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.

Environment : Snakelair & Snake Run

Most of the second sequence is occupied by the chase of the Rabbit from the Snake through a brambled lair and tunnel, intended to create a feeling of claustrophobia.


This was the initial background and lighting, missing the brambles and dead grass that would be eventually added.


You can see in this shot, the design choice to create claustrophobia relied heavily on dark black and red lighting, though in order to enhance this, the floor and grass were made into pale tan and brown colours, with yellow grass to generate more definition.

When it came to creating the exit, it was important to make sure the corridor was both long enough, and positioned in such a way as to allow the camera to glide through the scene without impacting into geometry.

This paralleled interestingly with the requirement to make the space feel closed and collapsed.

The environment often had to be adjusted between shots to better frame the characters and improve the sense of motion in the scenes.

I also added a soft area light that drifted just in front of the characters in this scene to help them pop out from the dark backdrop more easily.


Rigging Revised : Snek’s and Ladders

As you can see this early snake rig was fairly basic, lacking alot of features and smoothness it needed. It was generally difficult to animate with and had many skin weighting issues.

To clean this up, I produced a couple different set ups, some that automated coiling for one scene, another that allowed each piece to be moved independently, and eventually combining these into a single Rig.

This was the Rig we’d eventually use, with all features combined – which you can see in action both in the final film and in this clip below.

The Rig had some issues, it’s bending wasn’t as smooth as I’d like, and it didn’t have as tight a coil as I’d have hoped for, but it functioned well in the situation.

The Rig suffered some weighting problems due to the thorns, which threw off the initial weight spread and had to be manually painted to the rig.

This didn’t prove to be an enormous issue – though I would like to have redesigned the rig to not include the thorns, though at this point, the blendshapes had been made and for the amount of impact it would have had – redoing them was not worth the effort.

This tutorial form the basis for the above Rig, although  the exact interpretation of this lead to some issues, namely that it couldn’t form the shapes we needed it  to – hence the more complex adaptation in  the film.

This Rig was the replicated version of the one above – I had simplified the body which meant it needed reskinning – however during testing, it didn’t move quite the way it would need to, so we decided to simply fix minor issues and adjust the original instead.


 Sketchfab Render of Bramblesnake

Modelling : The Snake

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.

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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.

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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.