Spirited Away tribute in Blender with Doris Rastinger

By Michael Jones

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Doris Rastinger took the Stylized Characters in Blender course at Mograph Mentor. Her Spirited Away tribute project demonstrates great knowledge and creativity. We sat down with her to discuss her experience on her latest project.

Tell us more about you — your background and what you are trying to achieve in your career.
Hi, I am Doris. I am currently living in London and working as a lighting and compositing artist at Blue Zoo Animation. I am originally from Austria, where I also studied at the University of Applied Sciences in Hagenberg. During my studies, I focused mostly on visual development and background design. It was not until the fifth year into my studies that I discovered that 3D, especially lighting, was actually really fun, too. 

The decision to go into lighting as a career might have been quite spontaneous but I don’t regret it a bit. While I can’t pinpoint my career goals to a title or position, I would say my goal is to bring the two passions about design and lighting further together in my work

Spirited Away tribute in Blender 3D

How did this project come about?
Going hand in hand with my career goal, I always wished I was able to create personal little animations on my own, from start to finish. Yet, my modeling skills were never up to that and I have never rigged anything beyond constraining lights. So I put into my mind to learn these skills on a personal project about one of my favorite films.

You have taken the Stylized Characters in Blender course, and your work from is gorgeous. How did this course help you with your project?

When I was looking for resources on how to approach my personal project I was looking very specifically for a course that would cover a workflow for small-scale Blender projects from start to finish. While there are a lot of good tutorials for Blender out there I found that this course looked most promising to match what I wanted to do. 

Luckily my expectations were right on that! I feel that was exactly the right amount of being held by hand technically and while being free to make something personal creatively.

Walk us through your initial thought process when creating this project.

I started to design a style that would both match my idea and the technical side of the course. The simple design for Chihiro was matching the biped rig covered by the course and No-Face was done with the techniques demonstrated on an alien worm in the course. From there on the course provided a great step-by-step demo.

I decided to skip the texturing part of the tutorial in favour of a graphic NPR style. While I am looking forward to coming back to the course to make use of these skipped lessons, I think this was the right decision for this project. It also made the amount of new challenges more manageable.

What was your biggest takeaway or experience from this project?
I really learned that technical challenges are really not that scary when approached well structured and patiently. I was very intimidated by the prospect of trying rigging and ended up enjoying the puzzle of constraints and bones.

Has working on Blender changed yourself or your workflow in any way?
Changed myself? I think the first few hours I tried blender it definitely changed me to a more cursing personality – that was not love at first sight! :’D

That was about 3 years ago, this time 2.8 was available and made the first clicks a lot easier. After a few intense days, I really got into its different approach. I personally really got to love Eevee for having a fast, responsive lighting preview. 

What were some challenges this project presented?
I think the biggest challenges were of technical nature. I haven’t done rigging before and have neither touched modelling nor blender in general for two years. So, getting hold of a lot of new tools was definitely a challenge. As the course is aimed for intermediate students, this also meant quite a long session of watching more basic tutorials.

What is the next stop on your creative journey?
In terms of personal projects, I currently just started getting my feet wet with some Python scripting to speed up my lighting workflow in Maya as well as looking more into lighting in Blender, specifically in Eevee.

In professional matters, I have not decided yet where my next stop shall be (Corona might have an unwelcome say in that, too). So it is more the time for me to try to prepare for whatever I want to do and to enjoy the job I have right now.

Thanks, Doris!

There you have it, an insightful and inspirational project from Doris. Special thanks to Doris for lending us her time for this interview.  Make sure to stay tuned to her Instagram.


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