It's quite incredible what you can create with free software these days. Case in point: Welsh CGI and animation studio Bomper Studio recently harnessed Blender and Unreal Engine to create a new short, Laundry Day.
In case you didn't know, 3D graphics software Blender is an entirely free and open-source 3D creation suite. It has the potential to support an entire animation pipeline, including modelling, sculpting, rigging, 3D and 2D animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, motion tracking and video editing.
Real-time 3D creation tool Unreal Engine, meanwhile, is free to use for creating linear content such as films and for custom and internal projects. It's also free in many cases for game development: a 5% royalty kicks in only when your content earns over $1 million.
Wanting to explore the two tools as part of the studio's pipeline and upskilling the wider team, Bomper opened the floor for ideas to be pitched forward as part of the development. The one they settled on centres around the intersection of technology and humanity in an inner-city laundromat. And the result is surprisingly magical.
Based in Caerphilly, Bomper Studio does work for advertising, branding and broadcast, spanning live-action VFX, hand-crafted animation, hyperreal CG and everything in between. Its credo is constantly embracing our natural curiosity and challenging our ambitions by "playing with mediums and formats [...] and having a lot of fun along the way".
When people have fun making animation, this usually translates well to the viewer. And that's certainly the case with Laundry Day.
Bomper Studio's 90-second film follows Ren-303, a service bot that assists with household chores. What follows is an emotionally resonant journey as Ren-303 reflects on its role in the life of its host family and contemplates the impending moment of its retirement. You can watch it in full below.
It's not much of a spoiler to say that, in the tradition of Wall-E, Ren-303 is super-cute and will immediately tug on your heartstrings. More fundamentally, the film's storytelling brings out a poignant and timely theme, urging audiences to ponder the implications of advancing technology and its impact on human connections.
We also like how the film teases the robot for a large section of the running time. That helps build intrigue and tension and presumably saves on the amount of animation time, too.
Perhaps most importantly, Laundry Day needs to be praised for the efficiency of its narrative: there's no need for dialogue, and it's basically a case of a simple story, well told.
The short was directed by lead animator Bianca Iancu as part of its learning and development programme to foster talent. Dubbed Bomper Academy, this internal training programme was launched in early 2023 as part of the studio's commitment to shaping the future of the creative industry in Wales and inspiring the next generation.
The programme provides a more structured way to facilitate learning and development to foster talent and implement those new skills on live projects as part of a selected pitching process.
Get the best of Creative Boom delivered to your inbox weekly