Hemlock by Tyson Ibele

Recently, Tyson Ibele emailed me about his new film ‘Hemlock’ for CG Society’s Steampunk Myths and Legends 3D challenge. I thought it was amazing and wanted to catch up with him on things.

How’s life and work in New Zealand? I assume you’re still in school?

Yep, I’m still in school. It’s currently summer here (hence how I had the time to work on Hemlock), but school starts up again in another couple of weeks. It’ll be my 3rd and final year and I’m looking forward to getting it over with! Once school is over I’ll have more time throughout the year to work on my own films, not just during holidays.

I remember posting your work on Tween back when you were 19. And then shortly after, coincidentally enough, ended up working with you in the same studio and eating lasagna every other day. I got to see your work evolve from the famously ripped off Sony Transformer animation, to film quality visual effects that you could poop out in less than a day or two.

Now you’ve reached a whole new level of production that would normally take a small team at least a year or two. You’ve done in 3 months so effortlessly. How the hell do you do it?

Ah, well lots of people ask me how I work “so fast”, but it’s really not fast at all. I think I just tend to budget my time well. I can usually approximate how long it’ll take me to create a shot, and so I can plan out how many shots I’ll get done a day, and then render all the necessary passes overnight.

Having 6-7 years of experience in 3D Studio Max has helped too… so there’s less tinkering around that I have to do to figure out how I’ll get a shot done, because I’m already familiar with most of the tools.

Where did the story and title for Hemlock come from?

The story came from an idea I had a few years ago about a twist on the “King Midas” myth, where instead of a king touching something and turning it into gold, he touches it and it turns into clockwork. Then, I adapted that idea into the “Fountain of Youth” story, because I felt I could work a better over-arching narrative into it.

The film is named after a plant called hemlock that was used in poisons throughout history. It’s a fairly innocuous-looking member of the parsley family, in plant terms, but it is quite deadly. So, it’s a reference to the way the water from the well in the film seems desirable….but drinking it has terrible consequences.

Your film making skills have improved a great deal since you left for school. Is this your primary focus now that character animation and storytelling is in the bag?

Yes, my goal right now is to continue creating short films. I’ve got another one in production at the moment, but it will probably be quite a while before it’s done.

I always enjoy making of material. Sharing your process is something you’ve always done in your own forum. Is this something you will continue to do and possibly expand on—DVDs, podcast videos, etc?

I hope so, although creating tutorials and making-of material can be very time consuming. Another limitation used to be that video tutorials were difficult to host on my website because of their bandwidth consumption (due to their length and large filesize)… however, now with HD streaming video on YouTube and Vimeo, I won’t have to worry about that anymore.

Watch The Making Of

And your storyboard is just ridiculous. It’s so crude and personal… almost insulting! I’m curious how long they took you to draw and if can you talk about the importance in your work flow, no matter how they look?

Heh, well yea…my 2d drawing “skills” are pretty much nonexistent. I’ve never had a talent for drawing so that’s why the storyboards are so terrible. They were not really important to me during the production process though. I had the whole film in my mind before I drew those up, and I only had the boards drawn in case I forgot some details like shot-order along the way. I ended up not needing to reference them during the production phase in the end anyways.

I should note though, that storyboards are only unimportant when I’m working alone. While working for MAKE, or if I’m collaborating with others on a project, storyboards are an essential communication tool. So, I’m not knocking the importance of storyboards overall…just their importance to me when I’m doing a solo project.

You are also known to be a “gym rat.” Is this your magic secret for becoming a better animator?

Well, I can’t say that going to the gym regularly has helped me as an animator, but it’s helped me avoid some of the health problems of sitting in front of a computer all day!

Any advice you can give the aspiring filmmaker?

Make films! Seriously. You’re not going to learn filmmaking by reading books and watching movies (although those types of resources can certainly help along the way). You’re going to learn it by grabbing a camera, or jumping into your animation software of choice, and practicing. All the time.

Thanks for your time Tyson. I hope you win the challenge!

Thanks for the interview! I’ve got my fingers crossed over the challenge results too….but there were some other really great entries, so I’m assuming the final judging phase is going to be tight!

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just amazing! another great project.

Tyson, I’ve got to say that beyond your obvious tech skills, I really really like how you’re not afraid (actually, willing) to show your processes – i.e. the old WIP (Junk) section of your site. Looking forward to what’s on the horizon!

Great post, Babe.


This just fucking blows my mind. Absolutely everything works here. Technical 3D achievements aside, the concept, direction, camera, emotion… it’s brilliant.


Yup I agree kult. This thing goes from scrappy thumbnails to dynamic , mystic, 3D story. Well done Tyson. Congrats on completing this one.

You can get some sleep now :)

Joe Clay

Simply amazing. I especially loved the sound design.

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