With the last day of our Endy Mascot contest and very close to ETH integration, we held an extraordinary and interesting AMA with Prime Render Studios. Brothers Popović Veljko and Milivoj connected from Split and shared the story about over 30 years of creation between the two of them and work that was recognized with more than 70 international awards. Their work has been featured in CG Magazine, Animation Reporter Magazine, and Expose series, just to name a few and won the OSCAR qualifying Animated Eye Award at Aspen Shortfest and Jury Award at Annecy Film Festival (the most prestigious animation film festival in the world).
What did our Art Director Hrvoje talked with the Prime Render brothers, check out in this recap.
Let’s begin with the origin story. How did you both start with animation?
Milivoj: A quick answer to your question would be — we started back when it still was the Amiga 500 day, so it was a loong time ago. It started with our love for art and digital art, especially with Amiga 500 coming up, and then all of these new ways of expressing ourselves appeared. Firstly we were a game development studio and then kind of evolved into a digital house, creating different digital assets and animations. Our first short animated film was She who measures in 2008. and I can maybe let Veljko expand a bit on that.
Veljko: So to continue on our debut film — it was actually a film that we did in co-production with my professor at the time Simon Bogojević. It was him who suggested the short animated film production for us. We celebrated the 10th anniversary of our debut film in Tennessee in the best possible way — as the jury award for our other film at the time Cyclists, which had its premiere in 2018, so 10 straight years from our debut film. It’s been a hell of a ride for the past 12 years or so. And yeah, we’ll be looking forward to seeing what the next 10 years will bring.
Alongside creating, you are both professors at the Art Academy teaching animation, 3D animation and sculpting in digital media. How is it to work with young artists?
Milivoj: For me, it’s been a bit of an uphill battle to introduce digital sculpting in the Art Academy in the Department of Sculpting, which is very very traditional. They do a lot of sculpting in stone and clay and stuff like that, so it was a little bit of a process of educating them about what digital sculpting is and how it can be used alongside the traditional methods and how they can complement each other. For me, it was really nice to see how quickly students can adapt to the digital medium and how quickly they can transfer their skills from traditional sculpture into digital. It opens up a lot of doors, opportunities and possibilities, the least of which is of course the NFT space that has grown so quickly in such a short time. Also, it’s great to be at the source of all these new artists appearing and starting to work. I’m always looking forward to seeing how these young kids that are just starting with their studies adopt new technologies in their work.
Veljko: I’ve been working at the Academy for quite a bit now, for more than 15 years and it’s always interesting to see how generations change and have different focuses. Some are more interested in the art of animation, others are more focused on video art or live-action films, etc. But, my approach is to encourage experimentation and just play around with animation without much expectation because I found that a lot of times people are overburdened with trying to create something which is super meaningful and super serious. But in the end, all art begins with a sense of playfulness and experimentation. You have to be brave enough to fail and not be bothered with it. So my approach with animation at the Academy is to teach students how to be kids again and to enjoy the experiment and to be able to play with a medium and see what it’s telling them.
Moving to your artwork, especially your Cyclists project, which was really visible in international circuits and the International Festival animation scene. For those who don’t know, you were bringing the amazing work of Vasko Lipovac to life so can you share a bit about it?
Veljko: The project was quite successful, it was screened in over 140 something festivals around the world and won a bunch of awards including Oscar Qualifying Awards and we’ve been really blessed with it. It’s been a fantastic collaboration with the family of Vasko Lipovac as they approached us to create a short animated film based on his work. Our main challenge was how to bring his drawings, paintings and sculptures to life and how to create a film that is both our own but also a film that Vasko would have loved to have made in his lifetime. We stumbled upon the idea of creating an animated short which is based on two of Vasko’s series. One is the cyclist series, which was maybe his most popular, and the second was erotic drawings that Vasko did when was towards the end of his life. The end results showed how amazing this journey was. The film is available on Vimeo as a staff pick and of course available as NFTs.
