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No Budget VFX Short 'The Green Ruby Pumpkin' Cooks Up an Impressive Halloween Treat

10.30.12 @ 10:35PM Tags : , , , , , ,

What is it about rhyming couplets that make them perfectly suited for delivering dark tales of things that go bump in the night? We saw their effective use in Bloody Cuts’ bedtime yarn Suckablood and now, in time for the night where ghosts and ghouls invade cities across the world comes The Green Ruby Pumpkin, a passion project from senior visual effects artists Miguel Ortega and Tran Ma:

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After a hard day’s work at Digital Domain on blockbuster releases such as Thor and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Ortega and Ma diligently put in 9pm – 4am stints on their self initiated Halloween short. Working at the zero budget scale of things, the pair quickly realised that what they did have at their disposal was an ample supply of visual effects knowledge and a living room:

Every shot has a visual effect of some sort, the only thing we built was a 12×12 deck and a 12×12 front porch wall and doorway. This was not because we wanted to be CG crazy but because we couldn’t afford to do it for real, ironically what usually inflates the budget to others is free to us but we couldn’t afford the most basic of props once we ran out of money.

EVERYTHING in the film is handmade when possible, the costumes, the props, the wallpaper is painted by hand with a brush because we couldn’t afford wallpaper, the picture frames were made of cardboard because we had no money for real frames. The only store bought props were the shoes, and the khakis outfits on our triplets. Even the statues on the wall were cast from cheap plaster molds and painted to look old.

This DIY resourcefulness, coupled with the project’s green screen living room setup proved flexible enough to capture all elements needed for the short except for the fully grown adult wolf — that required the much more up close and personal approach of setting up a green screen in the animal’s cage and shooting until the wolf gave them what they needed. 7 hours later it was in the can for the crucial 2 seconds of onscreen time it occupies in the final film. Their human talent were much more compliant, although arguably, the digital prosthetics work rendered onto the witchy Miss Deats made her just as scary as the wolf.

On the kit and software they brought together to handle the array of effects needed for the film:

The entire project was rendered on 7 computers, Running Maya for 3D, Mudbox for sculpting, Mari and Mudbox for Texture Painting, Vray for rendering, Nuke for compositing. A lot of shortcuts had to be used in order to manage our render times, including 3d projections in nuke, miniatures, and practical elements. The majority of the vfx work was just us two, however we had great help from friends on the rigging and animation side of things. We wanted to make sure everything you see on screen was designed and or fabricated by our team.

You can see the project coming together in this making of video:

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And here are some before and after project stills:

It seems that The Green Ruby Pumpkin is continuing the trend of self initiated shorts directly leading to career breaks — Ortega signed with Spy Films as a director off the back of this. Whilst not as headline grabbing news as some of the viral video breaks discussed in Short of the Week’s The Viral Experience piece, this kind of recognition leading to a paying gig is encouraging news for anyone working away on their own passion project.

Is this something you’ve been able to achieve with any of your own films?

Link: Miguel Ortega — Creature FX


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Description image 26 COMMENTS

  • I really love the trend of these VFX shorts having their own making-of. Now, perhaps I am asking too much, but what I would REALLY love is an actual breakdown of this process. A cliffs notes version of what each step is, what is involved, what they are actually DOING, etc.

    Basically I’m trying to bridge the gap between DIY video-copilot style effects and the real thing. It’s just so amazing what you can do by yourself these days. And these VFX’ers really do hold all the cards I feel like.

  • Great Halloween short.

  • Top Notch work. Love the trolls at the end.

  • What about this one?

    We’ve been writing since the end of August and just barely finished.

  • shaun wilson on 10.31.12 @ 5:13AM


  • I hate how people claim these shorts as ‘NO BUDGET’ – Filming aside, do you know how much the 3D software costs? How much these vfx artists would charge on a day rate? I know I’m one of them. Its free resources, not a free budget by any means!

    • Using just his own skills and stuff one has at disposal without having a real budget is in my understanding “no budget” – and these guys have tremendous skills plus an old red one – other people have no skills and try to balance it out with Scarlets, Epics and a gazillion of other things…

      • I guess you’re both right. On one hand ‘no budget’ means ‘in comparison to tv/hollywood budgets’ but on the other hand it implies literally no money involved whatsoever (though we all know there’s no such thing as ‘no budget’ filmmaking), so I always find that term a bit confusing/false.
        BTW, I find it very funny how ‘an old red one’ sounded almost like ‘hvx200′ in you mouth;)

        • Anyway is technically impossible to make any short film without money, you need at least a camera and media. ans a computer with proper software. When we read no budget most likely they mean using available resources only hence no extra money was spent. I can understand that.

        • the great Alex Cox call it ‘microbudget” as far i remeber. Maybe is a best definition? or nanobudget! :D :D

      • I think I heard it was a 10k budget…

    • Stop whining over semantics. The final product is all that should be considered for any project once it is being screened, any other context given is usually just taken a crutch to manipulate audience expectation. And you’re wrong, autodesk software is completely free for personal work from their website.

    • Really great work here! Congrats!

    • Excellent work Miguel. Out of interest what lenses did you use for this?

      • @Nick thanks nick, our Cinematographer Michael Epple shot on my Red, we used a 14mm Nikon, a 28mm zeiss zf, zeiss 50mm planar zf, I think im missing one more but it was a nikon, possibly 18mm

        I shot all the macro shots which were actually shot on the Rebel T2I with the canon mpe 65mm 5x macro lens which is awesome, I would have shot the macro stuff on the red with that lens but I didnt have the adapter. however i feel it cuts together pretty well

  • all our lenses were degraded though, every shot has some chromatic aberration, vignetting, and softening added in post

  • Awesome. The Rebel stuff does indeed cut in very well. Your short is a case in point that quality stills glass in the hands of people who really know how to light and compose shots cinematically works a treat.

  • I felt envious a bit. Good work. Wish I get vfx skills.

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