Images courtesy of Frame 48

3ds Max helps Tom Teller and Frame 48 fly high and shine bright with "Icarus"

"When a Mars colony's communication satellite is damaged, Emilia Riley embarks on a seemingly harmless repair excursion. A shuttle malfunction cuts connectivity to the ground and Chris, her son, makes the knee jerk decision to go after her.

This is the story of Icarus."

–Tom Teller, Director




"Icarus" is a project that we wanted to make not only to tell a story that spoke to us but also to challenge ourselves technically. Because of this, we loaded the film with scenes and requirements that really tested us.

"The film had 128 visual effects shots, 97 of which had CGI elements rendered from Max."

3ds Max allowed us to do all of our CGI, everything from smoke and cloth simulations to the space debris scene that had over 1,000,000 individual pieces of animated debris. The film had 128 visual effects shots, 97 of which had CGI elements rendered from Max. Discovering the best workflow over our five-month post-production timeline was a fun experience that kept us on our toes.



We built all our assets in Max and utilized low poly proxies when animating to work in real time. When it came time to render we brought back in the high-resolution geometry which enabled us to do an absurd level of detail. Kevin, the robot character, was around 5,000,000 polygons with over 1,000 individually placed bolts, screws, and silly details that were probably never seen on camera. We may have gotten a little carried away, but it was a blast.


The sequences in space were a challenge for many reasons. The massive amount of debris required a lot of manual animation. The freedom of camera movement in the full CGI shots was a blessing and a curse, giving us the freedom to move the camera how we pleased. Grounding the camera movement, in reality, to match the rest of the film was a challenge that was only remedied by the curve editor. (Thank you, Curve Editor).



One of the most fun parts of the pipeline was simulating the astronaut tether in Max through MassFX. While cloth simulations with moving elements can be an equivalent to herding cats, I have a special place in my heart for watching a simulation unfold just right.


We're excited to show the film now after it's festival circuit as it feels like a time capsule of what we learned throughout the process. Thank you for your interest in the film, we hope you enjoy it and share it with others!


AREA congratulates Tom Teller and the team at Frame 48 for their amazing work on "Icarus." The 20-minute short has screened at over 60 film festivals and taken home these awards. SEE "ICARUS" IN FULL BELOW.

MPSE Golden Reel Awards WINNER Best Sound Editing – Student

Sedona International Film Festival WINNER Best Student Film

Beaufort International Film Festival WINNER Best Student Film

Oneota Film Festival WINNER Best Student Narrative

BendFilm Festival WINNER Best Special Effects

River Bend Film Festival WINNER Best Actress

Twister Alley Film Festival WINNER Best College Film, Best Supporting Actress

George Lindsey UNA Film Festival WINNER Best Student Film, Best in Show

Fargo Fantastic Film Festival WINNER Best Sci-Fi

International Lions Short Film Competition WINNER Best Director

Super Geek Film Festival WINNER Best Student Film

Gulf Coast Film & Video Festival WINNER Best Mini-Feature

MisCon International Short Film Festival FINALIST

Comicpalooza Film Festival WINNER Best VFX

F3 Frankly Film Fest WINNER Best of Fest

Watersprite Awards NOMINEE Cinematography, Editing, Music, Production Design, Sound Editing

College Television Awards NOMINEE Best Music Composition

All American High School Film Festival WINNER Best Narrative Short (College)



  • 3ds Max
  • Autodesk 3ds Max
  • Film & VFX
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