Rigging Revised : The Rabbit

Having completed the project, I can now reflect on the Rabbits Rig, what I learned, achieved and would improve if I were to create it again today.

Initially the Rig had alot of problems, and some of them still persist at completion.

Primarily the Rabbit can’t stand up on it’s hind legs without some major deformation issues – however research showed that the only solution to this was to have two seperate rabbit models and rigs, one built for bipedal motion and another for quadrupedal.

Seeing as the rabbit had only two scenes where he needed to stand up, this felt like an excessive diversion at the time.

Paint Weights and IK issues also appeared prevalent, and fortunately Alec was able to help correct many of those, which I could then apply to the Fat Rabbit in turn.

intherain

One of the interesting parts and adjustments made to the rabbits Rig was the functionality for chest and joint swell, which was useful for shots like the one above, where his head had to crane back and lift, which would normally cause excessive deformation and texture drag.

This was fixed with a combination of a driven joint and a blendshape that would pull in parts of the lower belly and push out the neck and chest to make it look like his body was correctly shaped from odd angles.

Constructing the Fat Rabbit rig mostly involved the transferring of attributes between the Main Character Rabbit and the Additional Rabbits.

This was fairly simply done after uncovering a couple helpful tutorials.

Transferring UV’s made painting the skin weights much easier, and meant that we could also transfer the skin weights on the Rabbit itself to it’s chubby sibling, making cleanup more effiecent.

This video was less useful but clued me on to the actual transfer of the rig to a new model and came in useful when I would add a feature to one rabbit that I wanted to replicate on the other, saving a lot of set up time and leaving only the bug fixing to do.

https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/maya/learn-explore/caas/CloudHelp/cloudhelp/2018/ENU/Maya-CharacterAnimation/files/GUID-B8755F24-7C24-4066-B6F8-2DE6954DC2BF-htm.html

Autodesks own tutorial on Corrective Blendshapes was more than sufficient for the small amount we needed to do. Mostly consisting of wrist and belly inflation to compensate for the stretch and allowing the rabbit to move with a bit more weight.

 

Rigging : The Rabbit

Having modeled the rabbit I focused on Rigging it so that it could be animated and used.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first version of the Rig was tied to the older model of the Rabbit, and was fairly simple. We’d added a number of joints across the face in order to allow us to do facial animation. However, this made painting weights much harder and required Anna to learn a whole new way of animating the face, so we decided to leave that and go to blendshape animation for the face.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The later rabbit rig worked much for effectively. It had eyelids tied to a  control on the head and a full set of Ik’s for moving the legs. Anna would frequently give feedback on what parts needed additional controls or options added in.

This extensive Rig meant the Outliner was somewhat hectic, however it also meant the animator never needs to actually touch it. Still, I was proud of the relatively tidy manner in which I kept it.

Modelling : A Fat Rabbit

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Modelling : The Rabbit

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Rabbit_smooth001Rabbit_wire001Rabbit_wire002

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

Aesthetic & Tonal Reference : ED

All the anthropomorphism wasn’t part of what we want to go for, the overall aesthetic, rendering effects,lighting and the shifting tones throughout the scenes all had good relations to certain shots we had planned.

It also had a good use of sound without dialogue through the short film, something we too planned to do.

Tonal Reference : Poilus

I remembered this video from last year, and thought that it had some apt tonal similarities to what we wanted to achieve.

Specifically the use of cloud and greytones to create a narrow and closed space, and the close up camera angles through action scenes to convey the character’s emotion constantly.

Run Rabbit Run : Video References

Aside from images of Rabbits, I wanted to identify the more technically important part of how Rabbits would run – looking at how they moved whilst in motion, whilst static and how they would interact with each other regularly.

This particular video showed very large rabbits moving and digging – displaying their actions whilst eating.

An immediate notation is that when they move, their backs raise in an arc before forcing down on their front paws, giving the image of their hind legs kicking up.

This video, from the same source, also acted as a good comparison to how our main character would move. A much sharper and bouncier hop, as opposed to larger gait of the main group.

This video from the Discovery Channel, showed a young rabbit being chased by a weasel, and raised a few interesting points about how to set up the scenes or display the character fleeing.

Notably, they  mention that they run in their own footprints, going over already worn trails, which could both maintain a realism to the behavior, and more clearly display that our character is trying to catch up with the rest of the Warren, by literally moving in their footpath.

This video, featuring the largest continental rabbit in the UK, Darius – highlights the type of behavior we want to display in the bulk of the Warren, as opposed to our main characters skittish and frantic movement, the rest would be more of a slow plod, with a clear sense of direction and no obvious feeling of fear.

This video in particularly will serve as a good reference for how our Rabbit will move – with the slow motion footage giving a clear view of it’s locomotion.

This video as a technical resource for animating the Rabbits will also be useful, as it gives a lot of clear footage of idling Animation and how they move when either startled or in play. All of the footage I gather here is compiled for Anna to use as an initial reference for animating.

This footage, from a video I can neither pronounce nor type, has some nice crisp and clear footage of a Rabbit stopping and starting, as well as idling in between.

The sheer quantity of Rabbit videos is nothing to be scoffed at, though sorting between those that either have the rabbit get shot during it, (or are filmed by what I can only assume is a one armed troglodyte living in a world where rotating their phone 90′ is the most egregious crime they could commit), is nothing short of a pain.

A staggering number of the footage seems to come from Japan for whatever reason, but does at least seem to have the trope of being good, well shot footage for the most part. Making it invaluable when it comes to getting a wide berth of references for how a rabbit moves and acts.

This footage is a nice sped up video focusing on a group of Rabbits, one of the few I could find in such good quality. And was a particularly nice reference for how the Warren could interact with each other, to further highlight a discrepancy between how they behave towards themselves and towards our main character.

I have a much larger bulk of footage available, and will be compiling a playlist of all watched and referenced videos. But for now, at the expense of turning this post into an unending spool of Rabbits, I’ll summarize the experience of researching video footage of Rabbits.

Why are there so many Anime Credit Songs over footage of Fat Blond Rabbits doing nothing.

 

Real-Life Rabbit References

For the research into our characters and our primary Artistic Goals, we wanted to look at different types of Rabbit, mainly focusing on Continental Rabbits from England, South France and Greece, as they had an appearance that we found particularly appealing and would already have a rapport with the bulk of our audience.

I began by looking at general continental rabbits of different ages and sizes, identifying consistencies between them.

Enormous Ears and Soft Round Faces were the most notably characteristics and could be conveyed well in an Animation.

Out of all the images I reviewed, I liked the Aesthetic of the soft tan and ginger rabbits the most, and thought it was a good distinctive colour to apply to our main character. Differentiating between the Rabbits by colour was also an effective tool for quickly relaying a sense of seperation between our main character and the rest of the warren.

The varying shades of Ginger gave us a good immediate colour board from which to work when deciding the textures and tones of our main character, we noticed immediately that Rabbits have a much paler line of fur that rings their eyes, accentuating their features.

I also found that the pale fur beneath the chin and spread throughout was a nice aesthetic that could be utilized.

The primary emotion we wanted to convey was fear, and so I looked for references of how a Rabbit may emote when under duress.

I found a limited but apt sample of images to draw from, and was able to immediately draw a conclusion.

It became clear that lowering the head, and dropping the ears or arching them straight back flush along the spine, identified the rabbit as being afraid.

The Eyes also seemed to either be covered, in a more childlike expression of fear, or wide open and alert. These could easily be used in rapid combination to display fear throughout the Short Film.