Producing 'Pet Shop' | Breakdown

Making Of / 25 March 2021


'Pet Shop' is an award winning 3D animated TV series trailer. It was produced within six weeks, entirely remotely, by 2nd year students at Escape Studios in London. It is written & directed by Shauna Ludgate and in the below blog I will share my experience as a Producer and a breakdown of the production process.

'Pet Shop' is about the daily life of 4 furry friends waiting to be adopted. Duke is new in the shop and brings hope to the other pets that they will find a home, whilst finding a family within each other. The main story arc of the series is getting the characters adopted whilst causing chaos and making friends. 


For the first two weeks, our director, Shauna Ludgate, and the storyboarding team narrowed down the shots and began to plan cameras and draw panels. They had to work closely together to make the vision come to life in a short period of time. This stage was really important for the team to feel confident that we are moving into Previz with a story that works. 

See the image below for our main 2D animatic panels.


Our Art Director, Tsvetelina Kumanova, decided to go with warm colours like orange and yellow for our day-time shots and a cooler, bluish for our night-time shots.

Check out the images below to see our colour script and lighting moodboard.


Tsvetelina Kumanova was responsible for doing all the character designs for Bruce. After looking at plenty of fish references, she decided to go with a simple design and warm colours that bring out his calm personality.

Check out the video below to see Bruce's different design stages.


Shauna Ludgate and Tsvetelina Kumanova decided to create a basic character expression sheet with the storyboarding team to not only to demonstrate the personality of each character but also give an idea of the range of facial movements to our rigger.

Check the image below to see the different character expressions.


Bruce was entirely modelled and rigged by Tom Perry, our team modeller & rigger. He used a mix of blend shapes and nCloth simulations to give off the effects of the character always being under water. This put less stress on the animators to try and make each fin feel wavy as the simulation engine would take care of it for them, allowing for more focus on his facial animation and core body movement.

Click the video below to see a full character turnaround in different stages.


Our 3D layout artist, Muhammed Mansoor, began laying down the basics for our pet shop layout, which was passed to Shauna Ludgate for some refining during the 4th week. 

Check out the below 3D Layout pictures.


References were an important part of our production process and helped us massively during the animation stage. The team used a mixture of animal references for natural creature behaviours, and live action filmed references for lip syncing and human actions.

Check the two videos below for examples of the references we used during an early stage of animation.


We were going for a realistic animation style for both animals and humans, so we made sure that all animators started from blocking out their shots, then moving to splining and then finishing their shot with polishing them. By doing that we managed to improve the overall quality of animation for the project.

Check out the video below to see the differences in animation between each step, from previz to the final render.


Muhammad Mansoor, our lighting artist, was responsible for setting up all lighting while also helping Shauna Ludgate implement her render layer setup. His basic lighting setup included a key light, a fill light, and a rim light. He also decided to use light linking which allowed him to add more lights which were assigned to light specific items only instead of the whole environment. 

See the image below for a quick look at our colour script.


Shauna Ludgate constructed a rendering layer system with AOV's, allowing us to render backgrounds, shadows and characters separately. These technical applications didn't only help us be more efficient with our setups and renders but also be proactive and plan our composition in NukeX.

Check out the image below for our render layers and settings.


Shauna Ludgate was also responsible for compositing the final renders together in Nukex. By utilizing all the different render layers and AOVs she was able to adjust the light exposure to ensure consistency between shots, change the colour gradient of specific items in the environment or characters and troubleshoot any shadow issues. 

She used a master comp script which included all twelve shots in a single project file, and we were able to afford that because our scripts were not complicated and heavy. The main nodes she used were shuffles, merges, Zdefocus and grades. We also integrated some 2D drawings of clouds in our first shot, which were drawn by Tsvetelina Kumanova in After Effects and then comped and tracked in Nukex.

Check out the below video to see all the different visuals between stages.


I mainly used Excel to create the production schedule and some smaller documents to help us track the progress of the different stages of each shot as well as managing all our assets and calculating our render times.

See the three images below for the key planning tools we used.

Image 1 - Production Schedule:

The Production Schedule helped the team have a general overview of each task, duration, and progress. All the tasks from the left side of the schedule are displayed on the right side in a form of calendar with the working days marked as blue blocks, known as Gantt Chart.

Image 2 - Shot Plan:

The Shot Plan helped us track the progress of each shot which means tracking the whole process of animation, lighting, rendering and comp. It displayed all the shots, the frame range of each shot, approved cameras, status of the actual animation, lighting etc. Also, it allowed each department to pass on their work to the next one by simply choosing the right action from the drop-down lists.

Image 3 - Render Stats:

The Render Stats displayed rendering data which helped the relevant person understand how long it will take them to render each render layer, each frame, each shot etc. This document took most of its data from the Shot Plan so when animators were updating their shots, this was getting updated automatically as well.


'Pet Shop' is my second group project and it was a blast! I had the opportunity to work with some really talented people who showed great spirit and dedication during those 6 weeks. it was challenging but very rewarding. The biggest learning for me, beyond technical skills, was that teamwork and accountability are critical to ensure a successful project! 


Director & Writer: Shauna Ludgate
Producer: Emmanouil Zervoudakis
Art Director: Tsvetelina Kumanova
Storyboarding: Shauna Ludgate, Oliver Gallagher, Chanakan Jeffries, Tsvetelina Kumanova & Aroosa Qureshi
Colour Script: Tsvetelina Kumanova
3D Layout: Muhammed Mansoor & Shauna Ludgate
Modelling & Texturing: Tom Perry & Oliver Gallagher
Rigging: Tom Perry
Animation: Muhammed Mansoor, Tsvetelina Kumanova, Liam Martin, Oliver Gallagher, Shauna Ludgate, Aroosa Qureshi, Chanakan Jeffries, David Akinyose, Tom Perry & Derek Fead
Lighting & Rendering: Shauna Ludgate & Muhammed Mansoor
Compositing: Shauna Ludgate
Original Music: Maria Cortes-Monroy
Sound Design: Mihail Sustov
Motion Graphics: Alice McCall
Editing: Liam Martin & Emmanouil Zervoudakis
Voice Acting: Cameron Bier (Duke), Ellie Wills (Bella) & Muhammed Mansoor (Victor)