This project started as a question: What is it that makes ducks funny? Moreover, I wanted to know if there was a code behind the movement of a funny duck. Rather than attempting to understand everything at once, I chose a simple behaviour, walking, and investigated its “funny” potential. Since emotions are also seen among laughing people, they were chosen as nuances for the walking behaviour.
Procedural animation was used on a duck rig prototype to create a palette of stylized walk cycles. People were then asked to name the emotions they thought each duck walk expressed and also if they found them funny. This work is part of the Character Essences project, which focuses on recreating believable actions using procedural animation.
Once upon a time there was a mouse named Gram Glueypaws who lived in the manor house of a rich granny, Beatrice Sparklington. Every day Gram would leave his burrow, from under the mahogany staircase, to steal some shiny jewels granny Beatrice left around the house.
Until one day, Beatrice saw Gram plodding along her persian carpet with her best string of pearls. Beatrice shrieked and called her servants to find the rodent. Her servants searched and dug inside the house with pickaxes and shovels. They made many holes and made Beatrice furious.
Until finally, they discovered Gram’s treasure trove. He had collected hundreds of jewels and pearls to decorate his home for his wife and newly born baby mouse, Stephen. Beatrice’s heart melted, remembering her past youth and unrequited wish to have children. She forgave Gram and his grubby paws.
Ever since that day, Beatrice and Gram have been the best of friends. Gram decorates Beatrice’s home, which now looks like swiss cheese, and she helps his family with spare food and jewelry.
The moral of the story is: Never judge someone’s actions, because you don’t know the whole truth.
Gram is a work in progress character, but here are some technical details that might help you create and render your own characters.
Gram was modelled in Autodesk Maya 2018 and rendered with Arnold Renderer. The face count is 223 360. The materials used were mostly aiStandardSurface, an Arnold specific material, which allows presets like Skin, for realistic skin effects. Purple shades were added in the SubsurfaceColour sections of the material, with the SkinPreset activated. For the eyes, a circular colour ramp was used to create the iris and pupil.
Lighting was done with four Arnold Area Lights, two on the sides, one on top and one at the bottom of the character. Intensities had to be over 500 for them to take the desired effect. The background is two thirds of a box in Smooth mode, with its normals reversed. It was lit using a Directional Light, that had its link broken with the mesh. This is to ensure the light doesn’t affect the character, but lights up the background instead. In the Renderer Settings, under the Arnold Renderer tab, the Camera and Diffuse samples were set to 5 to remove potential noise from the image.
Note: Gram is part of the tutorials I created for 3D Character Development, a unit part of the BSc Character Animation and VFX course at Manchester Metropolitan University.
King Oakenair of Pagefort is the maker of worlds in humans’ imagination, when they read books. He paints the mountains and clouds, the trees and lakes from descriptions. The cloud on top of his cape shows his mood and can thunder and cast lighting when he is angry. His cape can show the stars in a moonlit sky.
Oakenair is most joyous when children read as that is when he creates his best work. He is sad when his imagery bubbles disappear, as children draw away from books. These bubbles hold the descriptions painted and the emotions felt while reading the story.
What inspires you when you design your own characters and stories? Sometimes I like to think of a few things I love and start from there. A bumblebee queen in a grand crinoline is floating on the sea, in her oak leaf boat. She is on a quest to find the Book of Wisdom, to learn how to become human. Little does she know that Grey Rabbit has stolen the book and hidden it in ol’ man Barrel’s cherry orchard. It’s a start…
Mark is self-isolating. In the silence of his home his mind becomes abstract, as thoughts soar for a brighter future. Mark feels empty. Pieces of himself vanish day by day. Light will soon shine through the emptiness he once knew and loneliness will become a distant memory.
Abstract Mark started as an experiment with basic tools in Houdini. Elements like extracting the wireframe from edges and voxelization allowed the creation of a cage-like structure for the geometry. Mark’s 3D head model was created in Maya through edge modelling techniques.
These are some initial sketches and concept art for Madam Bouldeve’s look. A short animation, Madam Bouldeve’s Patiserie, is currently in production, so there’s more to come!
It is another day at Madam Bouldeve’s patiserie. The sun shines through the tall glass windows as the flour bags play chess. A couple of eggs have cracked playing hopscotch. The milk is recovering from a round of spin the bottle. He can’t handle any more kisses from salt bag.
Bouldeve bursts the doors open and gives the place a steely look. ‘Those ingredients are slacking again’, she says. ‘I need to put my foot down!’
As she quickly shuffles, head first, down a long and straight corridor, the oven sounds the alarm. All the ingredients need to jump inside before the lady of the house finds them. One small sacrifice for milk, a big reward for mankind – cake!
Spacey is a character modelled by following Justin Marshall’s tutorial on Modelling Your First Character on Pluralsight. In his shiny boots and colourful suit, Spacey is ready for a new adventure. He’s just arrived on Mr. Alec’s planet, actually. The green, blobby alien greets him with a big toothy smile! Spacey is just a bit confused…
This is a piece of concept art for Three Bridges, a story about children saving their grandparents from being forgotten. In a world separated by efficiency, there is no room for the inefficient. Children, grown-ups and the elderly each have their own district, according to their purpose in society. The children in the Blue District live in care homes, waiting for a visiting ticket from their labouring parents in the Green District. The Violet District is the place to retire, knit, paint and drink tea. Two stone bridges connect the three areas. Little do people know, however, that a third bridge exists, hidden from curious eyes. Those crossing it go to be forgotten forever.
On a lonely summer’s day, my thoughts took me back to Romania. Marioara’s character burst out on paper as a reflection of my childhood memories. Here are some initial sketches of her. I hope to give her more colour in the future.
This is some sample content I did for Polywise. They are working on an app called The Science of Happiness, which gives simple explanations and illustrations about the world we live in. Polywise didn’t choose the illustrations I proposed, however, but no harm in showing them here. I think these images have something to say!