Spotlight: Brutus the Bound: Infinite Gladiator

Today, we’re rolling out a new feature on Animation Insider.com where we showcase various shorts and content. If you’d like your content to be showcased contact Mike Milo at mike@animationinsider.com

Check out this cool sizzle piece from Chris Burns and his buddies at Exit 73 studios! Very reminiscent of Samurai Jack but in a good way! Supposedly there’s a web series coming this Winter.

Designer and Animator: Chris Burns
Compositing and SFX: Bob Fox
Concept and Story outline: Joe Croson

Incidentally we interviewed Chris Burns and Joe Croson  back in July.

We sat down with Chris for a second to delve a bit more on how this piece was made.
AI: So tell us about your short. What’s it about and who is this angry fella killing everybody?
Chris: Brutus is a Gladiator that is ripped from his village and family, to fight for sport in the future under a dark over-lord.  Each battle won will get him closer to seeing his family but once the fabric of time is altered, we get to see a mesh of historic figures, mixed with Sci-fi.  There’s a shot in the short of a robotic Dinosaur, that alludes to this time alteration.   It’s a great excuse to juxtapose all the things we love.  Once Joe brought down the idea to us, my mind started to race, what if a Gladiator got his hands on a modern weapon? What if Genghis Khan was alive during the internet age? etc…
AI: How was the film made?
Chris: I like to think we do shape an idea organically and malleable. Joe is a great Idea man, he always has a bunch of series ideas floating around, so once he mentioned Brutus and the concept, we came out of the gates swinging.  I had a vision for Brutus almost instantly, I wanted to mesh a viking persona within a Gladiators sensibility.  The first design he was a little to cartoony, so we toned down the inflated muscles, gave him more of an anatomical makeover, and Brutus was born.  We then had the idea that his chest piece would also be the artifact that enslaves him, and keeps him Captive under the Over-Lord.
From there, Bob started making the music for the short. We liked the trailer format, because it has a natural flow, and you can showcase action, without it feeling contrived.  He made a bad-ass beat, threw in some awesome breakdowns, and we all the sudden had the timing framework for the short.  I love working this way, because with the timing somewhat established, and a beat that you can time your shots to, all that is left is filling it in with visuals, much like one would when doing a music video.
AI: Interesting so you boarded to the music? I can see that being helpful for sure!
Chris: Yeah.  and boarding came pretty natural afterwords, we had him cut a monster in half here, a robot smash through a city there, etc… After That we jumped straight into animation and compositing, we bypassed layout.  We had a short amount of time to get all this art work done between 2 people (roughly a month)  that makes you have to think on your toes.  I would do all the bgs and character animation in flash, pass it over to Bob, who would than make a png of the Backgrounds, polish in some detail in photoshop and through it in AfterFX.  By the time he finished that, I would have the next shot, and on and on we would feed each other that work.  Once all the animation was finished in Flash, Bob worked in some serious magic as far as environmental effects, and atmospheric conditions.  When the yeti gets stabbed with ice spear, there’s this gorgeous point when you see fog coming out his mouth, it’s touches like that that really set the mood and I like to think it makes for some to want to re-watch it.
AI: You had mentioned that it’s just a few of you at Exit 73 Studios?
Chris: Yeah… my favorite part of being a small studio, is that we have to use what we have as resources, and within those limitation, you have the chance to think outside the box.  For example a big studio will likely have a character designer, prop designer, colorist, Bg supervisor, and the list goes on, and on and on, until it feels like your assembling a car rather than a film.  We are subjected to do all those things, on a shoe string budget, with very limited manpower. Our solution is use the Character design as suggestion, to help make the shot most pleasing to the eye.   Too often composition takes a back seat to these strict designs that are made by someone a few weeks back…. My question is why? We are blessed enough to be working in a medium that we can literally draw whats in our imagination, and than we stifle that urge because of these rules that we created, for reasons that escape me.  There are 27 shots in Brutus the Bound, that’s roughly 3 seconds a shot on average, and all of them have a varied design of Brutus.  In close ups we have a lot of detail in his face,  Far shots we lost the face all together.   My philosophy is make the shot exciting and people will want to see more.  You tell a coherent story with surprisingly little character reference.
AI: Well thanks for telling us about your short Brutus the Bound! I guess we can also look for it this Winter?
Chris: Our audience can absolutely expect more content this winter, but exact date hasn’t been set yet as we’re working on what we will be making whether it be pilot sized first episode, or a series of shorts. There’s even some talk of making the concept suited for a game!

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