International Motion Art Awards: Balvis Rubess's "Roboworld"

By David Schonauer   Friday July 26, 2013

“I usually describe myself as suffering from creative A.D.D.,” says Toronto-based illustrator and animator Balvis Rubess. “I’m interested in most things creative, and, once I get interested, I dive headlong into that endeavor.” Rubess once worked as a junior designer in the R&D department of Porsch AG, in Weissach, Germany, where he had his first opportunity to create 3D illustrations. He went on to launch his own design studio, specializing in realistic illustrations for advertising jobs and, as he notes, a “darker, more disturbing approach” for editorial work. That style brought him his first book assignment, creating The Pop-Up Book of Phobias for Melcher Media in New York. Rubess was named a winner of the first annual International Motion Art Awards competition for an animated short he created as a self-promotional piece, which stars Robo, a fire-engine-red robot romping through a recycled virtual world.


International Motion Art Awards


By Balvis Rubess

Toronto-based illustrator and animator Balvis Rubess created his IMAA-winning short Roboworld in 2012 as a self-promotional piece for his motion-graphics company, Plasmalife. “I had a number of scribbled ideas in my sketchbook—short vignettes that hadn't been realized as longer, fleshed-out animations, and I wanted to bring some of them to fruition in a cohesive and fun piece,” he says.

As the star of his piece, Rubess cast “Robo,” a robot he had created as a static illustration for a website promoting a middle-school fundraising event.


“I decided to tap my sketchbook for all those quick animation ideas and slowly started to build a virtual set for Robo's journey,” says Rubess. The animation begins with a whirring gear comprising a virtual environment called Plasmaville and comes to focus on Robo as he skips through the fantastical world.

balvis 2 

During his adventure, the robot encounters a refreshing beverage—a design element also recycled from an earlier animation.


He then arrives at a carnival, re-purposed from an illustration created for a show about religion.


The sad-and-or-happy cat was borrowed from Rubess’s own newsletter page.


Robo soon thereafter dives into a junk pile containing the series of ingenious pop-up books that Rubess created for Melcher Media, including The Pop-Up Book of Phobia and The Pop-Up Book of Sex.


He then helps thwart an alien attack on New York City—a scene derived from an old postcard Rubess had found.


The animation was created in Newtek’s Lightwave 3D software, while most of the texture and image assets were created in Photoshop. As for sound, Rubess improvised: “I love working to an existing piece of music, because the rhythm or nuances of the composition usually suggests and guides the visual approach. But sometimes I create the animation first and then compose or find music later and layer various sounds on top to suit the animation. I played drums in a band for a long time, so I tend to approach transitions and timing for an animation in a rhythmic and mathematical way.” For Roboworld, Rubess wanted offbeat and cacophonous music. He found what he was looking for on the CD “Blue Quilt,” from the band 40 Fingers. Called “Improvisation No. 7,” it was composed by Rubess’s brother-in-law, Nic Gotham. Here is the result:


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