himself

The making of a 3D animation film, long or short, is an exacting, elaborate, many-layered process. Right from its pre-production stage, which itself goes through different stages, to the final post-production work is usually done by specialised departments.

Shiju James, a young animator from Thiruvankulam, a town off Kochi, has created Kuttu, a 3D animation film for children, all by himself. He has gone solo through the entire process in the animation pipeline to create a magical world that children would fly along with the lovable Kuttu.

Long road to success

A ‘self-taught animator,’ Shiju journeyed into this field through a long, winding route. He did his BCA from SB College, Changanasserry, and instead of pursuing the same line joined a CAD Centre in Ernakulam to study the basics of animation. This provided wings to Shiju’s silent dreams. He decided to pursue animation as a career. “For one year I studied in an institute in Bangalore. That was when I realised that in animation one had to learn on the job. And that this was to be my future,” says Shiju.

The invaluable ‘on the job training’ came from Technicolor India, Bangalore. Shiju joined this multi-dimensional studio that offers design and production services in animation and visual effects for motion pictures and television broadcast productions. “Technicolor has an alliance with leading Hollywood companies like DreamWorks. I was part of a dedicated team working on projects for these film companies. It was while working here that I realised the potential of animation, the intricacies of the 3D format. I was fortunate to work as an animator for some international projects like FARMkids, Barnyard, and Penguins of Madagascar (television series) among others.”

Long and late working hours took its toll on Shiju. He quit and returned home. “When working as a freelance 3D artist I thought of making a 3D animation film of my own. Simultaneously, along with a few friends of mine, we are planning to set up a studio of our own which provides design and production services in animation and gaming.”

Shiju’s film Kuttu has an alien creature of the same name as its main character. There is nothing new in the story. It is about how Kuttu’s aircraft develops a snag and crashes into planet earth. The film then travels through Kuttu’s adventures with Appu, his dog, and the evil scientist who is out to catch and clone Kuttu. The 38-minute fully animated film stands out for its interesting characters, locales, lighting and music. The special effects have been done aesthetically, not introduced to simply evoke surprise.

“This must probably be the first Indian film that can be watched in 3D format sitting at home. It is compatible on television or the computer and can be also played with the regular DVD player. The viewer needs to wear the 3D glasses and we intend to provide two pairs with each CD of the film.”

To complete the 38-minute film Shiju took nearly two years. Perhaps, this was because he did every single process of film making alone. “I had a proper storyboard that detailed scenes, changes in the animation etc. Layout of locations, costumes, positions of characters was done and this was followed by creating model sheets to bring out the possible expressions of characters…” Shiju, a very reticent person, says after being probed incessantly.

Juggling many roles

In studios the next stage is handled by the modelling department that creates the character models. To give an idea of the movements, the timing of sequences and VFX scenes, another department creates mock-ups called ‘animatics’. Shiju continues, “The production phase starts now. Here we have the layout, modelling, texturing, rigging, animation, lighting, and rendering done to transform the 2D drawings into a sound 3D animation. The final models are textured providing colour, shade, according to the requirements of the scenes, rigging and animation follow. The last step is lighting and rendering.”

Rigging is perhaps the most challenging part of all. This process is adding bones to the character or providing movement of objects. “Even the most minute of movements needs to be looked into. The post-production part is the final part. This involves regular editing, inserting effects, working with voice, sound etc.”

Music and mastering is done by Aaron, percussion by Evan and dubbing by Ann, Evan and Somarajan. A song titled ‘Trip to the Moon,’ that begins ‘Fly high, far away…,’ sung by Ann and used in the beginning, along with the credits provides a delightful start to the film. Shiju hopes to market the film soon and wants ‘a lot of children to see, enjoy and judge’ the film.