Laughing at "Normal"

French Artist Sylvain Delmé creates online parodies with LightWave

Posted: Thu 18 Apr 2013

In an interview with French Artist Sylvain Delmé, we learn how he creates 3D web parodies that are often based on politics and top of mind situations—like the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar. To create these amusing webisodes, which have garnered fans around the world, Delmé relies on LightWave to create and render his comic creations. We caught up with him to get more insight into his creative mind and how he uses LightWave to create entertaining 3D. Recently Delmé moved to LightWave 11.5 to create his parodies and shares his favorite new features with us.

The teaser for Normal, created with LightWave 10.1.

Can you provide some background info about you and your studio? How long have you been working with LightWave? What type of 3D productions, projects or visual effects do you produce?

Before turning to directing about 15 years ago, I started working as a writer for television and corporate. I’ve been working with LightWave for 10 years—in fact, I learned how to create3D using LightWave. Today, I mostly do television, commercials and corporate work of which approximately 90% is created in 3D.

How are you integrating LightWave into your production pipeline?

I systematically use LightWave as a render engine and for "mechanical" animation for TV idents like "Ca va Mieux en Le Disant" ("It is Better to Say"), where I did the creation and animation in LightWave.

Which LightWave features are most important to your work?

LightWave has an excellent render engine—it is very fast and easy to use. It also offers strong tools like Skinning or weight maps that easily allow me to make last minute and crucial changes to characters without exploding the rig—even if a complex animation is already applied to the character. That's why I chose LightWave for this pipeline.

What other software programs are used in conjunction with LightWave 3D to create your webisodes?
I also use Zbrush and After Effects extensively and Photoshop and additional modeling software from time-to-time.

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in the creative phase and how does LightWave help you overcome these challenges?

The crucial point of a project like "Normal" is Skinning. A character must be as perfect as possible, but it should also be able to be modified on the fly, like for suit changes or for character changes when setups are identical or very similar. Personally, I think that there is nothing better than the weights maps in LW to do that job. Good luck to those who to try to do the same in Maya software as fast as it can be done in LightWave.

What inspires you as an artist? How do you translate that to your 3D work?

Society and its evolution inspire me. I'd rather laugh about it and try to make people laugh about it, too.

If you could offer advice to artists and animators starting out today, what would it be?

First, they should ask themselves "where does my idea come from?" The answer should bring them even further in their expression and creativity.

What is the general turnaround time for your webisodes?

The production pipeline is made to be able to produce up to six minutes of programs each week, but for the moment we are still in an experimental phase. We concentrate a lot on validating the pipeline, that's why we only produce a two minute 30 second (2:30) episode every three or four weeks. But each episode is made in an optimized production environment in five days. We wait to produce two modules on the release day to mirror current news.

LightWave is, by its essence, software that allows me to work very fast and well. With Rob Powers joining the development team and bringing new life to LightWave to its fluid interconnection with other software, LightWave allows me to work much faster and better than before. I don't see how I could get any result faster when creating episodes of Normal if LightWave was not the backbone of the pipeline.

Do you have any other information you would like to share with us about working with LightWave?

Just that Normal is kind of a rehearsal for bigger projects involving several characters. The new features and innovation in LightWave 11.5 will be even more important in my coming projects: cloth implementation for the characters clothes, hair appearance with the Hair Guide converted from the fiber mesh of Zbrush, automatic rig generation with Genoma, and more.

LightWave 11.5 was used to create The End of the World, an online parody that pokes fun at the December 21, 2012 end of world scare.

Can you tell us more about your most recent episode End of the World?

The animation End of the World was created to parody the supposed end of the world on December 21, 2012—because it was supposed to be the end of the world, essentially, nothing matters anymore, which is the whole point of the animation. In this particular episode, François Hollande, the president of France, decides to just let go and fulfill a longtime dream—to make a music video all about him since he will be the last president of the world. (The premise of the “End of the World” video loosely follows the first series Delmé did with his web episodes for Nicolas Bling Bling.)

The first goal of the End of the World clip was to validate the production pipeline in extreme conditions. Between the moment we said "yes, we'll do it" and the moment we put it online, it took only 16 days—including scripting, writing, and music composition.

Without LightWave 11.5 as the backbone of our pipeline, it is certain that we would have missed our deadline. LightWave 11.5 allowed us to work fast…very fast.” In fact, Genoma is a wonderful tool and thanks to this new addition in LightWave 11.5, we were able to create great animated dancers with a few clicks. They move very realistically and we were able to be operational with these characters in the blink of an eye.

To see more of Artist Sylvain Delmé’s work, visit his web site at sylvaindelme.com.