The Bee was a fairly simple model and rig, and mainly comprised of small textured spheres – with wings and legs attached by locators and IK controls to allow them to articulate easily.
Over the past few months I’ve followed alot of tutorials, below is a rather extensive list of the ones I followed.
I used this tutorial primarily to get a stronger understanding of how to skin the joints of the character, and to try and find a solution to the ‘floating eyes’ problem I encountered.
Floating Eyes: The Eye, Teeth and Tongue Geometry of the Snake frequently detached itself from the rig and moved through space parallel to the rig.
When Modelling the Rabbit and Snake, and early attempts at the wolf – I would create their general shape in Maya then port over to Zbrush for fine detailing – I hadn’t touched Zbrush for some time and so I used this tutorial and the one below to refresh my memory on how to use it.
This Tutorial and the two below are fairly obvious, Mainly trying to find different ways of modelling the eyes to make them look realistic – Anna was fairly strong in her view that the eyes needed to be realistic to make the characters feel alive, and so I wanted a range of options.
This particular tutorial was quite handing for working out how to get eye-reflection, however it didn’t work as well in Arnold as it did in the early test renders on maya software.
The mouth cavity tutorials were mostly to just get an eye for the topology and working out how the blend-shapes would deform.
This particular tutorial was mostly to try and get an idea for how I wanted the mouth to deform with teeth and still appear threatening, though I ended up going for the more realistic approach with the teeth and have them contained within the mouth instead of protruding out.
I love the look of this rig and some of the more interesting components of it, though it was more complex than what we needed for the short.
This tutorial was particular useful for grasping how the leg set up should work, with the full body crouching and hierarchy structure of the controls.
This and the tutorial below, primarily served to get a sense of how the legs of the wolf and chimera should bend – initially the chimera was a completely different creature from the wolf, exhibiting similarities and features, but eventually it became easier to simply adapt the wolf itself for narrative reasons.
Though we had no human characters, these were mostly to help get a sense of IK set-ups and refresh my memory of some of the tools available to me while rigging.
Similarly, this tutorial was to help me quickly grasp joint hierarchy and remind myself of the different settings and options available when setting up skin weights.
Whilst this tutorial was helpful, the features it showed from DM were never used, as I couldn’t actually source a free functional version of it for 2018, though the 2017 version was interesting to play around with, if a bit clumsy looking.
Initially, the facial animation was going to be done with controls, however blendshapes were a stronger and more flexible choice for what we wanted.
This whole section was part of me trying to work out why I couldn’t get my IK’s working the way I wanted them too. It eventually took a tutorial Alec sent me from Lynda.com for me to figure out the solution.
This tutorial was less about the IK and more about the arrangement for getting the wolf leg motion exactly how we wanted.
Quadrupeds are tough and make an interesting challenge.
This first foray into Paint Effects seemed to convoluted for me to want to use, however I would later come back to it when looking at how to craft the grass for our scenes.
I loved working with XGEN and MASH grass, however it proved too scene intensive, eventually preventing my laptop from opening any scenes at all – as such, the environments had to be rebuilt and a less strenuous method found.
This was used to help guide me on how I was going to create the busier stream section, and while this tutorial builds a much more complex environment – we wanted to keep ours simpler to help maintain focus on the characters.
These tutorials were just research into different options for creating grass I had, and hopefully in creating fur on the characters – though that would eventually get scrapped for myriad reasons.
Like I mentioned earlier, I initially looked at attaching fur to the Rabbits and Wolf, however similar to with the grass overloading my environments – this made animating and fixing rigging issues very difficult, and it became more hassle than it was worth to actually graft the fur to the characters.
Most of these videos highlight the things I either got stuck on or needed to refresh myself on how to go about enacting. They were mostly helpful, with a few duds here and there depending on many different factors at the time.
For the environment, we wanted our trees in the background to still cast a shadow and have a semblance of physicality in the environment.
> Far Hill Cherry Blossom Tree.
> This uprooted Tree is the only fully 3D one, as it has a sequence of animation in which it is spinning.
This is the first of a handful of trees that we used to populate the rest of the space in the environment background.
