Presenting: “PARADIGM SHIFT—Restless Sleep”!

Presenting: “PARADIGM SHIFT—Restless Sleep”!

PARADIGM SHIFT—Restless Sleep is now showing!

Based on the cult werewolf detective comic series PARADIGM SHIFT, classic werewolf tale meets paranormal mystery in this new animated short!

Detective Kate McAllister is in for a rough night. While investigating a strange murder, she discovers she has a connection to the killer that is stronger than she could possibly imagine!

PARADIGM SHIFT—Restless Sleep is my first animated film. It as was created in Blender with characters rigged using DAZ Studio’s Genesis 8 platform. Composited in Adobe After Effects and edited in Adobe Premiere. I also composed and performed the music using Apple’s Logic Pro. The whole project took me just over a year to complete.

Sound design by Alexander Danner ( and voices provided by Alexander Danner and Jordan Stillman.

Additional assets provided by:

Catara by D.Master
Everyday 2 by Aeon Soul
Flak Vest by The AntFarm
Genesis Starter Essentials by DAZ Originals
Genesis 3 Male by DAZ Originals
Genesis 8 Female by DAZ Originals
Genesis 8 Male by DAZ Originals
Genesis 8 Starter Essentials by DAZ Originals
Genesis 8 Female Mega Wardrobe by outoftouch
Girls Baseball Style Jacket by DAZ Originals + fefecoolyellow
The Guy 7 by DAZ Originals
H&C Police uniform by IH Kang
HnC Leather Jacket Outfit by IH Kang
H&C Business Suit A by IH Kang
H&C Weekend Casual Suit by IH Kang
H&C Dress Shirt Outfit by IH Kang
Jax for the Guy 7 by DAZ Originals + Jessaii
Killian for the Guy 7 by DAZ Originals + Jessaii
Michael 4 Skeleton by DAZ Originals
Michael 4 Internal Organs by DAZ Originals + noggin + shaunahowell
Police Officer Outfit by Toyen
Riviera Noon Outfit by DAZ Originals + 4blueyes
Torn Clothes by smay

1998 Honda Civic LX by Cartoon + Comotor
2000 Chevy Impala by Paul B. + bmrct + csi guy
2005 Honda Accord by Kevin N.
2002 Dodge Neon Sedan by Paul B.
Chevy Z71 Suburban by Kyle
Chicago CTA Elevated Train by W P.
Glock 17 by CFD 9437
Honda Element by ZXT
Lamp#1 by Graham
Maple Nightstand by archangel
Toyota Corolla Sedan by Joce
Unmarked Cars by Paul B.
Wooden Bookcase by waveydavey

Brick Wall 012 by Katsukagi

Gdansk Shipyard Buildings (modified) by (CC-BY)


Animating Kate in Blender

Animating Kate in Blender

Here’s a quick peek at what it’s like to work on this project inside of Blender3D.

One of the things that made Restless Sleep possible was the ability to preview the final look in real time, thanks to Blender’s EEVEE engine (and some beefy GPU hardware.) This minimized the amount of time I needed to spend creating test renders and allowed me to make artistic decisions on the fly.

Kate's "rig" in Blender

Animating Kate herself involved something called a character “rig” or “armature”. This was the most time-consuming thing to create in the entire project, since it had to transform into her werewolf form. It consists of several different parts, starting with the 3D objects or “meshes” that create the basic shape of the character. In Kate’s case, she’s made up of five basic objects: her body (the most complex and detailed of all the meshes), her hair, her upper and lower teeth (which are separate objects for reasons), her eyelashes (also separate for reasons). There are clothing objects as well which change from scene to scene.

Next, is an object made up of what are called “bones”. These are the literal controllers that move the objects. Each bone corresponds to some of the polygons that make up each object’s mesh, and therefore allow the character to be posed and moved around. Luckily this process was mostly automated for me, since I used the Genesis 8 character base from DAZ Studio.

All I had to do was modify the existing model to match Kate’s character design. However, for the hair, I was on my own. I learned how to “rig” with her hair.

Kate's hair rig

First, I created a chain of bones for each section of her hair I wanted to animate—bangs, front, back, left, right and center.

The bones that make up Kate's hair rig.

Next, I had to “weight paint” the mesh so each bone would affect a specific part of the hair. Below is an example of the “heat map” of part of her bangs that corresponds to the bone directly underneath it. The blue represents area where the bone has no effect at all, with colors transitioning from green to yellow to red for areas where the bone has the most effect. While this can be done automatically, I ended up “painting” each strand by hand to get the smoothest results when her hair moves.

