Renderman Challenge: ‘Kitchen Sink’

The first Renderman Challenge ‘Kitchen Sink’ gave us the perfect setting to test our custom renderman shader we developed together with Christos Obretenov from Lollipop. We are combining occlusion with hand drawn textures and diffuse rendering. For this test, we didn’t want to just render an image, so we created a proper background story.

Nonna and Tom baking cookies

Beach cabin on the large beach at the lido, Venice. An old lady and a dog are pottering about in their tiny summer house. Nonna is making cookie dough and Tom, the dog, is salivating in anticipation that he can have a bite of the dough. As Nonna is moving back and forth between the mixer and fetching ingredients from the cupboards, Tom is circling around her and when Nonna trips over him, she scolds friendly.
When the dough is finally ready and she wants to get the baling tray from the oven, Tom cannot control himself anymore. He puts his paws on the kitchen top where the bowl stands, pushes it over and with two large gulps eats the dough. Nonna is very disappointed.

To create this image we used a single custom shader that renders different AOV’s like basecolor, diffuse, outlines, occlusion. The hatching and paint strokes are created through textures in the occlusion and the diffuse.

Claymodel Nonna

What better way to get a good sense of size and shape by making a clay model of Nonna and the dog. We will make two models of Nonna. Here you see the overall model. Perfect to test Nonna’s shape and size but with less detail in e.g. het face. We are busy making a second clay model of only her head, so we can really create every wrinkle and characteristic of her face.

Study of Nonna

Nonna is an older Italian grandmother, but what should she look like? How does her size and shape relate to that of the dog? Helen van Vliet made some studies of Nonna’s appearance.

Meet Nonna

Her whole life, Nonna lived in Venice. She married Marco and together they have two kids, who moved to America many years ago. They call her every week, but she doens’t see them that often. Nonna has a dog, Tom. He was a present from Marco for her 65th birthday, 8 years ago. When Tom was just a little pup, about 6 months old, Marco past away. Since then, Tom has been supporting Nonna the best he can. His only flaw is his annoying habbit to sleep in Nonna’s chair. Especially when she wants to enjoy a nice cup of coffee. Fortunally she always finds a way to lure him out of the chair with a little joke.

Nonna likes baking and cooking, she is really good at it too. She often participates in a baking contest in one of the many quarters of Venice and has won several awards. She loves it when Tom joins her in the kitchen while she is cooking. He will taste everything she makes. At dinner, they will eat together at the table. With his front paws on the chair Tom is just big enough to reach the table and eat his Spaghetti al Ragu.

The story of Tom and Nonna

In our story we see a grandmother and her dog, apparently a normal homely scene. They live together in a small house and go for walks together, but on closer inspection we start to wonder why this tiny lady has such a large dog. Hasn’t she noticed that the dog has grown because he still has this baby dog basket. In our short the dog has had enough of his tiny basket and uses his charm and might to persuade his mistress to let him take a nap in her big, comfy chair.

Annie M.G. Schmidt wrote the story of Tom and Nonna in 1967. It was first published in a educational book for elementary school students.

Fairy tale writer

annie_typemachine_minder_breedAnnie M.G. Schmidt was a prolific writer. Poetry, stories, musicals, children’s books, comedy, she wrote it all. In her biography Anna by Annejet van der Zijl, her son Flip van Duijn explains that his mother could not say ‘no’ to the requests by standup comedians, companies, theatre and tv producers. As long as he can remember, around nine o’clock in the morning his mother would disappear in a Spartan furnished study in their house in Berkel, near Rotterdam.

It seems, as Annie’s biographer van der Zijl suggests, that the ‘he’ in the poem The Fairy Tale Writer is actually a ‘she’, as Annie M.G. Schmidt did write so much that she could have emptied a pond full of ink. Perhaps with a fountain pen at first, later with a typewriter.

Annie Schmidt (left) and Astrid LindgrenThe fairy tales of Annie M.G. Schmidt are timeless, comparable to the stories of the German Brothers Grimm and Danish Hans Christian Andersen. Official recognition for her work came with the Hans Christian Andersen award in 1988. She received the prize from the hands of her fellow children’s writer Astrid Lindgren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking. According to biographer van der Zijl Annie Schmidt identified with Andersen as both of them always had the need to be recognised as serious authors. Apparently the story about the ugly duckling becoming a swan was both Andersen en Schmidt’s favorite fairy tale.

The poem The fairy tale writer can be found in A Pond full of Ink. This book is a new anthology of poems by Annie M.G. Schmidt, illustrated by Sieb Posthuma, published by Querido and one of her few works translated into English. In 2012 the Dutch version was awarded the Golden Brush, a leading literary prize for the best illustrated children’s book.

a pond full of inkThe Man Who Writes Fairy Tales

A fairy tale author I know
starts work every day when the roosters crow.
He writes very quickly, he writes without hitches
about fairies and elves and hobgoblins and witches.

He writes about princesses, princes, and kings
and keeps going till six when the dinner bell rings.
The next morning he’s back when the sky’s turning blue.
An inkpot’s too little, so what does he do?

At the foot of his garden there’s a pond full of ink.
The blackbirds all gather around it to drink.
And whenever that writer is at a loose end,
he goes down to that pond to refill his pen.

He’s made up ten thousand stories already,
and has plenty more — he’s constant and steady.
And if he keeps writing till the day that he dies,
perhaps he’ll have written that pond of his dry.

Translation by David Colmer for Querido