Milivoj: When I was thinking about NFTs, I wanted to capture all those different styles and visuals we used that are kind of iconic for Vasko’s work. I wanted them to have some meaning. Not to be just like they are a random cut from the film but to show a little bit of the story or just to capture the characters well. So, there are a few erotic scenes because these two cyclists, they’re convinced that if they win this race, they’re going to win the heart of the local beautiful woman and they just keep fantasizing about it as the race progresses. Of course, in the end, you know they’re foiled because the woman doesn’t actually care and nobody actually cares about their race. The importance is only in their minds, in their heads and in egos. There’s also this big shoot which is kind of a poetic loop at the typical Mediterranean coastal town, and these guys who think they’re larger than life, but actually they’re not so relevant. NFT series follows this and tries to capture the small snippets we see — the beginning of the race, the beautiful lady, we see some of their fantasies — and whoever buys NFTs is able to hold a piece of that story.
There is also another film called Planemo which, again, got numerous awards and was a huge success.
Milivoj: I could say it’s maybe one of my favourite if not THE favourite short film we did. It’s philosophical and touches on the core of our question and the core of our searching when we are creating digital art: what are our origins? What’s our place in this world and this universe? The Planemo is really focusing on that idea of a person that’s just kind of booted out of society, which I feel a lot of artists are, just lost his daily routine and trying to figure out what life is and how to move on. We always kind of explore what’s the meaning of life. I also love it because we created that whole film using an orthographic camera that doesn’t have perspective.
How long did it take for both those films to be made and which was maybe easier?
Veljko: Usually it’s about two years of production cycles per film. It takes about half a year of pre-production and about a year and a half of production to create a short animated film. Each of them presents its own challenges — Planemo was a story that was centred around our artistry both in the visual front and on storytelling that was a very fulfilling and very intimate journey for us. Cyclists were based on the artwork of Vasko Lipovac and the story was born out of his images and his sculptures so the pressure wasn’t so big because we already knew Vasko’s materials are fantastic and we were very confident from the beginning that it will be a good one. When you work on your own stuff, a lot of time there’s self-doubt and you need to work through it and believe in the idea a bit more.
Milivoj also has its own collection on Endemic called 3D Mastery on Endemic. We love it and want to hear more about it.
Milivoj: During my 20 years of doing 3D, I have always been exploring digital sculpture and the whole package you can do inside 3D: sculpting, painting, rendering, lighting, surfacing the materials and everything — it’s kind of been my journey exploring all of those aspects of the 3D. It’s all best shown in those stand-alone pieces because in them I really tried to push myself as a digital sculptor and explore. There’s one piece I just created because I wanted to explore the foam — I had this idea to create a character that’s like a Moses kid, that’s splitting the water inside of his bath.
Some of the works are more geared toward my exploration of the sculpting itself, how far I can push the sculpting of the human form, how far I can push some other aspects of the sculpting, etc. My characters are a little bit fun, they’re not necessarily huge heroes full of confidence, they are maybe a little bit awkward, more humanised. Those are some of the finest work I’ve done in my career as a digital sculptor and they really show what you can do after exploring the medium for such a long time.
You shared stories about your art available on Endemic but there is also some big news about the upcoming collection. Fell free to announce it
Veljko: We’re really happy that we’ve been having such a fantastic collaboration with Božo Balov, who is one of my former students from the Academy and he ended up working with us in the studio and became a really valuable part.
Milivoj: Božo is an intricate part of our journey. He’s known for his unique visual style and we minted some NFTs in collaboration with him before Endemic was born. The story that’s happening now, is an extension of that collaboration and that’s all I can say not letting the cat out of the bag just yet. I call on everybody to follow our Twitter profile Prime Render for all the news that is going to come out very soon. It’s something that we’ve been working on very hard for the last couple of months and we can’t wait to show it to the world.