Director James Guard uses Fusion and DaVinci Resolve to bring the new indie episodic animation series to life
Bounty hunter Farrah Rogue and her troublemaking robot companion Spidar explode onto the scene in the new animated YouTube series “Farrah Rogue.” Starting with episode one, titled “Farrah Rogue: Awakening,” the sci-fi series follows Rogue and Spidar as they scavenge the remains of fallen corporation Galactic Aeronautical Research Laboratories (G.A.R.L).
For filmmaker James Guard, the futuristic series is deeply rooted in his past. “Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to make a sci-fi film,” explains Guard. “I didn’t have the technical ability at the time to achieve what I wanted. Now, after about 10 years in the industry and the skillset that comes with that, I finally felt like it was time to start working on my own projects. Two years and countless sleepless hours later, we have ‘Farrah Rogue: Awakening,’ and more episodes on the way!”
After opening James Guard Studios (JGS) in 2017, Guard spent his days doing visual effects (VFX) for a variety of hit television series as his day job and his nights at his own studio working away on creating “Farrah Rogue.” Creating an independent animated series from scratch is no easy task, so Guard turned to Blackmagic Design to keep his post production workflow as simplified as possible, relying on Fusion for compositing and VFX, and DaVinci Resolve for editing, grading and audio post production.
Creating Futuristic VFX with Fusion
Before diving into DaVinci Resolve for the episode’s editing, audio and color grading, Guard first used Blackmagic Design’s VFX and motion graphics software Fusion for compositing.
Coming from a background in layer-based compositing, Guard quickly embraced Fusion’s node-based workflow. “Fusion’s node-based compositing is amazing. With layer-based compositing, it can be hard to keep track of what you’re really doing,” he explains. “Fusion was easy to understand and get up and running fast. Also copying nodes from one file to another was great. I was able to set up a master template, replace the loader with the new shots and tweak as needed, which saved me a lot of time along the way.”
“Funnily enough, Fusion’s 2D tracking tools were used a lot for a 3D short,” Guard continues. “For example, I was trying to figure out an easy solution for adding a matte painted sky. I didn’t want to render out a sky from my 3D software because the iteration process would take a long time. So, instead I created a scene full of dots to use as tracking markers in the 3D program, and I rendered those out. Then in Fusion I tracked the dots using the Planar Tracker, and I was able to quickly put a sky in any shot that required it. It was a bit of a sneaky workaround, but it worked well for fast edits and saved me a lot of time, which was crucial. Now that I’m starting to work on the next episodes, I’m relying on more of Fusion’s powerful 3D features, and it’s already making a world of difference.”
Taking an All-in-one Approach for the Animated Series
“The story wasn’t set in stone during the production, and I went through tons of iterations. However, having my editing tools in the same program as color grading made life easy,” explains Guard. “I was able to do preproduction with storyboards/animatics, production with playblasts of previs/animation, and then post with final frames that were being color graded while I was still working out other shots and editing. All in one place!”
Guard continues, “I can’t say enough about how important it is having everything in one program. When creating CG work, the average artist has to constantly jump around between countless programs. For ‘Farrah Rogue,’ I’d have to use five to eight programs for a single CG shot. After all the work creating the CG assets, it was great to then turn to DaVinci Resolve and have all the tools for editing, grading and audio in one program to tie the project together.”
“Using DaVinci Resolve gave me a lot of freedom as a director because I could play around with different looks without worrying about disrupting the entire project – if something didn’t work, I could easily just delete the node and try something new,” says Guard. “DaVinci Resolve’s Qualifiers were a lifesaver as some shots of the sun would mess with Farrah’s skin tone, and I didn’t want to tweak shaders on a shot-by-shot basis. With the Qualifiers, I could just mask the skin color and correct her face without needing to render out selected masks.”
“There was one shot in the beginning where Spidar comes out from behind the mine case. I was having a hard time getting the look I wanted in my 3D program, so I brought it into DaVinci Resolve and using the color page was able to quickly create a look and a feeling for that shot. It ended up setting the groundwork for all of the shots after that, and DaVinci Resolve was my go-to for the rest of the project,” continues Guard.
With “Farrah Rogue: Awakening” now available on YouTube, Guard is working away on the series’ upcoming episodes. “I learned a lot while creating ‘Awakening’ and am now ready to step everything up,” he concludes. “The next episode will feature a fight between Farrah and a G.A.R.L. robot guard. I’m really excited about it as it will be the first action sequence I’ll direct. Stay tuned for what’s coming next for Farrah and Spidar!”
To watch “Farrah Rogue: Awakening,” visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyJ1VEgz2vg&t=10s.
Founder James Guard started JGS, an independent animation and games studio in Glendale, CA in 2017. James has worked in the VFX industry for more than 10 years and has worked on projects such as “Westworld,” “The Walking Dead,” “Gotham,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “Legends of Tomorrow” and “Disenchantment.” His passion for entertainment led James to create JGS and its premier project “Farrah Rogue: Awakening.” JGS is feverishly working on finishing the series’ upcoming episodes, as well as an unannounced game project. While small now, James is confident JGS will soon be a dominant force in the animation and games space.