Sherpa takes Ritzy Animation into the clouds for Sky’s Obki

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Ritzy Animation scaled up quickly, and seamlessly, to deliver Sky Kid’s Obki TV series, using Escape Technology’s cloud infrastructure tool, Sherpa.

 

Sherpa allowed the team to go from being a small group of artists to a team of 30 creatives and producers at the height of production to deliver 15 x 2 minute episodes of the show, and is Ritzy’s first commissioned TV series. Sherpa’s custom tools allowed Ritzy to plan ahead, manage costs and plan out artists' time. Additionally it gave the studio the freedom to spin up multiple fully spec’d studio machines at the push of a button, affording them to really put their young London boutique animation studio on the map.

 

Hear how Co-Founders and Directors Dan Edgley and Charlie Batho at Ritzy worked with Sherpa.

 

Mission to save planet Earth - Ritzy and Obki

Obki the alien is on a mission to save planet Earth… but he’ll have to learn how first! 

Obki is a Sky Kids, Sky Zero and Obki Production’s creation and comprising of 15 x 2 minute episodes featuring an adorable alien and his trusty sidekick, the Orb who embark on an array of ecological adventures to discover the little ways we can all help our environment - a subject extremely close to the studio’s heart. 

Charlie and Dan disclose when we sat down for a chat  that it was a huge undertaking for their young studio, and was green lit and produced in the midst of a pandemic, forcing them to make big changes to the way they worked and communicated. However, an opportunity not to be missed, they rose to the challenge and went back to their roots, to bedroom and dining room table creating and building a team to join them on their mission.

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The devil is in the detail

High standards and the desire to set a new quality benchmark for kids’ TV, Dan and Charlie  began by identifying the areas they should assign the most resources to. As ‘character’ was critical to this show, especially for the hero’s Obki and the Orb. 

To tackle this the team spent a lot of time developing textures and shaders to ensure a tactile and believable feel. Rigging was also another key area of focus for the team, especially Obki’s ‘super-rig’ which needed to support Obki’s elastic ‘rubber hose’ style flexibility that had to be achieved by building dynamic skeletons. Supporting characters of the show had a specially developed face rig that could be seamlessly duplicated across the cast to maintain these high standards. 

Charlie and Dan disclosed that all of these efforts upfront saved precious time later down the line ensuring that their team of  animators could focus their energies on injecting as much character into Obki and his cast of friends as possible.

Research was also critical in the creative process. The team explored and sourced reference material for multiple environments (land and water) and futuristic buildings to ensure that where Obki and the Orb lived reflected their characters. The team further enhanced the believability of this 3D and matte painted CG environment by including grubby fingermarks, wet foot prints and dents from previous adventures all of which were integrated into the walls and floors of ‘the base’.

The designers and creatives worked closely from storyboards and layouts to ensure the right backgrounds were painted for each angle or moment in the story. Creating a wide shot usually covered most of the action and allowed Obki and the Orb to move freely left and right without feeling too limited within the frame. By providing the model/texture team with comprehensive guides and specific material references, they were able to create a smooth process and limit the amount of amends required in the latter stages of the production.

 

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Complexity and solutions 

The increased complexity also meant the team needed to optimise their render time and setup, Sherpa was invaluable here as it allowed the team to spin up the farm for a specific number of days in production to catch up. In addition the team developed in-house tools that meant lighting scenes were built in seconds and were updated automatically.

With complex messages and only 90 seconds to tell their stories, the team needed a method of communicating the environmental issues clearly and concisely, whilst retaining the charm and humour required to keep a young audience engaged. No problem, this is where the team leveraged motion graphics to keep the animation in Obki’s desk monitors so that the audience could easily understand, whilst remaining playful and colourful. 

 

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Closing remarks

Having experienced working on a tv show they now have aspirations to embark on bigger projects similar to Obki alongside all the other work they specialise in, and we’re certain that the studio will fulfill these aspirations. Both Charlie and Dan agree that Sherpa will be an invaluable tool going forward, giving them the ability to scale fast and for quick bursts when required on projects whilst allowing them to manage time and maintain costs. You can watch Obki right now on Sky Kids. We’ve watched it here at Escape Technology and love it! Also, check out the other gorgeous work by Ritzy Animation here

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