Last week we released our take on how the Zelda Universe could be realized on film. The positive feedback from fans has been amazing! We are here with /u/TheophanyRemix all day to answer your questions.

Proof

Film: Major's Mask Terrible Fate

Remix Album: Time's End II

Edit - added Theophany's user name

Edit - Had a lot of fun connecting with everyone answering questions. The team is calling it a night. We'll be sharing our making-of video for the film on our Facebook and YouTube later this week.

Comments: 494 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

nilsth318 karma

Have you had any reactions from Nintendo?

EmberLab376 karma

No reaction from Nintendo. Who knows if they have even seen it :)

Random-Miser23 karma

If Nintendo agreed, would you be willing to turn this little project into a feature length film?

EmberLab45 karma

Would be a dream come true for sure!! But just seeing the fan reaction has been an amazing experience.

CapnMcCrunchy279 karma

How long did it take to create the Skull Kid and Salesman models, did you run into any problems? They look amazing and I'm studying animation at University myself, so it's always fun to know as much as I can <3

EmberLab268 karma

We put about a month of work into each character. These are unusual characters, so there was a bit of exploration in the modeling phase to figure out how to best realize them in this somewhat realistic style. Carlos Ortega did the Mask Seller model, and Anders Ehrenborg did the Skull Kid. Definitely check out their work, they are very inspiring artists! We gave them about two weeks on the models, then internally we did a detail pass on the textures, set up the hair, and refined shaders.

Also Cordell Felix did an amazing job with Majoras mask....that asset alone took a while. The modeling and texture work is top notch.

Me2thanksthrowaway84 karma

@Ember Lab Absolutely love the short film. Any plans to make a full length if you can get the funding? (Kickstarter?)

@Theophany Are you just one guy doing all the composition? Also how old are you and did you go to school for musical composition?

P.S. love your music so much. Been eagerly awaiting Disc II for 4 years and it was so worth the wait!

EmberLab36 karma

Glad you enjoyed the film but no plans to make a full length film. A feature film would be a ton of work but an amazing experience.

WarmAir53 karma

What was the reasoning behind tweaking the story to make it so that skull kid "stumbles upon" the mask instead of robbing the happy mask salesman? Were you trying to "soften" the character of skull kid?

EmberLab169 karma

We wanted to convey that the true evil in this story is Majora's Mask, not the Skull Kid. In some ways it gives the Mask Salesman's character some depth, as if he may not fully understand what happened and points a finger at Skull Kid by default. Or even that the mask could have warped his mind, and his perception of these events, affecting his retelling of the story later.

legoknight50 karma

Love the film. I've been looking forward to it since Theophany first joined the project. How did the partnership between Ember Lab and Theophany come to be?

TheophanyRemix66 karma

This isn't that exciting, but we kind of grew up together so we've been friends since middle school. I grew into music and sound design, they started Ember Lab, and I ended up moving out to work with them

Nerdwiththehat13 karma

Wait, no shit, that's hilarious. I had no idea you guys were friends. What did you think of Dust?

EmberLab25 karma

Ummm... Jason (Theophany) composed most of the music for Dust! He was also one of the writers and part of our development team.

EmberLab28 karma

Mike here, director of the short. Jason (Theophany) already touched on this but we grew up together in Orlando, Fl. We've been working on game inspired projects with our friends since we were in middle-school. Our careers landed us both in LA where we continue to work together at Ember Lab. After the release of Theophany’s first album we came up with the idea of created a short film leveraging the awesome team of artists we have at Ember. The project was a huge team effort. Jason’s sound design really puts it over the top. We are all looking forward to working on more projects together! -Mike

xiaorobear42 karma

This is the highest-quality fan film I've ever seen, and the album is also phenomenal. I was blown away, by the production values, quality of the CGI, cinematography, the music, the faithfulness to the game... Let me think of a couple questions!

  • For both Ember and Theophany, what would be your dream project to work on?

  • The character animation for the Skull Kid was a big standout; his face was amazingly expressive, especially for having no visible mouth. One question I have about his design— I figured in Ocarina of Time he had big yellow lips or a beak, that were redesigned into Majora's Mask's beak (I'm guessing to avoid comparisons to blackface, like what happened to Jynx in Pokémon). What inspired the idea to have his 'beak' be a little mini-mask tied over a Groot-like mouth? It worked out great, but I wonder if there was any internal disagreement over how to portray his face during preproduction.

