Building the Story

Welcome back!

This week, I’ll be taking you through the early stages of Mkali’s Mission – from brainstorming ideas for the sequence and building the characters’ backstory, to sharing my learnings from discussions with industry experts. Sit tight, it’s going to be a fun one!

At the start of the project, I knew I wanted the 3D sequence to feature the following three components; a strong female character (Mkali) and her wolf companion (Suluwo) performing various locomotive actions using the powerful character creation tools in Maya; a snowy and mountainous environment using 3ds Max’s worldbuilding and asset creation toolset; and an explosion, avalanche, and flying snow to demonstrate the breadth and versatility of Bifrost, specifically its MPM solver, aero solver, and particles system. From there, I began to write out the screenplay of my sequence, shot for shot.

The screenplay

With the concept of the project nearly complete, I set up a meeting with the 3ds Max and Maya product teams to discuss what a typical 3D animation pipeline entailed. As a first-time CG supervisor, I was lucky that everyone on the call had been in the animation business for most of their careers, and at many different levels. I knew that getting advice and feedback from them would be critical to the success of this project.

Meeting with the 3ds Max and Maya product teams.

As I explained to them my vision and concept for each shot, I gained a lot of insightful information and was given valuable feedback. A few questions that stood out to me were: “Who is the character? Why is she there? Where did she meet the wolf? Why is she blowing up a bunker?” These were questions I didn’t realize were important when creating the sequence. From this discussion, I realized the significance of building a backstory before working with artists. The more information I could provide them about the characters, the easier it would be for them to use their creativity to give personality to the heroes and detail to the environment. 

And so, I created Mkali’s backstory (which I had a lot of fun working on!). Here it is for your reading pleasure – enjoy!

The backstory

Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events, and incidents are the products of my imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

From a very early age, Mkali (Ma-kay-lee) had a strong and almost unnatural spiritual connection with nature and animals. The first 6 years of her life were joyous as she was surrounded by the love of family, friends, and the incredible people of her small village until an imminent threat known as the Loyalist Brigade began imparting distress and horror across the nation. They eventually rose to power and ruled through fear, intimidation, and tyranny.

When Mkali turned 13 years old, tragedy struck when her village was attacked by the army of the Loyalist Brigade as they believed an uprising against them was starting from within. Most of the village people were killed in the attack – including Mkali’s mother, father, and sister. Mkali was one of the few lucky ones who managed to escape.

Truth be told, there was in fact an uprising in the works, but it did not

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