Computer Graphics World

September / October 2017

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s e p t e m b e r . o c t o b e r 2 0 1 7 c g w 2 7 in Side Effects' Mantra. "We had around 100 feathers for both wings, with approximately 1,000 strands per feather," Bohm says. The body, on the other hand, is groomed on the geometry level; thus the feathers were created according to the setup. This enabled the group to cra different shapes and appearances of feathers that could then be painted on the geometry for combinations and variations based on the painted masks. "This means it creates mixed styles of feathers where the masks of different types overlap," Bohm says. "Combined with some procedural varia- tion, this system basically makes sure that every single feather is unique." Due to this large quantity, rather than fully simulating the body feathers, the artists had to "cheat" their movement. "Simulating around 25,000 feathers with 500 strands, all colliding with each other, is quite an undertaking, and you end up with a lot of weird movement," says Bohm. "That volume was simply too high to achieve the result we needed, so we were able to add some noise to their bending and got to almost the same result as a full-blown simulation." The wing feathers, however, were dif- ferent. They were simulated on top of the animation, as there were fewer feathers to deal with on this part of the bird's body. Rendering the fine-feathered bird proved especially difficult. "Frankly, we thought a stork shouldn't be too com- plicated, since it only consists of soft, white feathers – how hard can that be? Well, we were wrong," Bohm says. "We needed a lot of time and many rounds of experimentation and reviews to nail the distinctive look of a stork. The character required some really subtle tweaks and changes to achieve its overall softness, while keeping the amount of feathers, and their individual look, realistic." Animation Challenges It wasn't enough for the stork to look real; it also had to move in a realistic way – from the flapping of its wings and landing on the ground, to the subtlest twinkle in its eye and hesitancy when crossing the road to the neighboring home. "Xavier came into the studio and acted out, shot by shot, how he wanted the stork to behave, from imperfections in its movements, almost clumsy, to the contrasting graceful and delicate movement when the baby is placed on the ground, creating an intimate connection between the baby and the stork," recalls Bryan. To give the stork's flight cycle a more natural and irregular look, the team developed a technique within Maya's animation layers that allowed them to adjust how much energy they put into the body and wings by simply adapting the weight of each layer for when the bird is in flight. "For example, we posed our stork in a glide position as a base layer, then animated the flight cycle on a separate layer," explains Bryan. In the commercial, the stork is given the important task of delivering a baby. Key to delivering a convincing performance was getting the weight of both the stork and the baby correct. Aer all, a baby wrapped in cloth hanging from a stork's beak is not something you can find real-life references for. So, the animators had to contemplate how this extra weight might affect the motion of the stork and then incorporate that into the scene. Unlike the stork, the baby is real. "We always try to follow the rule that CG should only be used when necessary; so the baby was real," Bohm says, noting there would not have been any benefit to creating a CG baby. "Quite the opposite, actually, since mixing reality and CG usually is way more believable that relying on pure CG alone." Madeddu concurs. "We all think the same thing when we see a full-CG baby in a movie: 'That's not quite right, is it?' You never know what it is, but your brain twigs that there's something wrong," he says. "Babies, probably more than fully-grown humans, are one of the most challenging 3D creations to overcome." MPC's team came up with a creative solution: The production's art department created a rig on set with a dummy baby filled with sand, all wrapped up in a bundle cloth. This was then filmed being placed on the doorstep – to provide reference, as if there were a real baby inside. "The tricky bit was when the stork puts the baby down at the doorstep of the house – in that moment we switch from a full-CG bird with a CG bundle to the real footage, which required very accurate comp'ing with the stork's beak," Madeddu adds. While the story line of the commercial is based on an o-repeated myth, the challenges faced by the MPC artists and animators to bring this scenario to life were all too real. And, like the stork in the spot, the group delivered. Karen Moltenbrey is the chief editor of CGW. THE STORK IN THE SHOT IS COMPUTER-GENERATED BUT THE BABY IS REAL.

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