  • How much of that forest setting was 3D CG? In that first opening shot in the rain the environment looks so real, but the light cast by the fairies on all the moving ground cover makes me think it can't be. A mix of live-action/photoreal matte paintings with CG foreground elements?

EmberLab53 karma

Thanks Xiaobear

Lots of dream projects really. Cowboy Bebop, Metroid …. they already beat us to Ghost in the Shell :( Would have really loved to take a crack at that franchise. I think it has so much potential visually and thematically. Not to mention that a collaboration between Theophany and Kenji Kawai would be mind blowing.

There was a bit of hesitation to make the beak removable...but in the end it worked on so many levels that it became the clear choice. We liked the idea that he used the beak to cover his insecurities and played to his loneliness as a character. It only makes sense that he would want a full mask to cover his identity. Removing it at the end was a effective way to creep out the viewer and put them in messed up context of the scene. Also how can he play a flute with a beak????

Most of the forest had some kind of real base. We did lots of practical lighting for the fairies to help blend them in. We are gonna be posting a behind the scenes video later in the week that should answer all your questions.

-Mike

DestroyerOfPussy693 karma

Any chance of a behind the scenes?

EmberLab10 karma

We will be posting a behind the scenes later this week actually! Keep an eye out for it on our Facebook or Youtube.

katrinainwonderland28 karma

Have you ever received any sort of threat from Nintendo about the copyrights? If yes, did they ask you to put down your work?

BTW, you guys are amazing! Love your work :)

EmberLab39 karma

No communication from Nintendo. Glad you enjoyed the film!

InigoMontoya521 karma

/u/EmberLab

  1. Do you intend to do collaborated work together in the future on different projects?

  2. How many people worked on this film, music and video alike?

  3. Would you guys ever consider doing a full feature film, and if so, would you open up a kick-starter so we can give back for all the effort you guys put in? And if so, I would assume you would need further Nintendo licensing, or permission in order to do as such?

  4. Would you guys consider doing a short film of each Zelda series, Ocarina of Time, A Link to the Past, Wind Waker, Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess, etc?

  5. Thank you so much for all your work! It was a pleasure listening and watching your guys creation!

EmberLab35 karma

Great questions!

  1. We absolutely intend to collaborate together in the future.

  2. The team was relatively small. Our internal team at Ember is four people, and we handled planning, production, animation, effects, and compositing. But we had the help of some very talented artists along the way, including our cinematographer, another animator, three concept artists, four modelers, and a character rigger. Theophany did an incredible job with the sound design, pulling elements from his album and also working with two voice actors.

  3. We would be very excited if given the opportunity to do a feature film, but it would certainly be an enormous undertaking and would require some serious resources. Not only would a Kickstarter probably be shut down, but we also don't wish to disrespect Nintendo in any way. We would definitely need to be approached by Nintendo for something like that to happen, which is very unlikely.

  4. We may consider another short in the future, but there are no plans as of now!

  5. Thank YOU. It's great to see such an overwhelmingly great response to our passion project.

windleafdoor18 karma

Great work on this film! I loved the look of the skull kid and the mask salesman. I also liked the look for the fairies despite seeing some complaint. Orbs have a certain mystery to them as opposed to fully realized anthropomorphic characters. (Edit: I wanted to add, for some people that might not agree with this, is that it is a ton of work to design, model, rig, and animate a more fully realized character, so when creating a production like this, the value of the character being fully realized or not is something to consider.)

Question 01: Some of the shots are truly spectacular. I was curious, how did you create the trees, plants, and forest/woods shots? Was anything filmed or is it all rendered? Were the plants from Maya or from a third-party software?

Question 02: What made you want to create this piece?

Anyhow, really great and you guys did an incredible job!

EmberLab21 karma

Glad you liked it!

The forest was mostly filmed actually. I wish we could achieve that level of photo realism. We all love filming out into nature so this project was a great excuse to run around in the woods. There will be a BTS video posted later this week so you can see exactly how the look was achieved.

Majors mask explores some darker themes that really connect with me now that I'm a "grown up". Theophany's fist album was also a big spark of inspiration. It drove me to want to try and capture the emotion of his music visually. Kinda became a challenge that everyone at the studio wanted to tackle.

-Mike

Rockinwaggy11 karma

Were there any scenes that didn't make it into the final cut?

EmberLab53 karma

We actually had about 86 more minutes of material, but decided to go short and sweet instead.

EmberLab67 karma

Just kidding didn't have resources to leave anything on the cutting room floor.

boyfoster10 karma

Do you drink the shower water?

