Computer Graphics World

November / December 2017

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n o v e m b e r . d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 7 c g w 1 7 "We had different strategies for the furred characters, and there are lots of them," says Chris Kazmier, VFX supervisor at Cinesite. For Dave's feather system, the group used Yeti; for the small down on his body, they used CS Fur. In the film, Dave uses his feathers to gesture, but the feathers do not serve as fingers. His body is more bird-like, and his wing system can spread, fold, and tuck like an actual bird's, ex- plains Kazmier. "We had to figure out how to make Dave live in this character world but also have some physicality and reality to his anatomy," he adds. Another challenging character when it came to grooms was the sheep Ruth, which is covered in curls that resemble pastry rolls. Each path of curl was hand placed, Kazmier points out. The hardware and dev teams at Cine- site's London studio helped the artists optimize the hair settings and render- ing. "Ruth was expensive at first, but we figured out how to treat her differently [from the other sheep] to be fluffy and light whether during the day or at night. Lighting added a little rig on her, and comp would compensate for that," explains Kazmier. "To do this automatically would have tripled the rendering time." Hair also presented a challenge on the human characters. As Kazmier explains, the director and lead designer had a specific look in mind for Mary's hair. It had to retain a certain shape and be movable, which meant the group oen had to cus- tomize those shots. "Animation had to go back and forth with different facial shapes when Mary spoke so there would be cer- tain curls in all the shots," says Kazmier. Moreover, the humans' long hair and beards required a good deal of grooming, too. Fortunately, veils were oen used to cover the heads – and hair – of some female characters. Those veils and other cloth work, including the long robes, were handled in Maya nCloth. SET DESIGN The world in The Star is designed to feel huge and epic. Like the characters, it has a realistic quality to it in terms of the objects and lighting. Reckart describes The Star as a road movie, which has the characters traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and en route there are multiple locations designed to mirror the mood of the characters at that point in time. "For instance, when there is this big action set piece, we used sharp, jagged desert rocks to frame the canyon area," he explains. "When they are at a low point, we use a desolate desert area." According to Kazmier, Bethlehem was one of those environments that really stood out. That's because there is a lot of variation in height, and there is a large green area. For the foliage in Bethlehem and elsewhere, the artists used SpeedTree's realistic vegetation system. In addition, the artists used Maya and Pixologic's ZBrush to add some non- realistic greenery as well. Some of the outdoor sets are quite large and were provided to animation by the pre- vis department, where the sets were made to be geographically correct according to the story line. The crew designed Bethlehem using a coherent map that the animation team followed for the chase scenes through the city. "We built the city for what we needed in the story," says Reckart. "It was like putting together a puzzle, building a single city to hit the story points and where the characters finally cross paths." THE END Everyone knows how this story ends: with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. But The Star's story delves much deeper. And, it examines the journey. A new beginning. Not just for The Star's characters, but for its filmmakers as well, as it tested the first-time feature director, this expanding and estab- lishing animation studio, and a new model for making animated features at SPA. Not to mention, The Star gave the entire team a chance to work on what they all hope will become a new holiday classic – one for the history books. Karen Moltenbrey is the chief editor of CGW. THE MOVIE FEATURES A VARIETY OF SETS, INCLUDING BETHLEHEM.

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