Community Spotlight: ‘The Engine’ Short Film

Community Spotlight: Award Winning Student Short Film – ‘The Engine’

Hey everyone, it’s Bre from Synty! Today we’re spotlighting an epic (and award winning!) short film made by Synty community member Aden George from California, USA. Read on to hear about the inspiration for the project, the tools used, and some of the challenges that arose. 

 ‘The Engine’ short film was Aden’s entry into a recent local High School competition, winning first place. This is the second short film Aden has produced utilising Synty’s assets – the first being ‘Distress’, which previously won ‘Best Feature Film’ at the NCHS Film Festival, as well as the ‘Aesthetic Fiction Grand Prize’ at the California Student Media Festival. 

As the story often goes with competition projects, as Aden agrees, “the biggest challenge from the start was the timeline.” ‘The Engine’ came to life in 3 weeks from planning to final polish. With many of his classmates opting for traditional filmmaking for their projects, Aden wanted to go in a different direction, working in a comic-like art style, utilising Synty’s POLYGON characters, live talent, and Sony Mocopi motion capture sensors. 

His inspirations for this project were ‘Across The Spiderverse’ for its animation style, ‘Love, Death + Robots’ for its comic style art juxtaposed with a dark storyline, and ‘Interstellar’ for its planet environments, spaceships and space suit designs. Aden felt inspired to make something sort of like Interstellar, where the fate of the characters is placed in the unpredictability of the cosmic universe.

The scenes were captured in side-profile, and imported into Cascadeur animation software for precise motion matching. A dolly cart and laptop set-up had Rokoko Studio running, while simultaneously live streaming into Unity so Aden could see the characters moving in the scene in real-time. 

In competitions and short-term projects like this, there are always a myriad of challenges and lessons to be learned. The team marked out a real world map of each scene with tape, which presented difficulties as the recording space was large, but a room in a spaceship is even larger! To overcome this, a camera and tripod was set-up in the middle of the room using the Mocopi App to maximise the space. 

Patchy data service presented another challenge during filming, causing instability with the capture and costing the team a day of production time. A change of filming location to a large, outdoor space solved the issue and provided a more stable connection, until the rain set-in the following day… The team powered through, seeing almost the entire production captured in just 6hrs. To accommodate these challenges along the way within the competition timeline, Aden pivoted the story mid-production, with a focus on quality over quantity. He hopes to continue to build on the world and story of 'The Engine' in future.

We hope you enjoyed getting some insight into how this project came to life, and enjoyed watching ‘The Engine.’ This project utilised assets from across the following Synty POLYGON packs:

If you enjoyed this spotlight, I think you’d love being part of our community of experienced and aspiring developers on Discord! Please remember to tag us on Instagram, X or Facebook when posting your work. We love to see how you use Synty in your projects, and we’re always on the hunt for our next community spotlight! 

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