EmberLab14 karma

Yeah we live in California so gotta make use of every last drop

jph110 karma

Loved what you guys did!

Any reason why you chose Majora's Mask for your inspiration? Is it just your favorite Zelda? Or was it the artistic elements of the game with the story, atmosphere, and music that made you want to create your own interpretation?

Keep doing what you guys are doing! I look forward to your future work!

EDIT: Grammar

EmberLab27 karma

The game definitely had a big impact on us growing up, and we felt it brought a lot of new ideas and possibilities to the video game medium in general. Aesthetically speaking, we loved the darker, more twisted elements in Majora's Mask. We saw a very intriguing and sympathetic character in Skull Kid. But it is hard to pick a favorite from the series, as Windwaker and Ocarina of Time all have a special place in our hearts as well.

nilsth10 karma

What kind of software was used to create this? Looks amazing!

EmberLab35 karma

Hi nilsth, we used Zbrush for character modeling, Mari for texture work, Maya for animation and effects, Nuke and After Effects for compositing.

EDIT: All the CG was rendered using VRay.

jabberwockxeno2 karma

In your opinion, what's the best way to learn 3d?

I've messed around a bit in 3ds max before to the point where I know the UI and understand more or less how to use all the submenus and tools, both for the modelling, material editing, and rendering, but I never got to actually learn to apply that knowledge into making things. I can tell you what polygons are or how to apply a normal map or do UV editing, make a material, and what all the render settings do, but I can't actually make much of anything.

Where do I go from here?

EmberLab4 karma

Keep at it! We have all hit roadblocks in our creative growth. I would say maybe spend your time learning zbrush or mudbox. They can be good tools to learn the artistic side of the craft without getting too bogged down in the technical. The best thing about going to school for this stuff is not the knowledge but rather the deadline of having to create something. The internet is full of great resources for learning but its good to force yourself to work towards the goal of creating and finishing a project. Start small, set a realistic goal and go for it! You will learn a ton.

Also you probably know about this site but www.artstation.com is a big source of inspiration for us. We find artists and techniques that inspire on there all the time.

Lhbrown19907 karma

Who was the Voice actor who played The Happy Mask salesman Narration?

EmberLab12 karma

Masashi Odate, he is amazing!

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1372891/

gadgetclockwork6 karma

The animation, music, and sound design were all amazing! I thoroughly enjoyed every element from the animation and the album, so please don't take the following questions too harshly:

  • Why was the beak of skull kid turned into a mask? I haven't seen any art or in game assets that suggest it's a mask.
  • Why were the fairies... balls? In the game they look like creatures obstructed by their own light. Would that have been too difficult to recreate?
  • There was no Stone Tower remix on this disc or the first? Are we getting a third disc!?

Love your work guys, thank you for doing this AmA.

EmberLab12 karma

We actually had a fair amount of back and forth trying to find a design that worked for skull kid and the fairies. If you look at the models that were used in the N64 version, there isn't much detail to extrapolate what they would look like realistically rendered. We ended up taking some creative liberties that would work for our film while still being true(ish) to what the N64 game looked like.

As for Stone Tower, it is definitely one of the most requested tracks, so I'm sure Theophany knows his fans are looking forward to it. Hopefully there's a Disc III but that's up to Theophany :)

nilsmoody5 karma

Emerblab your short film is outstanding but I do have some questions why you did certain things...

  1. Why did you decide to make the mask salesman faint by the mask itself? Wouldn't it be better following the game's version where the skull kid got possessed by the mask and attack him out of greediness for might? Wouldn't this show how evil the mask is? Maybe because it would've been harder to animate?
  2. Why is there an aspect ratio change two times into the film? I see this a lot lately, especially in gaming edits. Why not stick with one aspect ratio?
  3. Why are the fairies real spheres? Aren't they glowing and that's way they are potrait like this in-game?

EmberLab6 karma

  1. We definitely took some liberties with that scene...all done to help make the skull kid more innocent. We wanted to play up the idea that the skull kid was just a puppet who got caught up the dark power of the mask. In the end we thought why not take some creative liberties to tell the story in a different way that you might not have thought about. I think that's a big part of why the cut scene in the game is so vague. Nintendo is really good and leaving things up to the interpretation of the player.
  2. Our choice to adjust the aspect ratio is a "call back" to the original game. Cut scenes in the game have a wider aspect ratio and we wanted to connect the film in this way.
  3. The fairies were a very challenging element of the film. The energy simulation was particularly difficult and time consuming. Our goal was to match the aesthetic of the game while adding a new element to the fairy design.