Weight painting Kate's hair.

Lastly, I set up “IK chains” for each strand of hair, so I could control them by moving a target object around. “IK” stands for “Inverse Kinematics”, which is the method 3D programs use to move bones so they rotate as a group to point to a specific target. The round balls in the rig are the targets for each part of the hair. Here’s how it looks in practice

The final step is textures! Since I want to mimic the look of classic hand-drawn animation, that meant two things: cel shading and outlines. I achieved the first through tweaking the materials. Mainly, I tell Blender to do a hard cutoff between the light and dark areas of the figure, which creates the “cel-shaded” look. The shadows are then applied in a way that darkens the image map on the figure, in this case using a dark blue, which matches the shadow color in the rest of the set. Unfortunately, I had to set this manually for every new scene if the shadow colors change. For instance, the shadows in the night scenes are a deep blue, while those in the daylight shots are different. I had to implement this for every material on every object I wanted to be cel shaded. Kate’s body alone has over a dozen materials, but most of the other objects only have one or two. Thankfully, once I had one I liked, I could just copy and paste the settings into the others.

Kate shading in Blender

The second thing that needed to happen to perfect the look was the outlines. There are two ways to achieve this in Blender. The first one I used is called “Freestyle”, which draws outlines over the model during the rendering process. It achieves a nice, consistent look, but the downside is it’s very slow, taking sometimes over 5 minutes per frame to calculate. However, since it could only use one processor core at a time, it meant I could do other things on my computer while it rendered in the background. I rendered about half of the film using Freestyle.

Outlines created in Freestyle vs Grease Pencil

The second method involves using a 3D object called “Grease Pencil” which actually creates a the outlines as an object in front of the camera when paired with a modifier called “Line Art”. Grease Pencil lines also have a number of significant advantages. First, they render very quickly. Second, they can calculate were objects intersect and draw line there. Third, they can be previewed right in the Blender workspace. The only real downside is that they have to be “baked” or pre-calculated into the scene before you can render them as a separate output layer (to be composited later), so there a few hoops you have to jump through before the scene is ready to render. Also, I didn’t discover how to use them until I was over halfway through the film, so in order to use it, I had to rework the scene, which was okay since I ended up doing that for a good chunk of the film anyway. The only other downside was that the Grease Pencils engine treated the eyes and eyelashes differently than Freestyle, so they required more touchup in the compositing stage, which was also a little annoying. But overall they were definitely worth the trouble!

Previewing Grease Pencil in the main workspace

Once Kate was fully set up, I could begin animating her! After creating the test transformations, I created a test scene to see how I could integrate her into an actual 3D set and animate her in a way that would be convincing, if not realistic. I chose a set I had originally created in SketchUp for the comic—her bedroom. After importing the objects into Blender, I fleshed out the room to match the comic a little more closely, including learning how to create cloth simulations to create the drapes, pillows, and sheets on bed. Here’s a quick look at the finished set:   

And here’s what it looks like when the lights go off (or rather “on” since this was the actual lighting for the set.)

From this experiment, I learned the basics of posing and timing needed to create an animation. I also learned I needed to light the background and the characters separately, since the lighting that worked one didn’t always work for the other. I also figured out how to move the camera between frames so I could string several shots into a single scene. Here’s what the full test looked like:

After creating this, I knew had the tools I needed to tackle a full animated short.

Restless Sleep animated short film premieres June 27th!

Restless Sleep animated short film premieres June 27th!

Save the date!

I’m proud to announce that I finally have a release date for Restless Sleep! I’m hosting a local premiere at Back Beat Brewing here in Beverly, MA at 7pm EST on Tuesday June 27th!


WHEN: Tuesday, June 27th 2023 @ 7pm EST

Back Beat Brewing Co. 
31A Park Street
Beverly, MA 01915

In addition to the film showing, I’ll be doing live, behind the scenes demos on how I made the movie, along with a Q&A. I’ll also have books and prints in tow for a signing. Plus there will be excellent beer on tap! Back Beat specializes in English-style bitters and cask ales. I’m a huge fan!

Film will post to YouTube @ 7:30pm!

But if you can’t join us that night, I’ll be live-streaming the event on my YouTube channel, too. The film will drop at the same time we show it in person, and you can join in the demos and Q&A afterwards!

Watch the trailer here: