Meet Ching Yee, Lead Modeler For 'Sonder'

Names from left to right: Nicholas Quek, Bay Gann Boon, Ching Yee (Honda), Yee Sum Hoi, and Julian Teo

Names from left to right: Nicholas Quek, Bay Gann Boon, Ching Yee (Honda), Yee Sum Hoi, and Julian Teo

It's time to spotlight another talented member of the Soba crew—lead modeler Ching Yee, who also goes by the name Honda. Originally from Malaysia, Honda now lives in Singapore, and has been contributing to the Modeling team behind Sonder for just over two years.

Q: Thanks for chatting with us, Honda! To start, can you tell us about how you originally got involved with Sonder

Honda: One fine day in January of 2016, [lead animator and creative manager] Yee Sum Hoi just texted and asked me if I would like to join a unique team to create a wonderful short film. I told her, "Why not?" 

Q: Had you worked on any other animation projects before, besides Sonder?

H: This is actually my second short film, apart from my graduation short film back in college. 

Q: You’re on Sonder's Modeling team. Can you describe what your role involves? What were your main responsibilities on the film, and who have you worked most closely with?

H: As the lead of the team, my job is to ensure all the assets are delivered on time. The models have to resemble the concept art as much as possible. Aside from reporting my weekly tasks to the producer and director, most of the time I worked very closely with the Art, Technical and Set Dressing departments.

Q: Sonder only has two main characters, but it looks like the film required a ton of assets. How many did the Modeling team have to create?

H: Around 300 assets were needed for the film, and around four or five different environments. 

Q: Were any of the assets particularly challenging to create, or are there any that you’re extra proud of?

H: I think the most challenging assets were the main characters, both Finn and Natalie. They have different hair styles, fashion styles, expressions, and both of them are unique in their own ways based on their individual characteristics. 

Finn and Natalie went through many stages of changes until we got the final design right.

Early exploration of Finn

Early exploration of Finn

A variety of design and proportion studies for Finn & Natalie.

A variety of design and proportion studies for Finn & Natalie.

Q: What tools or software did you use in doing your work?

H: I used Maya, Photoshop and Unity, of course with strong support from our technical team to make the creative process easier.

Q: Did you encounter any specific technical challenges in working on Sonder?

H: There was a technical challenge in exporting assets from Maya to Unity. The shader we used in Maya may not be exactly the same in Unity. 

The other challenging part is how the lighting in Unity can be very different from Maya. Therefore, there was a lot of back and forth in this process, but we had to stay patient and persevere. 

Next, another challenging part was the integration and optimization of the vegetation with the lighting and shading in Unity. For example, we had to decorate and populate each leaf depending on the shot to ensure that it looks visually appealing, despite the fact that the leaves are lower in resolution.

Q: Overall, how has your experience been working on Sonder, and being part of the Soba crew?

H: It has been an amazing experience to work with the team. We are a very unique team that has many artists all over the world, working remotely. On my team there are people from the United States, Taiwan, and myself in Singapore. 

It is very difficult to coordinate a suitable time for us to sync up for weekly meetings. But with passion, we always make time for it, and I am very proud of my team! It has been an honor to work with them for more than 2 years and counting!