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8 Of The Best Animated CGI Short Films [Stuff to Watch]

Tim Brookes 19-03-2012

cgi short filmsContinuing last week’s theme of short film, today’s Stuff to Watch focuses entirely on rendered productions in this collection of excellent computer generated shorts. As movie studios pump millions of dollars into feature-length 3D productions; hobbyists, students and small movie studios often produce short rendered masterpieces of equal beauty and depth.


Some go viral, sparking millions of views on YouTube and lucrative job offers; others go one better and receive awards, nominations and screenings at renowned film festivals. If anything these films serve to inspire and instill belief in budding 3D artists who will continue to impress us as the years roll by.

Paths of Hate

Described as “ten minutes of pure awesome” (by me, just now); Paths of Hate tells the tale of two battling World War II pilots playing a deadly game of cat and mouse in the sky. The visual style is spot on, combining 3D renders and scenery with excruciating hand-drawn detail that will keep you gripped to the very end.

The Polish production features no dialogue, just ten minutes of adrenaline, death-defying maneuvers and brutal mechanised warfare. Paths of Hate was shortlisted for the 2011 Academy Awards, and rightfully so.


Katedra (Cathedral)

Katedra was produced in 2002, won top honours at the SIGGRAPH festival and was subsequently nominated for an Oscar in 2003 for best short film. Somewhat haunting, the film depicts a pilgrim who visits a cathedral “on the border of the known world” (looks like space to me).


What he finds there is very much open to interpretation, and I’m sure not going to spoil it!


Do you like dystopian films? How about animals and architecture? If you answered “yes” prepare to rejoice and celebrate all three in this rather unique short from 2008. Featuring a train station that would send a shiver down Gordon Freeman’s spine, stampeding zebras and a very angry elephant, ANIMA contains no human characters whatsoever.

The film has been selected, nominated and winner of a long list of awards at various festivals around the world – it’s weird and it’s wonderful.

Fallen Art

From the same producer responsible for Katedra (above) comes the 2004 3D animated production Fallen Art. The film is visually quite different to Katedra and deals with the notion of an art academy under military command.


The film borders on the surreal but this doesn’t detract from the quirky visual style, somewhat reminiscent of that used by Valve in Team Fortress 2 A Selection Of The Best Free-To-Play Steam Games Content delivery service Steam is a real money-spinner for Valve, prompting publishers like EA to shy away from it in pursuit of their own system. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple of free gems... Read More .

Elephant’s Dream

By now you’ve surely all heard of Big Buck Bunny 10+ Amazing Short Films You'd Not Believe Were Made With Free Software Just like its previous short films online, the Blender Foundation used only open-source or free software to produce movies of at least 10 minutes. Read More , a delightful short that was crafted with open source modelling software Blender Blender - A Powerful Free Cross-Platform 3D Content Creation Suite Completely free, and a tool that has dozens of applications allowing you to try your hand at the challenging world of computer-generated artwork. Did I mention it's free? Read More and released for free online. Elephant’s Dream is another film from the same team, and while it’s entirely different it retains the grip and professional sheen that Big Buck Bunny had.

The film follows two intriguing characters as they traverse the innards of a seemingly never-ending machine that has a new surprise in store at every corner.

The Third & The Seventh

At first glance you might think you’re looking at real-world footage shot on a camera with a mighty expensive lens and buckets of depth of field, but what you’re watching has been painstakingly modelled on a computer. A short film like no short film you’ve ever seen before, The Third & The Seventh is an inspiring music-to-film piece showcasing everyday objects, locations and situations in stunning detail.


The animation and modelling is so realistic that when the author first published the film online he was met with challenges claiming he’d “cheated” and used real-world footage instead. Of course, that’s probably the finest compliment a 3D artist could receive.


At the risk of scaring many of you 7 Bone-Chilling Classic Horror Films You Can Legally Download Or Stream for Free Read More half to death, here is a very strange and unsettling blend of live action film and CGI from Israel called Smile. I’ve chosen to include here because the CGI is intrinsic to the film and well… the actors’ heads have been replaced with computerised, oversized models instead.

But that’s not where the weird ends, oh no, the weird hasn’t even started yet. I suspect many of you will watch this then think “oh right, so that’s where that GIF came from”.

A Gentlemen’s Duel

What could be more gentlemanly than a good old fashioned duel between an Englishman and a Frenchman? Throw a busty princess, towering steampunk robots and a very cheeky sense of humour in there and I think you’ll find it’s a winning formula.


I thought finishing this week’s article on a comedy note would take the hair-raising edge off Smile (above), and I can’t think of anything that fits here better than A Gentlemen’s Duel. If only they made more feature-length films like this…


Short films belong on the Internet – they’re perfectly suited to our pathetic online attention spans. If you’ve got any personal favourite shorts (particularly 3D animated ones) then feel free to drop them into the comments box below. If you can think of anyone else who would find these cgi short films entertaining then why not share this post using one of the handy buttons below?

Do you love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Do you reckon you can find better? Stick your words of wisdom and links in the comments below this post!

Related topics: Computer Animation, Short Films.

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  1. Dave Parrack
    March 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    That's my weekend gone! Paths of Hate is stunning.

    • Tim Brookes
      March 20, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      I know right! I was shocked in a good way. It could do with being feature-length, I'd watch the whole thing even if it was only in Polish.