LUCKYBOY (2021)

Dir. by Domenic Romano

A sock named Lucky wants the girl, the guitar, the glory. Maybe he can do this.

Maybe he doesn't suck.

You can also check out the film on Newgrounds!

LUCKYBOY is a unique, mixed media short film about a millennial sock puppet, who tries to find his moment in the limelight as a musician in Boston.

I have worked on LUCKYBOY throughout my senior year at SCAD and oversaw many different aspects of production from writing and storyboarding to 3D layout, character and environment modeling, lighting, cinematography and rendering. From the beginning we knew we wanted to hop between different mediums, ranging from traditional 2D, 3D and stop-motion. That meant making sure that all of these assets were able to work together visually as we switch mediums scene to scene and my main job was to ensure exactly that with the 3D assets.

Character Modeling

LUCKYBOY is taking place in a fictional version of Boston, where most inhabitants are sock puppets. Lucky, the main character, is a real-life sock puppet, but with other characters we decided to make stylized 3D models. I was tasked with creating most of the supporting cast, as well as some minor characters.

Brooke is a goth sock who works at a local record and music shop that Lucky frequents and acts as Lucky's love interest and a catalyst of the film's plot. Her outfit consists of spiky head bands and a band merch shirt. Our goal was to make her as cool as possible compared to Lucky and to capture her independent spirit. She has great taste in music and is the most powerful character in the film.

Her model was the first to be created and the mesh was later used as a base for the rest of the characters.

Boss is the owner of the pizzeria that Lucky works in. He is cheap and rude, but somehow still manages to run his business successfully (probably because he doesn't pay his workers).

Boss was my favorite character to model and texture. I had a part in designing him and writing/storyboarding his sequence, so it might be bias. I wanted to capture his careless attitude in his visual appearance. He is a tall sock, but his posture is terrible as he constantly hunches. His beard is a patchy disaster, his body is covered in dirt and spots of unknown origin, making him a nasty looking sock. Despite that he has style; buttoned-down shirt (also dirty), gold chain and fancy glasses give him a retired gonzo journalist vibe.

Dono is Lucky's former classmate who is much more successful, compared to Lucky. He is a front man in "Murder-Dick", his band, that has a steady following and occasionally performs live.

 

Dono is an interesting character, who is not exactly physically prominent in the story, but he hangs over Lucky's conscience like a dark cloud. Dono is a man of few words and his design captures part of that essence. His eyes are hidden behind his glasses and its hard to tell his mood or expressions. He wears a basic red flannel (may or may not represent "Murder-Dick"'s quality) and a member version of "Murder-Dick" t-shirt.

I see Dono as a somewhat blank slate of a character. He is the type of dude who wouldn't know what you are talking about after congratulating him on a successful performance.

Jason, despite his minor role, is a team and fan favorite character. Genius and a playboy, Jason is unburdened by the weight of the world and is one of the characters in the film who is not a sock.

He was one of the easiest characters to model, his body consisting of two thin rectangles and two volume spheres that act as his hair. In the original design he didn't have his hair, but we decided to add it as a way to tribute the likeness of his voice actor, Sr Pelo.

Fedor is a character who has no relation to the story and you can easily miss him in the film, but I still wanted to include him here. He appears in the film as a cameo, he is pictured on the poster behind Boss, in his office. In-universe, he sings russian chanson about his tough life, and is Boss's favorite musician.

Started as a miscellaneous sculpt, I decided to incorporate him when I needed to fill out and give character to the freezer/office environment. The poster doesn't attract too much attention in the scene, but once you notice it, it serves as a funny detail and it gives the room and Boss a bit more depth. 

Environment Modeling

Throughout the production I have also worked on 3D environments. From the start we knew that most of the interiors and exteriors are going to be built in 3D. I worked on several of these environments, working on either layout of the area, modeling/texturing assets or set dressing. I am going to take the Boss's office from the film to breakdown some of my process for creating this interior and provide some work-in-progress shots that I have saved. This little office is one of my favorite contributions to the film and it was also made while I was still getting used to the switch from Maya to Blender.

