Introducing: Brikk Animation

May 28, 2024

Aside from the main crew at Iron Gate, Valheim also benefits from the contribution of some talented freelancers. We want to give them a chance to introduce themselves and their work, and for you to get to know them a bit better!

You've already met lore writer Lee Williams and key artist Mats Minnhagen, and now it's time to turn the spotlight on Samuel Fast and Philip Engström, the people behind Brikk Animation who create our fantastic animated trailers.

What’s your background at Brikk?

Samuel (Founder & Creative Director): We are a studio driven by artists founded in 2010 by directors Björn Johansson, Josef Andersson and myself. The aim back then was (and still is) to create a passion-driven collective of artists and deliver the best 2D animated content in Sweden. In 2016, we pivoted towards our lifelong interest in games, and we never looked back. It´s been a long journey, and we have had the pleasure of working with some of the most interesting game studios in the world, like Iron Gate.

How did you, personally, get into making animation?

Philip (Director): My interest in traditional animation grew in my late teens. I came across Japanese animation and realized that animation can be so much more than cartoons for kids. I was hooked. Back then it didn’t even cross my mind that you could work in animation, even less in something close to anime. After studying science for a while, I found myself spending more time making short films than studying. One thing led to another. I was shown the magic behind traditional animation, and my dream and goal became to make animation my profession.

Samuel: In 2007, I started as an Illustrator and director, working with advertising and music videos. However, due to my background in illustration, I quickly pivoted towards animation due to my love of storytelling and characters. Back then, there was not much fun work in Sweden, so I mostly did infomercials for tech companies.

Do you play a lot of Valheim yourselves to get inspiration? Do you have other things that inspire you?

Philip: I play whenever I get the chance, and lately, I've been playing more and more. I like the atmosphere in the game, but what inspires me the most is the immersiveness. The world feels somewhat familiar yet so scary. Every time I leave my base, I set out on a new adventure. The trailers we make for Valheim are basically how those adventures feel.

Other inspirations are definitely my favorite anime series, especially the classic big sci-fi and fantasy animes that aim for a more adult audience like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Mononoke, Berserk, everything from Satoshi Kon, Kawajiri, and the list goes on. I also tend to find a lot of inspiration for the animation craft in the real world. Animation is about translating motions into drawings on a timeline. It’s fascinating to analyze motions that you see around you. Everything from how it looks when water hits a cliff, people’s personalities in their walks, how light reflects on objects, and how motions blur looks. Oh, one more thing. Lord of the Rings! It’s objectively the best movie ever made, all categories. (Yes, I see the extended trilogy as one movie).

Could you tell us a bit about your creative process? What does it look like from the idea stage to the finished work?

Making animated trailers, like the ones we do for Valheim, requires a lot of man-hours and involves a lot of steps. Every frame of every character is drawn frame by frame. All backgrounds are custom artwork. We usually get a beautifully simple storyboard from Robin at Iron Gate. From that, we start with concept development and pre-production. We are a team of artists working together, and the result needs to be consistent and cohesive so it's important that everyone has the same foundation before jumping into production. Most of the creativity happens during this pre-production phase. Next is the chunk of the project, the production. Here is when we know what to do and do it; one shot at a time. 

What animation that you have made for Valheim (so far) are you most proud of? A whole trailer, or a specific scene?

That’s the thing with working with Valheim, the ambition level always gets higher. Perhaps it’s our feeling, but we always want to push to make things bigger and more epic because the project deserves it! We want to challenge ourselves to come up with new ways of showing a scene. So with that, the answer is the newest one; the Ashlands trailer. For example, if you compare the amount of moving cameras and fight scenes in that trailer and the Hearth and Home trailer, the difficulty level is definitely up a few steps. Moving cameras are the coolest and hardest in traditional animation.

Is there anything you specifically like about working with Valheim? Is there anything that’s particularly challenging?

The world is great! I love the Scandinavian influence but with all the fantasy. (It’s the closest I’ve been to roam Middle Earth. Lord of the Rings is really good.)  Viking environments usually tend to look like Iceland. I  also like the trust and ambition level our teams Brikk and Iron Gate share.

A big challenge with the characters in Valheim is the absence of pupils in their eyes. An easy way to add storytelling in animation can be done by subtle (and not so subtle) movement of the eyes. We’ve had to emphasize other motions to show what we want to convey which has worked out really well. Also it adds a small layer of uniqueness to the animation. 

Another thing that’s been a bit challenging is that the update we’re making a trailer for is in development when we do it. We work in parallel which means that we don’t know everything from the start. Sometimes cool things are developed by Iron Gate that we want to add or don’t have the time to add.

If you were vikings, what would be your roles in a village?

Philip: I'm definitely a fisherman, but I also wish I were the unexpected Viking warrior who could jump really high and long to surprise the enemy.

Samuel: Due to my childhood interest in illusions and close-up magic, I would probably be a Völva. My top interest is still predicting the future and making my friend's minds wander with a few coins or a deck of cards.



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Artwork depicting troll in a forest setting