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Software :  UE4 | Maya | World Creator | Substance Painter | Houdini | Megascans | Daz 3D

Role :  Director | Environment Artist | Modeler | Animator

Team Size :  1 ( Solo Project )

Project Duration :  4 Months 


Best Gift is a story about the love from our parents. Spaceman John has the mission to save the mankind, but his father is also sick in bed. Between the choice of his work and family, which one is the best gift for his dad? The film won The Second Prize of the 8th National College Digital Art & Design Awards (NCDA), it also won the Honorary Mention Award of the Global Illustration Award 2020 (GIA).


The inspiration of the story comes from my real life. Whenever I try to do something for my parents, they always consider my feelings first and don't want to trouble me, so the kindness of children often makes parents more worried. Gradually I understood, the best gift children can give their parents is to work hard to well-live their own lives. Only a better life for their children, parents will feel happier.

Working Process

After three iterations of the script, I decided to use the spaceman and the future world as the background of the story. And the first step is to collect design references for the environment and props.

The white sanatorium is designed as a very empty and modern scene, which is very incompatible with his father's identity. This is intended to highlight the strangeness and loneliness of his father living alone.

Spaceship References

In order to reduce the huge modeling workload, I bought some suitable model assets from the Internet,

a full list of authors is available at the end of the video. But there are still many models I need to create.

Spaceship Modeling

The spaceship has 13 UDIMs in total

Render in UE4 after texturing

Other Assets

Environment Design

There are three main scenes in the film: the planet, the sanatorium, and the interior of the spaceship.

The reference used to build the planet is from Morgan Prost

Material ID

The Landscape Material

Final Planet Rendering

The set up of the sanatorium in Maya

Final Sanatorium Rendering


Final Spaceship Interior Rendering

Animation & VFX

After the character was rigged with the Advanced Skeleton plugin, I used the Adobe Mixamo to complete the basic animation of the character, and then use the animation layer in Maya to adjust and polish.

Rigging and Animation

Use Houdini to create smoke effects and then export the sequence to UE4

Use FlipBook and the sequence to​ recreate the smoke effects


Use Sequencer for animation and editing

Rendering 1

Rendering 2

Rendering 3


In order to complete this animated short film, I spent a long time investigating the theme and film art. During the production process, I encountered many technical problems that I had never met before. Fortunately, I solved most of the problems in the end. In a nutshell, as my graduation project, I got both aesthetic and technical improvement from it. This work is a milestone for me.

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