My first pass was fairly simple; I was using Maya to create a rough representation of a room, made a few stand-in models and assigned materials with just basic colors to help visualize the mood of the room. In the context of the film, this so called office is located in the freezer room of the restaurant. The colors are cool and uninviting; the goal is to represent both the icey freezer and mundane, sterile artificial lighting of office spaces.

freezer_moodboard.png
week7_visdev2.PNG

You can notice that Boss looks a bit different here; that was before his transformation into the greatest con artist. This was the first model I have made during production, as a proof of concept of how the 3D puppets can look like, taking more of a direct inspiration from sock puppets without much of a stylization.

If I remember correctly, this is the very first screenshot I took to show progress on the room.

This is the moodboard that I created that coupled with our storyboard would guide the design, layout and feel of this environment.

week8_visdev.PNG

Here are some other quick renders I did and also an amusing "style frame", totally 100% represented the final vision for this scene.

What I found helpful for me during initial stages of environment building is the early application of textures and creating a subtle lighting setup. I have a certain image in my head of how the environment should look like and by creating rough renders like this and with proper references, I can start experimenting with trial and error. I see how light reacts to the assets and their textures and it gives me an idea of which areas need more attention. I go back and forth between adjusting and moving assets around and changing light settings until I am happy with the result and then send progress for feedback.

week7_visdev.PNG

From that point on, I was tasked with making the switch from Maya to Blender; and it was an intimidating prospect. I have been using Maya exclusively up until now, and having to adjust and learn a new software in such a quick time was challenging.

 

I was intimidated by the software and in my head the learning curve would be steep, having to learn the basics in such a short time in order to keep the production on schedule.

However, I knew that this was not the time to be stalling the production this way and it could be detrimental to the project. So I pulled myself by my bootstraps and with encouragement from the team and support from our producer Brandon, whose knowledge of Blender is exceptional, I took the dive and started working in Blender more thoroughly.

 

blender_test.png

And here we go! First proper pass in Blender with models exported from Maya and textures properly applied. This ended up being a strong foundation for all the work that was done later on. As I kept going further polishing the scene I quickly found a work method similar to Maya which in some ways improved my understanding of certain 3D elements, and even sped up my process.

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Next milestone was hit with putting a redesigned Boss into the scene, updating some of the assets and lighting. From here the progress was gradual with some minimal changes in lighting, additional models and etc.

freezer_wip.png
freezer_boss.png
testy.png

At this point, the Boss's office is almost finished. It was around this period where I handed off the office for finalizing to Malcolm and Brandon, as I switched to other environments and tasks.

Their work on the office enhanced the groundwork I laid out, Malcolm created great atmosphere by including the icicles, cold air and further pushing the lighting. And then Brandon pushed the messiness of the office by further set dressing it and compositing and color correcting the final shot to make it look like it does in film. What a great thing collaboration is!!! 

boss_1000.jpg
frezeer.png

I would later revisit this same environment, but now as a cinematographer. I set up all the cameras and then using "VirtuCamera" gave each shot a handheld feel using my phone as faux camera. So each camera shake and jitter you see throughout the film is actually my hands holding and guiding my phone. Great technology.

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I could go on and on detailing all the aspects I worked on. For example, I could write just as much as I did on this environment about Brooke's hair and all different issues I faced during simulation and all the troubleshooting that came with it.

There is a lot and I might write more about some of it when inspiration hits, but this is pretty much what i wanted to share. Also, feel free to email me with any questions, I'd be more than happy to talk about something more specific.

I also want to address here all the positive reviews and feedback we have received since LUCKYBOY released to the public. It has been pure joy to see such an outpour of love to this film that we've spent a year developing and creating. Thank you everyone who left kind words on Newgrounds and YouTube, it really means a lot. And thanks for reading this breakdown! Stay tuned!