Final Film!

We did it! Begun in Fall-2011 and completed Summer-2013 “Bird in a Cage” was a collaborative effort by UT-Dallas students working in their spare time. Nearly all of the students who worked on this film came into it with little or no previous experience outside of entry level classwork but through hard work and determination we were able to complete this nearly 4 minute animated short film.

Check out some of the in-progress material below as well as some of the behind the scenes pieces that we collected along the way!

If you have any questions about the film please contact the director, Greg Slagel, at

We hope you enjoy our film!

In-Progress Videos

The first semester we worked on this project we met in our school’s library every weekend for at least a few hours to organize our work and give out assignments. Once we were done we made this video to show to people who were interested in coming onto the project for production.

This is the first video we made to test our pipeline. At this point the main character hadn’t been shaded or rigged and most of the assets hadn’t been placed in the actual setup yet. We made this to get a taste of what sending a shot all the way through the pipeline would be like and to give our fellow students a peek at what we were working on.

This is a video we made when we were getting close to the end of production to show some of the work we had been doing on the project. At this point we were lighting shots day and night and finishing the last few animation shots.

Behind the Scenes

layout top down

Here’s the top-down view of the laboratory that Fredrick, the main character, worked in.


This is what the original “wingpack” that the main character wears looked like. When we started animating it it just didn’t look right in motion and we had to send it back to design. The final look moved away from a Leonardo da Vinci style flying machine to a more mechanical design powered by electricity.


When working on storyboards everyone on the team was welcome to contribute, regardless of 2D drawing ability. Thankfully we had the brilliant Cara Curley and Monica Deal to turn stick figures into great artwork.

diagram plandiagram result

On that note, sometimes someone from the team would have an idea but couldn’t really put it into words. Even if you’re not a 2D artists it can really help to draw it out. Even in ms paint.

black eyed fredbrace yourself come at me bro rig funny face 1over the shoulderearly layout problems

Rigs, textures, and animation poses sometimes broke down. Sometimes it was funny. When we started we were still very new to animation so we made mistakes but we worked hard and kept fixing the problems we came across when we could.

early hair simulationlayout funny early trees early tree layout

Sometimes we ran into problems that we didn’t have the time to solve. Originally we were using simulations for the hair and outdoor grass, the trees were different as well. Once we got into lighting tests we found problems that ranged from simulations failing at rendertime to things like the trees taking much longer to render than originally anticipated. We had to make some tough calls near the end of the project for the sake of finishing it

workflow chart team example

We had many inside jokes on the team. One of them was making fun of the director.

pipeline chartmeeting agenda

We had never worked on an animation team before and we were making everything from our pipeline to our meeting agendas up as we went along. Having everything written down helped things run more smoothly.