Ugly: A Single Word Sums it Up

A short film about dynamic simulations with characters so
ugly that they inspired this project’s name. 

There is an ugly cat that’s treated poorly by everyone because of the way it looks. What’s peculiar about this is that everyone mocking this cat is himself exceptionally ugly. Therein lies the irony and meaning of the story, which was entirely created with Cinema 4D: beauty – and ugliness – lies in the eye of the beholder. With this fundamental idea in mind, Nikita Diakur and a team of nine full-time 3D artists started work on the project ‘Ugly’, which they wanted to complete in their spare time and finance via crowd funding.

This project’s digital orchestration would also set it apart from other animations because everything had to be put in motion using dynamics instead of traditional animation techniques. A special setup was developed for the characters that looks somewhat like puppeteer strings: the characters’ arms and legs were attached to virtual strings and springs that were controlled by the animator. The result is reminiscent of a marionette on strings. The character models were adapted to the dynamics and are made up of very few polygons to ensure quick feedback from the simulations. This also contributed to the ‘ugly’ look that the characters had.

Previous slide
Next slide

Nikita decided to use an urban setting for the clunky characters’ adventures, which resembled the neighborhoods in which Nikita had grown up in Moscow, Russia, and Mainz, Germany. The hulky figures appear surprisingly homogenous in these environments, which were created using Projection Mapping. The beautiful lighting moods, atmospheric effects and sunsets were created using traditional lighting methods with the Visible Light option enabled. This creates a photo-realistic look.

In the midst of this world of high-rise apartments and parking lots full of rusty containers, cars and motorbikes, Nikita and his team created a home for Redbear Easterman, a gigantic Indian with a complete head dress who is full of irony and wisdom. In addition to the ugly cat, he is another main character in the story and symbolizes order amidst all the chaos. Even though ‘Ugly’ is a film project that is meant to be presented at various festivals and submitted to competitions, it has already evolved to being much more. ‘Ugly’ has its own Facebook page where the team regularly posts previews and test videos, and where Redbear Easterman makes cameo appearances. This is also the perfect place to get a better look at the burgeoning world of ‘Ugly’: the production diary is open for everyone to see and you can get an impression of just how creative the team is. The use of dynamics is illustrated in dozens of clips and you can see the extent to which dynamics is used: animals and humans hang from strings and virtual springs, characters on slides pile up when they reach the bottom. Characters try to run on treadmills, run and fall spectacularly, ride bikes or hop onto motorbikes and race around parking lots filled with jumping cars.

The name ‘Ugly’ sums it all up and is also a homage to the fascinating mistakes that often occur in dynamic simulations in Cinema 4D on the way to the final, perfect animation. The flair of the unfinished, erroneous and ugly gets its day in the sun and creates a unique look that shows just how beautiful imperfection can be.

‘Ugly’ has been in production for four years and prior to crowd funding, Nikita was the only one working on the project. With the start of crowd funding, nine artists have joined the project who take advantage of any spare time they have to complete the project.


Website for the Ugly project:

Ugly on Facebook: