My first 3D animated short

Sometimes when I get tired of coding I like to change hats and do something more artistically.

Last christmas I was approached by Anna Duriez from to help her to do a video for the town of Saint Malo to greet the new year.

The idea was to do a short animated video that shows a little bit the key elements of the city in a ‘christmasy’ background, but we couldnt use snow or other cliche components because Saint Malo is a coast city, so we decided to play with other elements.

Saint Malo 2014 from Javi Tamat on Vimeo.

If you want to know more about the creative process keep reading.

Interesting points

Neither her or me are experienced 3D animators and we knew it, so our first approach was to do something simple to be sure we will reach the deadline (new year’s eve) and if we had more time we will try to expand it.

We choose Cinema4D because we both have experience and because it is a perfect tool when you dont want realistic rendering.

My personal approach was to create a beautiful landscape with the old city at night, set a century ago, where the pretty walls and buildings of the city could be seen.

She wanted to add an animated animal iconic for the city, but we were afraid of the complexity of animating a quadruped, so she tryed to do it drawing.

Because the time was limited I decided to try to do a flat rendering technique that simplifies the work and the rendering time. I was inspired by the game Kentucky Road Zero where the environment do not use the classical phong approach, but lights everything more by light proximity.

Regular rendering

Regular rendering



Flat render

Flat render

The process

I started by creating a heightmap of the city using satelite images and tracing the wall and the beachline.

saintmalo test muralla

Meanwhile Anna was modeling buildings and an old sails ship now property of the city.

I didnt plan to use textures but some surfaces were too flat so I added some procedural textures using basic shapes and noise.

materials test

I assemble all the object in a beautiful composition where most of the objects could be seen in one shot and played with a traveling to give a better sense of depth. I ended up using a lot of instances of the same building, I planned to have more than one building type but the truth is that just using one the result was good enough.



Anna tryed to integrate her 2D animal in the composition but it didnt felt right, it didnt blend with the background so we didn’t use it, it was a pity because it was beautifully animated.

But we had to add some animated characters, so I tryed to model one pirate, but doing the skinning and the rigging took too much time and it wasn’t working propertly so at the end the only animated character could be seen just moving slowly.

To make the scene more alife I added wires, waves, sinusoidal movements to the ship, and some wiggle to the lights in the city, plus clouds that move and cast shadow over the city, and adapted a video footage of smoke to do the chimneys.

Final touch

Final touch

The thing that took most of the time was playing with the lights, using them to create nice shadows that lit every corner in a subtle way.

I also pay lots of attention to the sky and the horizon line, I wanted to be sure that the composition didnt felt like it was inside a bubble. It was easy thanks to the sky object in Cinema4D and a good use of the cloner object (all those tiny lights in the far distance are just cloned lights using a random position).

Nice sky with far objects

Nice sky with far objects, the moon was removed at the end

We added some postprocessing effects for the fireworks. I was planning to add lots of color correction at the end but the truth is that we both liked the end result so we end up not doing much postpo besides the obvious ones.


Some interesting screenshots that show parts of the work that couldnt be seen in the final composition

SaintMalo from the sk

SaintMalo from the sky

Global Illumination + AO test, not used at the end

I was sad that at the end we couldnt use my pirate

I was sad that at the end we couldnt use my pirate

 Final thoughts

I’m glad of our work, there were lots of ideas that couldnt make it to the final video but we prove ourselves to be able to work together (even living thousands of kilometers away) thanks to Dropbox and shared desktop in Skype, a lots of determination.

If you want to check more beautiful work from Anna I suggest you to check her website.



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