Fire : Learning to Burn

In the plan for our short, the wolf was originally going to be comprised entirely of smoke and electricity, however after looking into how to do that, we quickly decided to simply have it emit some smoke and flame.

It took several attempts before we realized that this was an unfeasible goal to add in the time we had, especially as a team of two with a wide spread of work to do.

The tests initially started simple, adding some smoke and flame to the eyes of the characters to make them appear more threatening.

After a lengthy series of tests and practices, I eventually figured out how to graft the smoke to the geometry of the characters so that it moved with them.

This however, created a different problem.


In shots where the wolf moved, the smoke effect came off blocky and thick, rather than the whispy aesthetic I was going for. When static, it worked fine, aside from a few glitches.

Rendering the successful ones also sometimes created this problem.

This mainly occured with Zync, and was supposedly due to issues with caching the particle effect history, however no matter what tutorials I followed and attempts I made to correct this, I could not get Zync to render the particles properly and without issue.


This was what the above images looked like when static, and as you can see, despite all 3 having identical sky-boxes and light set ups, the results could not be more different when rendered through Zync or a different computer.

This inconsistency then drove me towards Paint Effects, and attempting to create the fire and smoke using that.

Needless to say, it had mixed results.


Generally, the paint effects looked good, but didn’t necessarily fit the aesthetic of the film – and as they rendered fully 2D, without existing transparency – it was hard to get a visualisation pre-composition of how it might look.

Image converted using ifftoany

As it stood, it’s impossible to tell how this would look in the scene – however the results were more shocking when comped together.


Whilst certain terrifying, and very close to the aesthetic we wanted – the wolf seemed to lose all definition as to what it was when we covered it in flame.

Additionally, the sheer amount of compositing that would need done for this, the hawk and the snake proved to be quite excessive.

Given these factors, we decided to keep the smoke and flame effects to a minimum, using them sparsely to accentuate danger through after effects.

This tutorial was interesting, and in an ideal world, we’d have liked our film to feature effects like this on the characters. – However, as you can see, even creating a simple static effect took time – and replicating this through dozens of shots on a moving creature proved… troublesome at best.

This was the idea of how we could go about doing the shot in which the wolf disintegrates into smoke, using a combination of render layers and effects to have it disappear.

As can be seen here, most of the smoke effects we ended up using were simple ambient pieces, with the occasional piece of particle effects around the eyes and mouth, like shown at the beginning of this post.

Rigging Revised : Hawk

The Hawk Rig originally functioned well enough,¬† but it had some scaling issues that made some of the wing flex animation appear wonky, and the controls weren’t exactly clear in their purpose.

So I rerigged it to fix the scaling problem and then created a more clear layout for the controls, as well as adding some stretch capability to the wings so that they could enhance the silhouette.

The Rig is mostly fairly self-explanatory, with basic wing controls to allow the different parts to bend and twist, as the Hawk only appears briefly in the film and is mostly moving in dives or glides, he didn’t need excessively complex components.

This tutorial by Mike Hermes formed the basis for what I chose to do, though  I simplified it immensely.

Sketchfab Render of Hawk Model

Rigging : The Hawk

The Hawk Rig was incredibly simple, as it simply needed 3 sets of joints and basic controls for the wings. Weighting similarly didn’t need too much done, and the gaps in the model would be compensated for using image planes to block out the shadow and give it a more defined edge.

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Modelling : The Hawk

The Hawk was an incredibly simple Model, as it was a silhouette and never actually got upclose for any shots.

The texture plan for it and the lighting of the scene meant it would only ever be seen as either a cast shadow, or in an oily black sheen covering all it’s discernible features.

Initially the model was a bit too simple, and we discovered it didn’t really have room for rigging or animation, which despite the nature of it’s scenes, we did still need.

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This model had too many feathers and too much topology for it’s purpose, and was simply too time-consuming to rig for what we needed it to do.

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This model functioned much more effectively for portraying the silhouette and had the simplicity we needed for weighting it properly and animating.

We could always add more to it’s shadow using image planes and editing if need be.