The Climb


“Is this actually funny, or just weird?”

A animated short about an overly dramatic round boi. Created with my friend Alex Deaton.


From sketched animatic to final composite

It all started with this sketch.
It all started with this sketch.
The story behind The Climb starts with Alex and his weird idea.  I stopped by his desk one day and saw this sketch on his desk. He told me the idea had come to him after seeing David O’Reilly speak at FITC. It was sort of a weird existential joke. You’d expect the guy to yell “Victory!” or something, but instead... 

“Is this actually funny, or just weird?”

“It’s funny. I want to help. Can I help? Let me help!”

Alex was planning to make it in 2d, but I told him his character was begging to be 3d (really, I was just begging to make it in 3d). Beyond that, it should be photoreal – like an epic action scene. He loved it, so we hatched a plan to take this thing waaaay too far. I started modelling, rigging, and shading. He went to work sketching out boards and cutting an animatic.


This project was really a series of self-imposed challenges, for both Alex and me. My first challenge was to (at least try to) appropriately  quad model our character. In the past, I’d always taken shortcuts thinking topology wouldn’t matter that much, but (of course) it does – especially for animated characters. In the end, it’s not perfect, but pretty dang close and it’s 99% quads!


I’ve rigged a handful of 3D characters, but it’s always been a learn-while-doing activity. The challenge here was to build a sturdier, more robust character rig that wouldn’t break easily. I also wanted to push into some new territory, including face rigging, custom controls/deformers, and a streamlined UI for Alex to animate with ease. Rigging has turned into something I really enjoy, but it’s still an uphill battle with lots left to learn.

A demo of the full Mountain Climber rig.


Shading proved to be an even bigger challenge, because it included several aspects: UV unwrapping, learning Allegorithmic Substance Painter, PBR shaders, and photoreal hair/fur. I was also pushing myself to get a better handle on lighting & shading in Redshift.

This part was a blast. Substance Painter is amaaaazing, and I loved playing DoP with dozens of RS lights per shot.

Shading in Substance Painter

© 2022