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Late Shift: behind the scenes of Maxon’s animated holiday greeting

In lieu of a traditional card, this year Maxon has enlisted the talents of Swiss-based character designer and animation director, Neil Stubbings, to create a special Christmas card.

Late Shift: behind the scenes of Maxon’s holiday greeting

With Cinema 4D and After Effects as primary tools, Neil Stubbings creates contemporary CGI with a traditional animation look. Maxon invited him to create the company’s animated holiday greeting.

Nothing is better to show the potential of a tool than to have professional users sharing some of their knowledge about creating work that reflects real-word usage of those tools. That’s what Maxon decided to do this year, enlisting the talents of Swiss-based character designer and animation director, Neil Stubbings, to create an animated holiday greeting entitled, “Late Shift”, using Cinema 4D.

Based in Zurich, Switzerland, Stubbings is a character designer and animation director who describes his style as “contemporary CGI that mimics the look and feel of traditional animation”. His primary tools are Cinema 4D and After Effects, and he enjoys experimenting with modern techniques to achieve a classic look. “I really love classic cartoons, not just because of their brutal humor and hilarious character animation, but also for their fantastic background design.”

Late Shift: behind the scenes of Maxon’s holiday greeting

Inspired by classic cartoons

Neil Stubbings is a good example of how Cinema 4D can change the workflow of a professional.  Coming from a background as graphic designer, but always fascinated with animated images, Stubbings arrived to a point where he felt the 2.5D world of After Effects was too limiting for the animations he was trying to create, so he decided to take the next step and learn 3D, something he had refused for a long time. With the notion that character rigging was a nightmare, as “there were no easy auto-riggers back then” he did some research to find a 3D program “that was easy to learn for somebody with a design background and not too techy”. He found Cinema 4D.

Neil Stubbings is a well known character designer and animation director who, today, shares a studio with other independent professionals in the center of Zurich. He points out that although “we’re not a company, we do share the studio and our workstations are connected to act as a render farm. We have a pipeline tool and we work together on a lot of projects. Currently, we are the biggest dedicated CGI and animation studio in Switzerland.”

For this project from Maxon, the artist picked one of the techniques he is known for. Stubbings draws inspiration for the film from classic cartoons and describes his style as “contemporary CGI that mimics the look and feel of traditional animation.” The one-minute piece leverages the company’s award-winning 3D software, Cinema 4D, to create a quirky storyline of Santa and his elves racing against the clock to deliver last minute holiday gifts.

Late Shift: behind the scenes of Maxon’s holiday greeting

Character rigging and animation

“Neil was a natural choice to create our first-ever animated holiday card,” said Paul Babb, Head of Worldwide Marketing for Maxon. “His style is so reminiscent of the classic Christmas cartoons we all grew up on. We were thrilled he was willing to take on the project.”

Stubbings was given complete creative freedom by Maxon to come up with the concept. “Normally, I design the characters first, but for this film, the environment was equally important because it almost takes on the role of a supporting character,” he says. The characters were designed directly in Cinema 4D and the artist also relied on the shader tools to achieve a classic, painterly look for which he is best known.

Watch the behind-the-scenes video of the Holiday Greetings animation, “Late Shift”, where Neil Stubbings explains the workflow and techniques used. The artist reveals interesting tips & tricks about the car animation, character rigging and animation, landscape shape and the unique textures that show the special cartoon style he is reknown for. Don’t forget to see the one-minute animated holiday greeting.


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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…
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