A great deal of TurboSquid models are used in animated productions all over the world! This week, we got a chance to talk with Olivier Brisson, an animator from Montréal and the creator of the original animated series Bill N Back. Olivier opens up about the struggles of creating your own series, the technical difficulties of mixing 2D and 3D elements, and how TurboSquid saved him so much time while realizing his dream. Watch the pilot episode of Bill N Back below and read on about Olivier’s journey!
TurboSquid: Thanks for speaking with us today, Olivier! Would you please introduce yourself and give a brief background about your career in animation?
Olivier Brisson: It is definitely my pleasure to be part of this interview, thank you very much for the opportunity here! My name is Olivier Brisson, I am a French Canadian animator who has been working in the field for over 10 years. As for my background, I studied 2D and 3D animation at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal here in Montréal. After graduating in 2013, I worked for 2 years in TV commercials at TONIC DNA. I subsequently decided to quit my job in 2015 to devote myself entirely to the creation of an original animated series concept called Bill N Back. And here we are 6 years after the first sketches for the concept, the pilot of the series is now completed and released online!
Tell us more about your decision to create your own animated series. Was Bill N Back an idea that existed before you made the jump? Were there any particular challenges to going full-time on this project?
For starters, I always felt like I wanted to create my own stuff instead of working on other people’s ideas (just to sound different from every casual artist!). While I was working at TONIC, the producers there suggested that we could create TV show concepts so they could present it to some major players in the industry. I was super enthusiastic about the idea and started to conceptualize what were the first sketches for Bill N Back.
I started to create new stuff from scratch, but it eventually drifted to something inspired from my 2D animated short film Les Amis. After working on the project in my spare time, it started to feel like my 9-to-5 job was slowing me down from creating my personal stuff properly, so I decided to go fully independent and I quit my job in April 2015.
The plan in the beginning was to go without a job for 5 months to be able to create a pitch bible and a screenplay for the pilot. When I showed the script to a producer at TONIC, he told me it wouldn’t work and proposed to me some ideas he had instead. At this point, I knew I couldn’t convince people to see what I had in my head, so I decided to do the full pilot by myself. I honestly never thought it would take that long to make– what was supposed to take 5 months turned into 5 years!
About the challenges of going full-time on a project like that, I guess the first thing that comes to mind is, How do you manage to live without an income for 5+ years? It was actually more stressful at first, but then the project took the lead so I found ways to live without a job. For instance, I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017, got some government financial help for young creators during year 1, and finally sold some valuable video games on Ebay to pay the rent. At this point, I preferred to have a finished pilot instead of some material laying around in my apartment.
We love it when artists bet big on themselves, and we also love your zany characters, Bill and Back! Are there any influences that inspired their design?
Thanks! Yes, there are most definitely a couple of influences, the major one for the character design is a video game called Banjo-Kazooie made by a British Studio based in England – Rare Ltd. Conker’s Bad Fur Day is another game from that studio that influenced a lot of the overall tone for what I created. I can’t hide that there are also some Looney Tunes and Animaniacs influences sprinkled on top of it!
This might sound like a stretch to some people, but some of the action sequences and frenetic tone of the pilot are heavily influenced by live action films such as James Bond, Jason Bourne, and the Mission: Impossible series.
Yes! We can absolutely see the Banjo-Kazooie influence. Is that what inspired you to combine 2D as well as 3D elements in Bill N Back?
Actually, this kind of happened involuntarily. At first, I only wanted to create an advanced animatic to showcase the concept. I scribbled some 2D characters mixed with some realistic pictures, but still needed some 3D environments to achieve the camera movement I wanted. It then happened naturally that some “2D characters’ planes” moved roughly into these 3D environments’ backgrounds. It was never meant to be a fully “finished” product in the beginning, so that is part of why some animations are still pretty rough! Though, I think I pushed it to a well advanced level so people can see the potential and where I want to go with it, which is basically the main goal of all this!
How did using 2D and 3D elements affect your workflow, and what software do you use to make it happen?
I think that if I knew that I was going to do a “final film,” I would never have made 2D characters in the first place. To be honest, some scenes were so time consuming to try to make the 2D characters work- with all the switching between the softwares- that I think that it would have taken a similar amount of time to just make every character in 3D in the first place. That said, it might turn into an advantage in the end as some studios actually approached me because of that 2D/3D mix and the possible co-production possibilities it brings.
About the software: I used Maya for the 3D environments, After Effects for compositing, Photoshop for additional animation/FX, and then Premiere Pro for the final editing. 2D characters were animated in all the first three softwares I mentioned, depending on the needs of the scenes.
Outside of the musical composition and voice acting, you animated and directed the entire pilot episode yourself. We know that’s a ton of work. Did TurboSquid help alleviate the work strain for you?
It most definitely did! At first, some of these assets were supposed to be 2D photos. As I refined the look of the pilot, these pictures clashed in the overall aesthetic, so I had to turn around quickly and make them in 3D. To be honest, it probably saved me months of work. It let me breathe for a second, that’s for sure!
Are there any technical specifications you look for when you’re purchasing stock models from TurboSquid? Any specs you prefer from an animator’s standpoint?
Yes, there are! I think the more a model is finished (from modeling to rigging), the more I save time (obviously). So I tend to look for models that are done from A to Z usually. It is also hard to tell if a model is well-rigged so it helps to see when the reviews are positive in that sense or if there is a video that showcases the possibilities attached to the sample of the product!
When and where can we catch the next episode of Bill N Back?
Pretty soon and on your TV screen, hopefully! Following the Kidscreen event of last month, I actually got some serious interest from important names in the industry. I want to make sure I find the right partners to keep the authenticity of the vision before I jump again in this adventure, though. One sure thing is that I won’t do the next episodes all alone this time around!
Anything parting words you’d like to leave with our TurboSquid readers?
Well, I hope this little chit-chat can inspire other people and push them to do what they love! I have to admit I pretty much jumped into a free-fall in this adventure at the beginning, but I learned so much. I would most definitely do it again if I had to redo it! Thank you again for the opportunity to do this little interview, that is really appreciated!
Graduating in 2D and 3D animation, Olivier Brisson quickly distinguished himself in the animation industry, collecting several awards and selections from festivals during his artistic career. Bill N Back, the creator’s latest short film, marks an explosive synthesis of his journey. Follow the adventures of Bill N Back on the official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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