WhyNotKickflip5 karma

Hi, I was absolutely dazzled by the film. My older brother was especially pleased. How long did the film take to finish? Would you consider a future take on the Zelda universe?

EmberLab4 karma

Glad you enjoyed the film! We were working on the film for about 18 months, however much of it was just in our free time, working around a number of commercial projects we had going on. So really it was just a few months of dedicated work. In addition to our internal team of four, we had some very talented artists (all friends of ours) working remotely, helping with modeling, rigging, and even some animation, which was a huge part of this project.

We would love to do more with the Zelda Universe, there is so much we can dig into and explore, given the opportunity. But we have no immediate plans as of now!

Anodesu4 karma

First off, let me just take a moment to utterly fangirl over that stunning animation. I have to say, from an animator's perspective I'm suffering from serious rig envy on those characters.

Are you planning on creating any making-of videos to show the progress, or is there one online already?

I swear I'll come up with a better question once my brain wakes up.

EmberLab5 karma

/u/Anodesu thanks for the compliments. And yes we had some amazing rigs created by Chris Lesage

We've been working with Chris for years and he is an awesome TD!

Also, our making-of video is just about ready. We plan on releasing it later this week.

Edit - wanted to share a blog post Chris published today. It details his rig development for the Mask Sellers backpack. http://chrislesage.com/posts/sliding-bulging-effects-with-softmods/

0dd4263 karma

Having grown up playing Legend of Zelda and with my first console being the N64, your film made me hella nostalgic. It was amazing and I would pay good money to see a feature length film.

My question is kinda simple though, which Zelda game is your favorite and why?

EmberLab4 karma

We all have different favorites, but Majora's Mask holds a special place in our hearts. The darker tone and atmosphere sets it apart from the other Zelda games and it probably has the best soundtrack in the series. Breath of the Wild is looking pretty awesome though, maybe it will be a contender for our new favorite.

picuo3 karma

Some people criticize the fact that in the film, Skull's Kid personality is childish and naive while in the game he's kind of mischievous, how did you decided his personality and his differences from the game's original character?

EmberLab6 karma

We wanted to convey that the true evil in this story is Majora's Mask, not the Skull Kid. So we took inspiration from scenes in the game that took place before he found the mask, when he was more sympathetic and vulnerable.

delectabit3 karma

I saw the teaser for the short film and noticed there were some differences, such as Masashi Odate doing voice acting in japanese. Was there any reason that you decided to have him do it in english instead, and were there any other notable things that changed as the project went on?

EmberLab6 karma

The Japanese voice over added a layer of mystery to the teaser but in the short we wanted the VO to be clear as it helped tell the story (especially for those who are not familiar with MM). Masashi is an incredible actor and brought a lot of emotion to the character. It's always an amazing experience working with him. We've worked with Masashi a lot over the years and you may have scene his fantastic performance in our short Dust.

We didn’t have any major changes during development but we did spend a considerable amount of time figuring out the best direction for the character designs. The skull kid was particularly challenging.

tyco52 karma

If someone wants to become this good at 3D animation and art, where do they start? Where did you guys start? The model and animation quality is something I'd like to achieve someday. What do I start doing? (If you guys could ever write about your texture process, that'd be great too! There's not enough about how those are made around)

EmberLab3 karma

There's a lot to learn, and it can be daunting, so the key is to keep at it! If you are just starting out, start playing in Maya or ZBrush. There are free tutorials online, and also very structured courses available if you sign up at Digital Tutors. It's also great to dive into the art community online (check out Art Station), as it can be a big source of inspiration and a way of seeing what other artists are doing.

We texture using Mari. This program is very artist friendly, it's basically Photoshop but in 3D. There are a lot of tutorials online to get you started but you really just have to work at it!

Smichman1232 karma

I really love your film, I was absolutely blown away when I saw it, I was wondering, how did you managed to get a crew together? Did it start off with a few friends or something different?

