Hot Takes on Charge, Blender Studio's Latest Short Film

Jul 25th 2023

This post is from the inaugural episode of the Denoise podcast! There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Blender and computer graphics, but not everything fits as a tutorial. We always love talking shop when we get together, so we recently decided to have more regular and intentional conversations about the topics we care about and share them with you in the form of a podcast.

Listen to this episode from Denoise season 1 on iTunes, Spotify, GoogleAmazon, and wherever else you find your podcasts.

The Backstory

Charge was released in December of 2022. It was directed by Hjalti Hjalmersson as his 3.5th project as a director. He previously directed Coffee Run, Daily Dweebs, and co-directed Agent 327, which is where the 0.5 comes from.

There were 33 humans on the project and 7 of those were 3D artists. It was intended to be around 2 minutes long and take about 7 months to complete. It ended up being just over 3 minutes long and production lasted a little less than a year. The style was inspired by game cinematics and real-time tech demos.

No Story, Maximum Impact

The goal of the short was to showcase Blender’s abilities in an attention grabbing way that could appeal to a wide audience. The first time Ton’s mantra of “no story, maximum impact” was heard was at the start of the Sintel project, which ended up having quite a compelling story that captured the hearts of many. Hjalti and the team stuck closer to the original vision this time and the result is a high-octane action piece in a Love, Death & Robots style that has just enough of an interesting narrative to leave the viewer wondering more about the world it's based in.


The CG Cookie crew was hoping for a bit more to chew on in terms of the narrative when they watched it though so that it wouldn’t be as forgettable as many of the other shorts in the same genre. Wayne and Tim noticed a few plot holes and Tim thought the ending of the film was an unintentional nod to accepting AI generated art. Overall, we think the Blender Studio did a great job with the goals and constraints they had to work with. The days of Blender shorts being so abstract as to be hard to understand seem to be over. The pacing seemed spot on, common mistakes were neatly avoided, and the result was a fun watch that everyone can enjoy.

Animation Quality

The movements of the robots in Charge were quite convincing, as was the facial animation for the main character, Einar. Wayne noticed that his body movements, however, are sometimes more like a 30 year old man in an older person costume than a true representation of the struggle of aging. Wayne recommended using an older person when filming reference, or at the very least, wearing weights while filming to simulate the difficulty. Other acting choices, like Einar wincing convincingly when a bullet flies by his head, were praised by Kent and Tim.


The whole team agreed that the special effects in the short looked phenomenal, especially the iconic spray paint can explosion. Fun fact, the spray can label says to “check your body for missing textures” before splatting shader-error-pink paint all over the robot.


Rendering Quality

Charge was the first short from Blender Studio to be fully rendered in Eevee. While it did look good, rendering the demo files in Cycles shows that the film did take a hit in the quality of the final result because of it, mostly due to Eevee’s limitations when it comes to subsurface scattering and reflections.

Compare this shot in Eevee:


To this one in Cycles:


Many of the shots in the film seemed flat to us, and Kent was the first to notice that they likely only used lamp objects to light the scenes. Jonathan pointed out that they probably avoided using an HDRI in some shots in order to get deeper and more accurate shadows. Luckily, the next version of Eevee is slated to have solid improvements in both of those areas.

Listen to the full conversation in Episode 1 of the Denoise podcast

What did you think of the film? 

Let us know in the comments!


Jonathan Lampel
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