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VFX Students from RSP Devote Talents to a Girl and her Robot

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The short film 'Lucy and DiC', which recently made its world premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival, visualises a time in the near future when robotics won't simply be content to serve our best interests - in fact, it could well develop an attitude.

Directed by Jeremy Kelly-Bakker and starring character animation created by students enrolled in Rising Sun Pictures’ Graduate Certificate training program, the live action film is about a young woman and her floating support drone. Lucy is getting ready for a blind date, while DiC hovers over her shoulder, hectoring her with questionable advice on how to be more likeable, while not being especially likeable himself. So far, 'Lucy and DiC' has received more than 1 million views on YouTube and Facebook.

To produce the film, Jeremy Kelly-Bakker enlisted the support of students taking part in two Graduate Certificate courses at RSP, one in Compositing and Tracking, which Jeremy teaches himself, and the other in Dynamic Effects and Lighting. Students helped on set during live action production, working with the actor playing Lucy, and then took over the work of animating DiC, her ball-shaped drone, and integrating him into backgrounds.

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Jeremy, who last year directed a short entitled 'Midnight Snack' that also involved RSP students, said that working on real-world productions gives student visual effects artists opportunities for growth that are difficult to replicate through normal class assignments. “A big part of it is the sense of ownership that they have,” he said. “They’re not just turning out shots for the sake of a grade. They are contributing to a film that will screen in festivals and, potentially, be seen by people around the world. We tell the students, you own these shots - make ‘em good!”

The quirky, sarcastic DiC presented a considerable challenge for the students’ new visual effects skills. Their task was not only to create a plausibly realistic, 3D floating drone, but also to imbue him with enough personality to make him a proper foil for Lucy’s comedic performance. “We looked for ways to get maximum emotion from something that was essentially a floating beach ball,” said Jeremy. “He has a computer monitor for a face and emojis for eyes. We gave him two little t-rex arms that were quick and easy to animate, and antennae that are like dog ears, drooping or standing up on end. That extra bit of secondary movement makes him feel alive.”

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Students encountered several unexpected technical hurdles that demanded skills outside of their classroom instruction. For instance, they designed a clever way of inverting DiC for scenes when he appears as a reflection in a mirror. Senior members of RSP’s visual effects team aided the process through critiques and advice. “The students did the bulk of the work, but the input they received from the course teachers was invaluable,” Jeremy said. “All they had to do was apply a gentle hand and, by drawing on a decade of experience of working on studio films, the quality of the students' work would leap.”

Jeremy and co-writer Tom Phillips are currently talking to Australian broadcasters about expanding Lucy and DiC into a web series. “We’ve got 25 episodes in our back pocket,” he notes. “It’s funny, it’s situational and we think it would make a great bite-sized sitcom.”

You can watch Lucy and DiC here. For more information about Rising Sun Pictures’ Graduate Certificate courses, check the dedicated page at University of South Australia.     rsp.com.au/home