BYU Animation Program finishing new film, Estefan

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Deep in the basement of the Crabtree Building, a small computer lab houses about 20 computers — and on an average day, a host of animation majors tweaking figures and storyboards.

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Estefan will be the lead protagonist in BYU's Animation Department's next short film.
BYU’s animation program has created several short films, including “Kites,” “Dream Giver” and “Pajama Gladiator.” These films have been not only entertaining for BYU students, but the program has won 11 Student Emmys for their talents in animation.

This year, the animation students are working on a new short film titled “Estefan” and is scheduled to be finished by the end of the semester.

The film features its main character, Estefan, a world renowned hairdresser.

“He’s essentially the Zorro of hair — he’s amazing,” said senior Jeff Call, the director of “Estefan.” “A client comes into his salon and presents a unique challenge to him. I don’t want to tell you what that is because that’s part of the surprise and part of the fun of it. But it’s a unique problem and he has to try to solve [it].”

Each year, the program works on completing a short film. Aaron Ludwig, the lead animator for the film, said Estefan has a slightly different feel than other recent BYU films.

“We have some really fun characters and a really fun story,” Ludwig said. “Other films I’ve worked on have been a little more serious. This one is just so funny and a bunch of comedy. Our character is just really wacky and zany and we can do all sorts of crazy stuff with him.”

Completing a short film begins with students pitching multiple story ideas and then voting on the story they liked best.

Once a story is selected, the team creates storyboards to visually show layout of the story. Next, they design the characters and environment — in this case, the salon. The modeling team take those designs and transforms them into 3-D figures. Texture artists then apply color to those figures.

“We rig the characters so we essentially make the models into stiff 3-D models, and then we add a skeleton to it so it will start to move,” Call said. “At that point, animation will take it and bring the characters, in this case Estefan, to life.”

Lighting is added, and music is composed and incorporated into the animation.

The students complete just about every step in the process on their own. Call said faculty at BYU will help fix problems and keep things organized, but most of the work is done by the students.

A premier of the completed film will air sometime in April.

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