Gen Zed is an animated online comedy created by Hayden Black that follows a group of friends who meet playing games online and decide to move in together. To accomplish the artistic vision for the show, talented artists were needed to create 3D character models for the compelling leads of the comedy. Ohenewa Anno, a 3D graphic artist, was drawn to work on the project as she could relate to many of the characters on the show. Gen Zed brings well known characters from everyday life into an exciting comedy that explores the challenges many young adults are facing today.
“I can relate to the story because, like most others in this information age, my time is spent behind the computer and online,” Anno said.
The story of Gen Zed follows what happens when the characters move their friendship from the computer screen to real life.
“I really enjoyed the fact that I was creating a character that people can relate too,” Anno added. “This gave me inspiration for the creation of the 3D models of the lead characters.”
Gen Zed is driven by the characters on the show. The talents of their voice actors must blend seamlessly with the animated models that will embody their dialogue on the screen. Anno was excited to model characters who will brought to life by many talented voices. The show’s writer, producer, and the actor behind the character Quillam is Hayden Black. Black created and starred in the award-winning Goodnight Burbank, which began as an online show and became the first half-hour comedy show to move to television following its online debut.
Black himself noted the wide range of talent that has been added to the cast and crew behind Gen Zed.
“We’ve attracted a lot of talent to the project already – from Jane Wiedlin to Richard Schiff to Hal Sparks – and our editor is none other than Paul Calder, who edited Futurama. Alongside Alex Bradley (our designer) and Big Little FX (our animator)” said Black.
The show also includes the voice talents of Julie Rei Goldstein as Shona, the main character of the show. Shona is a trans woman and a stand-up comic. Julie Rei Goldstein is herself a trans woman and the first trans gender actress to hold a lead role in an animated show. Anno’s work on the show includes the 3D modelling for Shona’s character.
Black is constantly impressed with Anno’s work and appreciates her own talented contributions to the show that is filled with so many equally talented artists from a variety of fields.
“Ohenewa will help create the look and feel of the show,” He said. “We’re so happy to have her on board as she’s so uniquely talented as a 3D designer. Ohenewa’s work brings the characters to life in a way that still thrills me each time I see one!”
Anno, the 3D character modeler, got to know the characters of the show very well as she has worked to build a strong base for the final models that will be used on the show.
“The characters are the central focus in the show and it is extremely important to get the different elements of the design balanced and appealing so that there is a strong foundation for things to progress on.” Anno said.
She has worked with the other creatives behind the show to bring her design skills to bear on the appearance of the characters.
“While modelling the lead character ‘Shona’ in 3D, I experimented and made some slight tweaks to the outfit and model from the initial design so that it could involve and include qualities that are appealing in 3D animation today.” Anno said. “So far my work has given a new perspective to the characters and has received a very positive response.”
Anno’s past work on character design backs up her creative input. She recently created the characters and did all the illustrations for a Halloween-themed children’s book called What’s That Spooky Sound written by Jim Horsman. Her illustrations received praised from the author and the audience who have given the book positive reviews on Amazon.com
Instead of creating characters from written descriptions as she did on What’s That Spooky Noise, Gen Zed required Anno to add a third dimension to the original 2D concepts for the characters. Transforming a 2D drawing into an active 3D model comes with unique challenges for a 3D artist.
“I have found it challenging to create the facial blend shapes during this project.” Anno said. “These blend shapes are used for the characters’ facial expressions. Character designs are often pushed beyond reality and depending on the character certain expressions may not suite the character and need to be created in a way that will be appealing.”
Anno noted that this challenge was especially noticeable when she was working on the main character of Shona. Shona was drawn with a long face and Anno had to exercise her creative problem solving skills to manipulate the 3D model’s shapes so that Shona’s full range of expressions would suit her.
To accomplish the modelling, Anno used her extensive knowledge of Autodesk Maya, Adobe Photoshop and Pixar’s Renderman. She textured and rendered the character models for preview by the creative team, always including her aesthetic blended in with the creative team’s vision for each of the characters. Her work will be collaborated with the other members of the animation team and the work is ongoing to create the final on-screen versions of the characters.
Anno’s contributions to the characters of Gen Zed will soon be brought to life for all to see as the show is scheduled to release its first season titled The Event later