Red Giant has released “TANK,” a brand new short film made by Stu Maschwitz, Red Giant’s Chief Creative Officer and Industrial Light and Magic alum. Born out of the seed of an idea that was planted in Stu’s brain since his high school days and “shamelessly inspired” by his love of Star Wars, the 3D animated “TANK” was created entirely in Adobe® After Effects® using mathematics and code, and hundreds of hours of painstaking animation work.
In a visual homage to vector arcade games of the 80s (specifically, Battlezone and Star Wars), “TANK” tells the story of a team of pilots that must take on a weapon of mass destruction in a battle to save their world. “In high school, I had this idea for a story about a fleet of small craft defending their base from a large, lumbering, hovering tank-thing,” Stu explains. “I wrote a script, and even drew it as a comic book. I made models and drew endless sketches of how I imagined I’d pull off the visual effects in my backyard, with zero budget, on Super 8 film.”
Watch The Making of “TANK” to learn more about Stu’s journey in telling this visually unique story.
Stu, who’s known for his work on blockbuster films including “Sin City,” “Deep Impact,” and “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” was a VFX artist at George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic and ran his own visual effects company, The Orphanage, before joining Red Giant as Chief Creative Officer. At ILM, Stu got to work on actual Star Wars movies animating the Millenium Falcon, R2D2 and even (somewhat notoriously) Han Solo. He thought his urge to create a Star Wars-inspired film was finally satisfied, but no matter how busy he’d get working on films or directing TV commercials, he maintained the same spirit of tinkering he had as a kid. “Turns out I hadn’t gotten it out of my system after all.” In January 2017, Stu officially began to create “TANK.”
Stu did all the work on the short film in one, gigantic After Effects project, right on top of his animatic timeline. Each object in the film — the tank, the car, the speeder — has a master comp where it is built and animated. Each individual vector line is a layer, with its start and end 3D coordinates hand-entered. The master Tank comp has 446 layers. The master Speeder comp has 546. In a shot with three speeders, the tank, and the terrain, over 2,500 layers are being rendered just for the wireframes. The animation of “TANK” was a feat in and of itself, and was done in a way no animator would do it today. Stu explains, “Building models this way is ridiculously slow and painful, but strangely, that was an intentional part of my plan. Or maybe a better way to put it is that it was a side effect that I chose to embrace.”
He continues, “No one would have ever advised me to spend a year and half of my life making a retro sci-fi short film with no dialogue, but I didn’t do it because it was a good idea. I did it because this film has been trying to find its way out of me since I was a kid. I made ‘TANK’ to reconnect with that part of me that just can’t help but make things, and try to organize them into stories.”
“While on the surface Red Giant is a motion graphics and visual effects software company, our DNA is made up of individuals who are creators in their own right. We’re artists and filmmakers who value the process as much as the end result,” comments Chad Bechert, Red Giant CEO. “We obsess over details and authenticity in everything we do – especially on our passion projects. That translates into the work we do as a software company. We use the tools we make, and we make those tools so we can use them. Stu has been a prime example of who we are as a company and ‘TANK’ is a prime example of why we do what we do.”
The Tools of “TANK”
“TANK” was animated entirely in Adobe After Effects using the following tools:
- The Expression that Started it All: An Adobe After Effects expression that links a 2D effect to a Null’s 3D position – thisComp.layer(“Null 1”).toComp([0,0,0])
- VectorKit: Want to experience just how crazy someone has to be to make a film this way? Give it a try with this free After Effects template project. Get VectorKit HERE.
- Magic Bullet Looks: Red Giant’s flagship color and looks tool was used to create the vignetting, flares and chromatic aberration that make “TANK” appear to have been filmed off a TV monitor with an anamorphic lens. LEARN MORE.
- Building Your Own 3D Particle Generator: A seminal After Effects expressions tutorial from MotionScripts’ Dan Ebberts. READ MORE.
- Magic Bullet Film: Red Giant’s film simulation tool created the overall film look of “TANK.” LEARN MORE.
- Prolost EDC: A free collection of handy After Effects workflow presets. Includes Front/Back Visibility, which was used on “TANK” to automate the visibility of the back faces of the wireframe objects. Get it HERE.
- Universe Holomatrix II: Part of Red Giant Universe, this plug-in creates scanlines and realistic video distortion. LEARN MORE.
- Triune Scores: 80s Synth: 14 royalty-free 80s-inspired music tracks, including stings and risers. LEARN MORE.
- Magic Bullet Renoiser: For the most detailed control of 4k film grain, Magic Bullet Renoiser was used to create the film grain in “TANK.” LEARN MORE.
- Prolost Boardo: Bring storyboards to life with this set of After Effects presets that make it fast and easy to animate camera moves and transitions. LEARN MORE.
- Quadro: Turn your iOS device into a customized control surface for your desktop computer. LEARN MORE.