Formed whilst studying on the animation/illustration programme at San José State University, the six student members of Bronto House Animation studio decided they couldn’t wait for their studies to finish before becoming a part of the world of animated short films. Deciding that it would be a “lot of fun and a great learning experience to make a short animated film over summer vacation and the fall semester”, the collective finished their first animation The Pod back in 2011. It’s an epic science fiction tale of a marooned spaceman who finds himself in a battle to return his ship, after crash landing on a foreign planet.
So how did a bunch of students come up with such an ambitious story?
Being that our team is comprised of 6 college students, we felt that this was a dilemma we often run into. Do I sacrifice time I could be spending with a loved one to finish rendering a painting? Should I go buy some groceries or just continue drawing these story board panels? Should I sacrifice sleep to spend time massaging curves in Maya’s graph editor? We wanted to comment on how focus and determination towards a career often leaves us neglecting something or another.
The story of ‘The Pod’ is, at its core, a commentary on prioritizing one’s life.
That mixed with us all being sci-fi nerds left us with the story of The Pod.
The sprawling narrative isn’t the only impressive thing about Bronto House’s first production though, with the visual elements of The Pod easily matching the grand spirit of the film’s plot. The team explain the production process behind their 9-minute animation:
Our major hurdle was that we were a very small team with a tight deadline. So we developed a pipeline that involved Adobe Flash, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Premier alongside some nifty GarageBand and Audacity tricks. We used hand-animation principles in Flash and maintained an aesthetic that would be easy to work with while still looking “cool”. Even though we had a grasp of how we wanted to make the film, we still had no actual experience doing it. So the film-making process was definitely a learn-as-you-go type deal which involved a lot of creative problem solving.
The Short version is: 6 students, 169 shots, 9 minutes of animation in 5 months.
The film was completed in several phases that often overlapped each other. During the beginning of our 2011 summer vacation we cut an animatic we were happy with; designed all assets of our film; developed style guides; settled on final color treatment; researched and tested our pipeline; organised our production schedule; and started initial animation.
When we started school back up in the Fall we finished rough animation and backgrounds. We then switched to cleaning up animation and collecting sound effects simultaneously. Finally we composited the animated shots with BGs, edited the shots together, added sound FX and created music.
We had a lot of fun with the sound effects and music. One of our animators, Nick Carpenter, actually ran along side a train with his MacBook Pro and a mic to get some of the major sound effects we used for the actual pod space ship in the film. Another one of our team members, Michael Harding, got his band (Drop Dead Sixty) involved who created all of the music featured in the film.
The Film was completed just before our winter break in Mid-December 2011. We were able to debut the finished film during an end-of-the-semester screening On SJSU’s campus.
We then went into sending our film out to various film festivals – The Pod has been in 15 film festivals/film competitions world-wide.
One day after we finished The Pod and premiered it, we set out to work on a music video for Drop Dead Sixty’s song, Mediatic. We finished the music video in 4 months!
We are all busy finishing up our last semester at SJSU and on the hunt for jobs in the animation industry. We have a few plans for post-college projects that definitely include short animated films.