A Boy Called Christmas hides a beautiful shot by One of Us

With just two weeks until Christmas, we are already fully immersed in the festive atmosphere. Christmas markets, hot chocolates, roast chestnuts, open fires, advent calendars and movies all lead up to the big day. A Boy Called Christmas is certainly a good one to add to the list. It tells the story of a young boy called Nikolas who sets out on an adventure into the snowy North in search of his father. But the film also hides a beautiful one minute shot crafted by One of Us. We are very proud of the beautiful bedtime story which resulted from this close collaboration with traditional animators StudioAKA.

The One of Us team, led by VFX Supervisor Tom van Dop and VFX Producer Ali Griffiths, had to deal with both technical and creative challenges, in a collaborative to-and-fro with StudioAKA, with both studios adjusting and refining as new versions were produced.

“The shot consists of four or five different camera moves that we needed to stitch together and make it look like it was a continuous one,” Tom van Dop tells me. “However, it was a difficult process because the cameras never lined up perfectly, so when we were projecting our different takes onto the geo and rendering it with a stitched master camera,  we needed to rebuild a few areas  to make  sure there were no gaps between the different sections.”

That was the base, the technical challenge of getting our “canvas” working. From there on it was a more creative process of trying to match the look and feel of what the director, Gil Kenan, pictured in his head. 

“We got an edit brief from the client for a rough animation from Studio AKA,” Tom continues. “And from there we had to take  something that was created in 2D space and transfer it into a 3D room.” And this is where the lidar technique came into place. According to Tom, it was a new technique he was happy to explore: “We decided to supply Studio AKA with reference frames of different sections of our Lidar scene. This way they had a reference how far things should travel in 2D space and we could easily project it onto our geo. We now had control where it was likely to go on to the physical room and set up a process to get the animation flowing over the geometry of our practical  set. Then we matched the 2D animation timing  to the client edit ref.”

There was a lot of back and forth to have everything fit in and flowing. But finally, the team got to the end stage – the most creative. 

“We looked at references of flickering lights, shadows and candles, trying to create a shadowy, painterly feel,” concludes Tom. “We didn’t want to have just a figure stuck on the wall but basically got the feeling that it was like half painted and half light play and then it had to interact with the set and the shapes. It dives in and comes out and goes up to the wall. We wanted to make it look beautiful and at the same time we tried to tell a story.”

Produced by StudioCanal and Blueprint Pictures, you can now watched ‘A Boy Called Christmas’ on Netflix & in cinemas. Can you spot this sequence in the film? 👀

Written by: Stefania Dall’Armi