3D animation skills project

Eternal Ascent

3D animation skills project

Projects Outline

This project was a personal 3D animation skills project that both Andrew and Gilbert worked on separately. At Ultra we like to work on personal projects that help enhance our skills and try out new methods of working. At times personal skills projects can be challenging as paid projects will always take priority. Often a personal project will get put on the back burner and loses momentum. This is the main reason that both Andy and Gilbert like the 3D challenges set by Pwnisher on Youtube. Clint, the guy behind Pwnisher is a 3D artist and twice a year sets 3D community challenges, these challenges have a deadline and also some great prizes. 

Eternal Ascent is the first challenge of 2024 and Clint asks artists and designers to put their own twist on a barebones template. This year’s consists of a simple camera move, stairs and a walking character. The ultimate goal is to build a huge montage of all the submissions, as well as a montage for the top 100. With the Top 5 winning grand prizes. The competition is tough with over 2800 entries this time round.

The rules of the competition are:

  1. Replace the character with your own
  2. Maintain the visual weight of the stairs 
  3. Don’t touch the camera

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Andrew’s Entry

Andrew’s idea was to create an otherworldly scene with the character on their journey to the afterlife. He wanted the scene to feel like limbo, that it was an endless walk of the dead. The scene needed to feel somewhere that was old, but also opulent and otherworldly.

The main character had freshly arrived in limbo, retaining her clothes, but with a ghostly white look. Other supporting characters around her had been there for a while and were in different states on their journey. Some of the characters were reduced to simply a skeleton, whilst others still had muscles and skin.

To create the otherworldly feel Andrew took inspiration from M.C. Esher’s work of stairs facing different perspectives. The stairs create disorientation, with no clear direction to travel in a maze he created. He also looked to the video game “Monument Valley”, which itself takes inspiration from Esher’s work, to bring colour and atmosphere to the animation. Andrew wanted the scene to immediately strike the viewer as not of this world, that this could be a heavenly place, but the deterioration of the stairs and buildings were of a place long forgotten. A place that could not be a final resting place, as all it offered was a journey with no clear ending.

To create the animation Andrew used a character model with bones, muscles, internal organs, and skin, and rigged the individual character models. This meant he could separate out the different versions of the character when placing them into the scene. He used Clint’s provided walk cycle as a base for the characters movements, and altered it slightly to account for intersections. He used Marvelous Designer to animate the clothing on the character. The scene was built using Voronoi Fracture to create the broken and decrepit stairs and buildings. Everything was rendered with Redshift and composited in after effects.

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Gilbert’s Entry

After watching the brief Gilbert immediately thought of ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’ by Richard Williams (now he had a great excuse to watch the film). This film had a very complicated production history, it took over 30 years to make, went over budget and overran the deadline, eventually being heavily cut without William’s involvement. The film is stunning and worth a watch. We recommend watching this version.

3D animation skills project theif and the cobbler 02 ultra studio
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Gilbert’s idea for his submission was to have the Sultan walking up the stairs of his palace, then on another staircase to the left a thief would be running down holding treasure. Shortly after a handful of guards would be chasing the thief on another staircase to the right. This was all to be done in an art style similar to ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’.

Gilbert was happy with the final submission and the progress he has made when compared to his submission for Clint’s last challenge. There were a couple things that had to be changed during the process like removing some of the characters and adjusting the story, this was due to time constraints but he believes he achieved the look and feel he was going for. Next time, if time allows, he would like to spend a little more time on character animation as this was the part he found most fun during the competition. He is excited to use all of the new Cinema 4D and After Effects techniques he has learnt in upcoming client projects.

Starting in Cinema 4D Gilbert swapped the staircase out, then built the tower and city around it. It was a little tricky to have all the stripes of the staircase line up but got there in the end, the building models are from a GreyScaleGorilla pack. Then he was able to find a Sultan model from Sketchfab, retargeted the animation and tweaked it a little using motion tiling (Andy helped with the cape in Marvellous Designer). The submission was composited in After Effects, because all the components had puzzle mattes, Gilbert was able to control the minute details.

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Both entries were submitted and accepted by Clint to appear in the full montage of animations. Whilst neither of the entries won, Andrew and Gilbert are still happy with the outcome and experience. The winning entries were excellent concepts that were brilliantly executed with such a high fidelity and detail. Andrew and Gilbert decided for this challenge to go head to head developing different ideas, and executions. For future collaborations they are considering working as a team to bring both their different skill sets together, just as they would on any client project. With that said they both enjoyed the friendly competition, and the comradery this 3D animation skills project brought into the studio.

Watch all renders here.