Lighting Club #12 – Pulsion

Hullo everybody !

Hold on hold on. Summer is there, holidays are not so far (or gone ?), ice cream, pina-colada and barbecue everyday. Okay. But in the meantime : Pulsion ! This month we will talk about this short with his director : Pedro Casavecchia.

To talk about the man, Pedro Casavecchia is a London based Generalist TD working as Senior Environment Artist at Framestore. With more than 8 years of experience he did modeling, animation, lighting, texturing, and more… He decided to create his own personal short called Pulsion. To talk about the project, it is a full CG short, with a strong artistic direction mixing a stop motion feeling and isometric view, in a dark mood with a lot of different lighting/ambiences.

“Dark feelings harvested during the childhood of a kid erupt in violence after his mother dies. Pulsión (Drive) explores themes of abuse and dysfunctional family environments.”

Recently, Pulsion was selected at International Annecy Festival and.. won the Jury’s special mention award ! This is huge ! Congrats to him, thus let’s talk with Pedro about this experience and more about the lighting side of Pulsion !

Feel free to have a look at the trailer first.

Hullo Pedro ! Thanks for answering our questions, could you talk about Pulsion project ? Where comes from the idea and what was your main goal with this short ?

The idea of creating a short film came about when I was trying to get into the Film industry as a 3D artist. I figured that having a piece in which I could express my technical and creative capabilities would be a great way to open that door. I was lucky enough to get that job long before finishing the production, but I’m happy I decided to complete it anyway because it became something much bigger than what I expected it to be!

I was always interested in serial killers and true crime documentaries. Not so much into the act of killing, but more into the background of the killers. I find very interesting how the things that happened into their lives shape not only the way the behave afterwards but what they do and how they do it.

What was your software/rendered ? 

Pulsion was created using lots of softwares.

I started by migrating from 3Ds Max to Maya. The reason for this was that I started working on a studio that was maya based. 

I slowly started to learn how to model using Maya but I would jump back to 3Ds Max for some details when things were not flowing. Eventually I started using 3Ds max less and less as I became fluent in Maya modelling. I used Maya for most of my inorganic objects. Things such as the interior scenarios, little props populating the scenes, etc. When extra detail was needed such as small imperfections and break ups in the objects I used Zbrush.

For my texture maps I used Substance Painter and Substance Designer almost exclusively. A few times I needed to work with real images projected into the geometry and for those specific cases I used photoshop.

Also from the adobe cloud I used Illustrator to design all the character shirt prints and After effects to compile the render layers and export the final composited videos.

There where plenty of exteriors and organic looking objects for which I used Zbrush. I also used Reality Capture software to process pictures of objects such as trees or branches and transform them into realistic 3D models.

I created all the UVS for my short film using Headus UvLayout. Is my Uv software of choice in 99% of the cases. I only jumped to Zbrush for UVS when the geometry of the objects was too dense.

To achieve great looking clothing objects such as bed linens, and the outfits of the characters I used Marvellous Designer. I even used it to do some gore simulations.

Every single object that I created was eventually brought back to maya in order to be laid out on my scenes. After that I rendered everything using Arnold render.

For the edition I used Adobe Premiere pro in addition to the Red Giant Magic Bullet plug in for the crazy glitch effects.

Lighting-wise, it seems to have many different types of lighting, how did you proceed ? Did you work with colorscript ?

The final look of the piece was a very slow process of trial and error.  I knew that I wanted to guide the eyes to specific parts of the image or convey certain emotions. I created a pinterest board with all the images I liked, color palettes and stuff like that. Then was a process to figure out what exactly did I like about those images and make my best effort to transmit that into the shots. As the perspective of the story is told through the subjectivity of a madden character I gave myself the freedom to explore more eccentric lighting situations on a shot by shot basis without worrying too much about an overall color palette or looking for ways to justify light sources.

There are dynamic lighting, indoor lighting, outdoor lighting, fx lighting and more.. Was it something you wanted to work more than something else ?

As my project is pretty much done by me alone I heavily invested into the lighting as a way to hide the weak points of my models and scenarios and highlight the things were working better. I also felt was one of the strongest tools I had to set up the mood and context of the life of this characters. In addition to that, it might be the discipline I experienced the most throughout my career so maybe that’s why I went all in with it!

How did you proceed to create this “dark/creepy mood” ?

During a very long time I researched about different killer’s childhood looking for strong emotional elements. Things I thought were pivotal points on their life. I wanted all of my shots to give away information about the lifestyle and minds of my characters. In my mind the environment where things play out are a great factor on the life and choices of my characters. This environment needed to shape their behavior so I guess that ended up being a feedback loop of some elements adding to the creepiness of the others. 

What was your main challenge technically and artistically ? Why ? 

Since the beginning it was just me and my laptop and that’s how it was until almost the end of the project. Only by the last month I managed to get the help of other artists to get the final push and deliver for Annecy. Because of this I needed to device ways to make everything as optimized as possible on my renders, models, character, etc. The look of the film is in part a result of this limiting factor.  To achieve this I rendered all backgrounds as single frames and then I would render characters and shadows as separate passes. That way I saved a lot of render time as the scenarios were the most expensive part of the renders. I also did some DMP to add details and fix things I didn’t like about my renders. I reused models around the different shots and I even used lots of old models from other personal projects!

Was the compositing important part of the project ?

As compositing is one of my weak points I tried to get as much as I could out of my renders. All I did in comp was pretty much pile up layers and fix minor render errors. 

Could you tell us more about your experience at Annecy Festival ? Did you like it ? 

Without a doubt was a dream come true. Being part of such a massive festival and even getting an award was more than what I could ever ask for. My family was there with me to celebrate so was a very wholesome experience. I really recommend anyone to attend the festival. Is a very nice experience and the city is just beautiful ! 

When Pusion should be released online ?

That is hard to know. First it needs to finish it’s festival run. That might take about 2 years. After that will depend if I manage to sell it to a streaming service and what kind of contract we have ! So maybe is good to stay tuned so you don’t miss it when is screened in a festival in your city !

What’s about the future ? Perhaps a next short ? Is it something you already think about ? 

I’m trying to use the momentum to continue to produce my own content. I’m already working on a new project. I can’t say much about it, but is on the oven!

Thanks for sharing your experience Pedro, and as we usually say : Welcome in the Lighting Club ! A last word ?

Thank you very much for having me !


We hope that you enjoyed our interview and try to see Pulsion in festival 😀 !

See you soon for a new interview 🙂




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.