Distant Life

This world is of pure imagination, showcasing what I can build in 3D from scratch.


Direction, modeling, texturing, lighting, animation, rendering, compositing & grading by Simon Søgaard Vallinder

Audio by Adam Cahilig


The principle of the project was to present four very different scenes. These different landscapes and atmospheres, made it possible to challenge myself in making believable visual constructions and for Adam in setting the atmospherical audio in each scene.


The first scene, with the setting sun, turned out to be most challenging in creating the perception of scale and proportion. With a lot of feed back from co-workers and friends, I used light depth in the scene and real life references to overcome this challenge. The light depth is how there is a haze which makes the scene look layered in different distances from the camera. From a real image of mountains on earth I noticed how large scale mountains only can be seen from a great distance in their full size, which makes them quite small in a frame. So instead of making incredibly high mountains, I used visual principles such as the haze to demonstrate their scale. This was an insight I got from a friend of mine.

The second scene, under water, was incredibly fun to make. I had a ton of ideas which I had to carefully assort to keep the scene elegant. Some ideas just didn't make the cut. The animation became quite complex, in the process of making it interesting while also setting the under water environment. How the light beams shifted and the surface of the water moved combined with the camera movement became a challenge, when each iteration took some time to render. I either got a mismatch in speed, or simply not the result I aimed for. I got creative in how to render each try as fast as possible, but sometimes you can't escape the importance of trial and error until you succeed.

The cave was like a playground for creativity. I modeled clean pillars with bulging parts, and used noise maps to displace the surface. Which in all its simplicity means that I added detail to a plain surface with random patterns. I used these patterns to add color variety to the rock. After creating the big models of the rocky cave, I was torn between keeping it bare and making it detailed and exciting. I decided it would help the scene to add more surrealism. The tree and the glowing branches was the result of experimental design, while I always began with finding a concept to develop ideas from.

Last but not least, the night sky with snowy mountains. The same challenges as in the first scene, appeared here. Scale and proportion was very difficult. However, this scene pushed me to learn more about creating detail in darkness and how to construct an interesting scene with mainly dark information. The galaxy in the sky was simply hours and hours of trying different methods for achieving the result I desired. I went far in the search for the best way to construct the sky, and was startled by the power of different noises in combination with ramping their values. What this means is that I used random patterns of black and white, with control over parameters such as scale and what type of pattern it should be, and layered these on top of each other to cancel out or add to one another. I combined these different patterns with color variation within each one of them, to design the sky as you see it in the film.

Each scene had a lot of challenges which I haven't discussed here, but the process doesn't vary that much from each problem. Either I spend more time experimenting or researching the matter, or I get input from co-workers or get someone to see the problem from a different angle, and this can be done by anyone.


The fundamental appeal for 3D design, for me, is modularity. There aren't limitations in the same way as there are in many other art forms. When you create something, the only thing you have to consider is your own creativity, there is no other factor. In the image below you see ten spheres I made by adding the same materials as you see in the large models in the film, but with a few numbers adjusted. You can actually add the material of a mountain to a sphere and it will show you a new interesting design. You see the two mountains in the film, in two of the spheres below. Your imagination is everything in 3D.


As I created the scenes for the film, I paid a lot of attention to detail on each surface. This is not always appreciated to the extent that you'd like, however, it is needed to create realism in each shot. These stills down below, are zoomed in from 8k renders of the full frame.


This is a sneak peak into the components of each scene, and how they are built. Here you can see some background to what I see in the software while building the scenes.

the end

Now you have seen and read about the process I've been through in the creation of this project. I made the end title by distorting the cave scene and animating the distortion to act as surrealistic water swirling behind the text. I hope you enjoyed the film and found it interesting to read about the project. See you in the next one.