Interview - Thuristar


Perrine Gauthier
Joeri Christiaen
Frederik Segers

Partners Thuristar
From: Belgium


First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer our reader’s questions.
Thanks for your interest in our work :)
Tell us a bit about your company...When did you start? What programs do you use? 
I (Joeri Christiaen) founded THURISTAR in 2008 to start developing and directing my own animation project. I had been working with Frederik Segers (composer and musician) for years already and including on PLANKTON INVASION the web series, and I met Perrine Gauthier (creative producer) on the development of PLANKTON INVASION the TV series, so in 2010 we decided to all joined forces within THURISTAR. 

Since most projects are, or were initiated, after hours we didn’t have the luxury of time – therefore the choice of software was dictated by the speed and quality. To texture and model we use the combination of Lightwave and Zbrush, for rigging and animation messiahStudio and for rendering and shading Fprime in Lightwave. 
This was the pipeline for PLANKTON INVASION and FAIR TRADING, for 850 METERS we’ve made the pipeline evolve. As we’ve been working closely with the people from messiahStudio who actively participate to the production of the film,
 we are planning to keep all rendering and shading in PMG’s great software as well. We have got some special requests developed to support our film. All these new updates (real time renderer, animatable openGL displacement, etc.) have recently been released in the latest version: messiahStudio 5.
With the market becoming more and more competitive, what do you believe is a must that a Character TD has in his portfolio or skills?
It might sound a bit cliché, but from our experience passion is what really makes a difference. It’s what makes you get up every morning with the only goal to achieve the best result you can. That, and a core team of people who share the same drive, is key for the work we do. 
850 Meters received a lot of attention. Can you give us an insight on the process, the goals of the project and the difficult parts?



We’re thrilled that the teaser is being seen all around, and that people are very enthusiastic about the project, it’s the strongest motivation we can get. 
850 METERS is based on an idea I (Joeri Christiaen) had quite a few years ago, but it was put on hold while I was busy with PLANKTON INVASION the web series. So the story of 850 METERS has been redeveloped within THURISTAR in 2009, into a character-driven short. 
Our goal at this point is simply to make a great film that people will enjoy, in festivals but also for a wider audience. 
Did you use the same techniques from one project to another? What changes?

The technique is actually an evolution of a pipeline that I’ve been working on for almost 8 years now, and as written above it is still a work in progress. A ‘3D photocollage’ technique that over the years has become a style. Maybe one day we’ll get tired of it and choose to change style completely, or it will keep evolving as we go. We’ll see :)
What was the biggest challenge in the Plankton Invasion project?

 Hard to say… I think most BIG challenges actually came after the creation of the project itself; Finding the right partners to work with, financing a series that everyone loves but that is too “edgy” for most TV broadcasters, financing something everyone loves but for most broadcasters found to edgy, preserving the spirit and charm of the web series while adapting the concept into a TV series,  making the right choices, keeping your head cool  and keep the constant focus … Much harder than the creative process!
Out of all the projects you have done, which one is your favorite and why?
That’s like asking a parent which of his 3 kids he likes the most :)
What was the most difficult part in Fair Trading?

The timing. FAIR TRADING? was produced (from concept to post-production) within 4 weeks, so it was quite a challenge but also a very interesting experience for THURISTAR because we wanted to see what we could do with a very small budget in a very limited time. The short is in a way quite specific and was not designed to appeal to festivals, but still we’re glad it got selected a few times, and most of all that people have responded well to it.
How do you start working on a character? Do you use references or just imagination?

The best way for me is to start designing the character(s) once the purpose is clear – then it is less of a wild goose chase. I then always start drawing until I feel the bases of the character, in just a few lines. Feel its personality and have a rough sketch of what it will look like. Then I usually quickly go to modelling and Z-brush, etc.
Overall I’ve learnt that it takes time to develop, and to let the character take life and develop itself as well. Feedback of people around you is also quite important. 
References can always inspire as well, as long as it is to inspire :)
Which effect do you believe was the most difficult to achieve? (How did you do it?)
The EFFECT of grabbing the viewers attention and make him smile, liking the character,etc.
For all other CG effects you can easily find tutorials on the net these days :)
What programs/plugins do you use? Do you also create the storyboards?

Storyboards are as important as the writing in our process and we invest a lot of time in it. Usually the writing / storyboard period actually takes longer that the production of the 3D images :) Toonboom is an excellent tool for this, it allows you to create some basic 2D animation in your storyboard, which helps to build a strong and understandable animatic (the 2D version of the film) 
What’s the one project that you received the most praise for? 

I came up with the concept of PLANKTON INVASION in 2007, and started producing ‘webisodes’ single-handed the following months, under the roof of Tinkertree. At the time the buzz was quite good and it created a “planktonic” fan-base of several thousands of people. It has been a great experience because a year later it lead me to meeting TeamTO, the French producer who today coproduces PLANKTON INVASION the TV series with Tinkertree, Vivi Film and Canal+. We’re now in production so 3 years later, it’s a great reward and I’m thrilled to direct my first animation TV series.
On the THURISTAR front, we were pleasantly surprised with the reactions that FAIR TRADING? received, and today we’re very happy with the attention 850 METERS is getting. The teaser has been seen approx. 25,000 times in one week and every day we receive very positive feedback – which is very stimulating for the production of the short itself !

How important is it to have a proper education in this field?
I believe basics are always important –  I was trained for traditional 2D animation, and even though I’m not much of a 2D animator (I love 3D to much for that) I will never forget the basics of storytelling, writing and animation. 
But in the end, it is the passion and enthusiasm, the work discipline and ambition that will make you grow as an artist or film maker.
If you had the opportunity to spend a day with anyone from this industry, who would it be? 
Homer Simpson :)  I’d love to have a little chat with that yellow genius :)
What do you have up your sleeve for future projects?

Right now as a director, PLANKTON INVASION the TV series, and the short film 850 METERS are the priorities and it’s already quite a lot of work. 
But within THURISTAR we’re developing a couple of other ideas for shorts, a series and a feature. It’s a bit early still but we should be more advanced by mid-2011.