We then applied textures and image planes of the leaves Anna had drawn to these models and referenced them into the scene.
Next up, some smaller pieces of shrubbery that would fill the underbrush around the trees.
The Main Character isn’t the only rabbit in our film, and he is surrounded at the beginning by his much larger and fatter siblings, fortunately, they were still rabbits and so most of the modelling work was done for me, and I had learnt most of the mistakes from my earlier model of the main character.
The faces however needed to be modeled from scratch and then matched to an enlarged version of the rabbit body I had modeled and rigged.
The body consisted mostly of restitching and retopologising to match up with the changed topology of the head, and then inflating the chest and proportions to give it a different frame to the main character. Most of it’s mass would come from fur however later on, and I wanted to avoid making it’s physical mesh too large to be animated effectively.
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.
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.
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.
The Snake itself was very much the formation of an idea for a cool shot I had, in which the brambles around the Rabbit during a chase scene would writhe and form into the shape of a snake. As such, initially, the snakes body was basically just a long thorny vine.
Because the snake was pretty much coiling into complex shapes and very long spiralling motions, I made his body very long, adding some slight tapers to make it less of a pipe cleaner. However, the focus was always going to be it’s head, as several of the shots were of it hissing or leaping forward, jaw agape.
The Snake model itself didn’t encounter many problems – it didn’t have much motion and so there were fewer points of deformation, so we didn’t have to spend as much time fixing things as we did on other models – which was helpful, as we frequently encountered a lot of problems once we got to the rigging stage.
The first task was to try and get a 3D version of our main character, so that we could begin animating, as well as solidifying what our 3D style would be. Something that didn’t occur til we reached modelling the Snake, and the later versions of the Rabbit.
All in all, I ended up with maybe a dozen or so different versions, with 3 completely different models started from scratch. Most of this was down to aspects of the Rig not working with certain geometry parts of the Rabbit, others simply due to the aesthetic not fitting correctly with what we wanted.
Easily a Month of our time was spent trying to get the Rabbit right. And still requires some work, but will server for the 3D Animation while we work on completing it.
The first focus was to create a head for the rabbit and work out what his face would appear as.
There were a number of topology issues with this initial model, however I’d never get round to actually correcting them – as innumerable other issues later on meant I’d simply restart the rabbit from scratch.
The initial Rabbit started as this, but instantly we felt it wasn’t as ‘cute’ as we wanted it to be. This led to this particular model being scrapped as we moved on to recreating the 2nd model, the one which would under go many iterations.
To give a sense of this, here is what the actual file page looks like, prior to cleanup and removal of defunct versions.
Through this chaos, there are a small selection of finished models that we had played with for a while.
Initially after finishing the first rabbit model, we had intended for the Rabbit to spend most of the film on it’s Hind legs, however this raised a number of complications when it came to modelling and rigging.
Realizing some of these problems, we quickly rethought the film itself and looked at the shots we intended. Finding that the most important shots had it running on all fours, and many of the upright moments being superfluous and unneeded, as well as adding additional work to an already packed load.
The next rabbit was somewhat more reasonable, albeit I had sculpted most of it, so it’s topology was somewhat absurd and would require fixing.
We noticed some flaws with this model that would need to be fixed between the re topology and the rigging. Mostly the hing legs narrowed too much, and needed to be swollen out and that it should be raised higher, as it’s current legs were too stumpy to portray the animation we wanted.
The Eyes in this model were easily formed and were intended to serve as a temporary guide for the animation and 3D Animatic.
Some of the most notable changes toward our final rabbit model and it’s retopology was a rescaling of the head around the ears, as well as lengthening the legs, deepening the stomach and making the shoulders smoother and the chin less angular.
The face shown here isn’t the final one, and as of the moment of typing – is still in the process of being reworked to allow for easy blend-shape expressions.
We tried to retopologise it to as minimal as possible, making sure to add additional edgeloops in the areas with the most deformation around joints.
Happy with the results of the Rabbit Model for now, I moved on to rigging it. Which can be found in a blog post on the Rigging part of this project later on.