Eric Yu
Eric Yu

There Are No Trees Here

May 9, 2016

There Are No Trees Here is an original 3D animation created for the Animation Art and Technology class at Carnegie Mellon University.  The story follows a young boy as he journeys through the frozen wasteland in search of a plant he can care for...

The Team

The animation was created by a team of highly motivated Carnegie Mellon Students, including:

  • Sophia Zhu (Director, VisDev, Storyboard, Animation, Background Artist)
  • Roger Liu (Technical Director, Animation)
  • Ben Scott (3D Modeler, Animation, Mocap)
  • Eric Yu (3D Modeler, Character Rigger, Animation, Scheduler)
  • Audrey Banks (Mocap, Animation)

The concept was created by Sophia Zhu, and the rest of us fell in love with the idea!

Production Pipeline

Our 3D Pipeline was divided into 3 parts (Pre-production, Production, and Post-production) which detailed the work that needed to be done between March to May 2016.  We would be in constant communication to discuss what was done and what needed to be done through either online chat or in person meetings twice a week, with meeting minutes and assignments created to ensure things got done.

Pre-production consisted mostly of storyboards, concept art, research, technology research, and eventually the animatics.  Production consisted of modeling, texturing, character rigging, scene setup, and eventually animation.  Post-production consisted of rendering, compositing, and final video editing.  I was heavily involved in modeling and rigging the character as well as animating said character.


Pre-production began in March, and began with a storyboard created by Sophia detailing the young boy's journey to find plantlife in the frozen tundra that was his home.  There was some discussion among us whether the ending was malicious or not, but we decided against making the main character insidious.

After discussing the storyboard we went onto creating concept art, with Sophia designing the look of the character, basing it off of multiple sources, such as the characters from The Little Prince.  In addition, we began to layout the area in which our character traverses, especially the area with the ruins.  The look and feel of the environment was important, and we researched a multitude of sources, such as the style of the game Journey.  We opted for a very muted, pastel-like look, which influenced our render settings.

In addition, we researched the usage of certain technologies available to us in Maya in order to breathe extra life into our animation.  We settled on Mocap for the character, Render Layers for the look and feel, nParticles for the snow, and nCloth for his clothing (mainly his scarf).

Once this was all done, by the end of the month we were able to create animatics of our video which detailed what was going to happen in each scene.


Production consisted of modeling, texturing, character rigging, and eventually animation, which took the entirety of April.  Many of the models were created and textured in ZBrush, with rigging taking place in Maya.  Once the props and character models were complete they were arranged into the corresponding scene.

At the same time, mocap was being recorded in the lab (special thanks to Colin Whitney and Ben Scott for being our models!), and once the rigging was complete the mocap was applied to each and every scene.  The render settings of each scene were also calculated and tested while this was being done.

Once we corrected the mocap data in each scene and made sure everything worked and was timed correctly, we began the Post-production process.


Post-production began in March with rendering, taking two consecutive nights in the computer labs of our schools (8 computers in total).  The frames were then uploaded into After Effects, then Premiere Pro for compositing and editing.  Our composer sent the final soundtrack during this process. 

final thoughts

The process was at times stressful and challenging, but was very rewarding, especially upon seeing our final product!  I got to learn the ins and outs of the 3D animation pipeline, and my team and I really bonded over the process!  Plus, I got to improve my modeling, rigging, and animation skills!