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Dive into the Aquatic World of VES Student Award Winner ‘The Beauty’

Filmakademie Baden-Weurttemburg team honored as top up-and-coming filmmakers with annual award sponsored and presented by Autodesk at 18th Annual Visual Effects Society gala.

As they’ve done at each of the last 12 VES Awards ceremonies, Autodesk sponsored and presented the VES Student Award for outstanding achievement by up-and-coming filmmakers. This year’s honors went to Pascal Schelbli, Marc Angele, Aleksandra Todorovic, Noel Winzen and Tina Vest from Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in Germany for their photoreal animated short, The Beauty.

The Beauty transports audiences to an aquatic world where plastic and ocean life coexist symbiotically; the film tells a dystopian tale where polluted underwater landscapes and fantastical marine life convey a thought-provoking social commentary on the human impact on our oceans.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to be recognized by our peers and the many talented artists and professionals we look to for inspiration,” director and CG artist Schelbli notes. “We endeavored to create an ironic and esthetic narrative to make a point on an important issue, which affects a whole generation and the entire world. We are truly humbled to be honored at this prestigious event.”

Jocelyn Moffatt, Entertainment Industry Marketing Manager, Autodesk, comments, “For more than a decade, we’ve had the honor of shining a light on the incredible talent of future creators and storytellers entering the industry. We are absolutely blown away by the creativity, technical expertise, and striking artistry showcased by this year’s nominees, and we’re proud to play a part in getting their work out for the whole industry to see.”

The three-minute film takes viewers on a journey through a mystical and wonderful underwater world from a unique point-of-view. “It’s an experimental animated short that’s quite ironic in tone,” Schelbli continues. “We shot the back plates while we were diving, and all of the creatures were crafted in 3D, then integrated. The coral you see is real, but almost everything else is full CG. The water is a combination of live footage and CG, and the flip flops and trash are real.”

Development of the film’s story began with the concept of “What if plastic could be integrated into the ocean?” According to Schelbli, “I designed the aquatic characters and wrapped the story around the concept of incorporating plastic into the ocean. It’s hard not to recognize that it’s a prevalent issue when you see it on social media, the news, and even when you’re at the beach, and it breaks my heart.”

The film was the team’s diploma project, taking approximately 20 months from the first sketch until the final DCP.  “We used Maya and Zbrush for modeling; Maya for rigging and animation; Houdini for simulations and effects; CINEMA 4D for set dressing and rendering, which was done with Arnold; and compositing in NUKE,” Angele shares. “The biggest challenge making the film was to achieve this photorealism and combine shot footage with CG elements,” Schelbli adds. “From a technical point of view, it was quite difficult.”

After taking a gap year, Angele and Winzen will soon graduate. “It’s a big dream for us to work on a full CG animated feature at a studio like Disney or Pixar,” they note. “Both of us are more interested in full CG content than VFX.” “Currently, I’m working as a studio producer at an animation studio in Stuttgart,” Todorovic chimes in. Schelbli is currently working at a creative collective based in Zurich, part of a team of artists and directors working on CG and VFX projects in Switzerland. He hopes to continue working as both a director and CG artist.

This year’s VES Student Award nominees also included teams from the University of Hertfordshire in the UK, ESMA Nantes in France and a second team from the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in Germany. Here is a brief breakdown of their great work:


Stunning visuals of spacecrafts, extraterrestrial creatures and interstellar sets tell the story of a heroic astronaut who crash-lands his ship, following a terrifying alien encounter on a foreign planet. This sci-fi live action space adventure was created by Matias Heker, Stephen Moroz and Bradley Cocksedge from the University of Hertfordshire.

Love and Fifty Megatons 

This explosive love story between Paul the Mechanic and Mary the Atomic Bomb combines a variety of crafted artistic techniques, including miniatures, matte paintings, greenscreens, on-set live tracking and real-time game engines. Denis Krez, Josephine Roß, Paulo Scatena and Lukas Löffler from Filmakademie created this 272 shot short in less than three months.

Oeil pour Oeil

Join a hilarious crew of one-eyed pirates in their quest for treasure in this fully animated short by Alan Guimont, Thomas Boileau, Malcom Hunt and Robin Courtoise from ESMA Nantes. Comedic timing and whimsical character design bring adventure and antics to life in this short tale on the high seas.

You can read more about this hilarious riff on the “one-eyed pirate” theme in AWN’s exclusive interview with the filmmaking team, ‘Oeil pour Oeil’: A One-Eyed Pirate's Life for Me.


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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.