EmberLab2 karma

/u/smichman123 - Glad you enjoyed the film! The crew was made up of artists we work with professionally. We always have a lot of fun working together and this project was especially special.

shiaherazade2 karma

Ember Lab: It looked like you used some live action sets in your Majora's Mask video and I was wondering, where did you shoot your forest footage? (If you told me you procedurally modeled the forest I would completely believe you since everything else looks so gorgeous <3)

EmberLab3 karma

We filmed in Humbolt Redwoods State Park. We have a BTS video coming out later this week that showcases our process. Practical LED lighting on location really help blend the CG with the forest locations.

http://www.redwoodhikes.com/Humboldt/GFB.html

EmberLab1 karma

Yes indeed, the forest locations were filmed at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, in Northern California.

Keetamien2 karma

Hej! Like the film and I was wondering what you want to do with it? What was the plan for after finishing it? Do you want to send it to festivals (I believe some might be interested) or are you afraid that will end up in copyright issues with Nintendo?

EmberLab2 karma

Glad you enjoyed it! We have no further plans for the film, it was intended purely to be released online for free for fans.

egopenguin2 karma

@theophany What was your favorite song to work on from either album?

EmberLab2 karma

Can't speak for Thoephany but we love Deku Palace, no wait, Healing Termina, actually Down of the First Day... sorry can't decide :)

Nerdwiththehat2 karma

Obligatory: /u/EmberLab - would you like to animate 100 duck-sized horses, or 1 horse-sized duck?

EmberLab3 karma

100 duck-sized horses, crowds are always a fun challenge :)

TemptedTemplar2 karma

Were there any concepts of Tingle made? or was the concept set solely on the "obtaining the mask scene" from the start?

EmberLab2 karma

No Tingle concepts but personally I would love to see Nate Hallinan's take on the character. He did a series of realistic Zelda concepts that were an inspiration for the films art style. Nate created a really cool Skull Kid concept for our film.

http://www.zeldainformer.com/news/realistic-zelda-creatures-fanart

Corgi_Legend2 karma

How suprised were you by the popularity of the video, if at all? What did you expect the response to be?

EmberLab2 karma

Working on a proejct like this, you never really know what to expect when releasing it. I think we felt it would resonate well with Zelda community but we underestimated the size of that community. The video has been view much more than we expected and the response has been amazing.

YeezuscryST1 karma

Are you planning to do a longer film, maybe picking a Terrible Fate up? With those professional skills, what is your work?

Would you wish Nintendo to recognize you, or are you scared that they might copyright strike you?

EmberLab2 karma

We'd love to do a longer film, but only if Nintendo approaches us, which is unlikely! We do commercial work professionally, but are also very interested in creating our own stories, whether in film or a game. In fact we are already collaborating with Theophany on a new project, which we'll be announcing soon!

aheadwarp91 karma

Hey guys, very nice work on the film! How long did this project take you start to finish and about how many people worked on it?

EmberLab2 karma

Thank you!

We were working on this for about 18 months, but that was mostly in our free time. We are estimating about three months of dedicated work.

The team was relatively small. Our internal team at Ember is four people, and we handled planning, production, animation, effects, and compositing. But we had the help of some very talented artists along the way, including our cinematographer, another animator, three concept artists, four modelers, and a character rigger. Theophany did an incredible job with the sound design, pulling elements from his album and also working with two voice actors.

TylerKinkade1 karma

Hey guys, are you guys working on anything secret, if so, can we have a hint?

EmberLab8 karma

We have another exciting project in development with Theophany and will be announcing more soon!

JJKeys1 karma

Hi guys, love your work - what's your take on the upcoming Zelda release 'Breath of the Wild'? Are you excited for it?

EmberLab3 karma

We are very excited for the new game! We're sad to see it delayed, but we're sure it will be worth the wait in the end.

saturnine251 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! Question for each of you:

For Ember Lab: How did you decide on doing this story versus all the other stories to expand upon in Majora's Mask? What drew you to the Skull Kid and Happy Mask Salesman as opposed to anything with Link? For Theophany: How much of Disc 2 was MIDI and how much was recorded?

Congratulations to both of you, your work is AMAZING! :)

EmberLab2 karma

In many ways the ending of MM was an interesting inspiration for us. The cut scene where the Mask tosses aside the Skull Kid like a puppet makes you feel sorry for the him. We wanted to explore the idea of how the Skull Kid became the "villain" in MM. Charter transformation is always an interesting journey.

https://youtu.be/F1IqUwpint4?t=458

Doctor_Batman_1151 karma

Do you think Nintendo may take your animation down?

EmberLab2 karma

We certainly hope not! But we are fairly confident we won't have any problems with Nintendo. We tried our best to be respectful to the original game, and didn't do anything damaging or vulgar. Plus we aren't asking for money or competing with their sales.