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This is Glenn Blast. He's a professional
entertainer. Ever since he was pulled out of Henry's back yard garden,
he has felt agony over his situation. To lose family and friends
from the happy soil times isn't very easy for a carrot, and he can
be quite frustrated over the fact. Now he's all by himself and would
be very happy to join his kind... wherever they are.
Or. Actually, he's a helping hand for
me to explore my animation talents. Since I finished my education
in 3D-graphics almost three years ago I've been working at an
advertising agency and later with computer game production. But
I've always felt there's a couple of obvious holes in my portfolio
that needed to be filled. Such as a real character setup, with waving
arms and lipsync. So, by the end of febrary I started to think about
how to make a short film with a character talking and expressing
emotions with a few controls. So Glenn Blast's performance here
is really my first character setup and animation of it.
As said, I started by the end of february
and could, since I'm out of a job for the moment, spend full time
at the project. I finished editing last friday, wich makes 40 days
or around 300 hours of production time, from the first cone geometry
to the last end title. That may sound like a long time, but since
it was a personal project I'd only an emotional deadline and felt
free to bend the project time to tweak and change whenever I needed.
Besides, this is quite time-consuming work, first designing the
damn vegetable and then animating it.
The idea of a singing carrot
came actually as a cooperation between me and my ex girlfriend, Malin.
I saw Victor Navone's alien
Blit singing 'I will survive' and thought that was a great way to
test one's character animation abilities. Therefore, I was looking
for a good song and a idea for a
fun character. Malin had an idea about a carrot screaming of pain
and agony when being pulled out of the soil. That, together with
a great sing-a-long song, formed the theme. What song? Well, you
hear that when you watch the film. :-)
What about the ending? Well, Glenn
is a carrot. You eat carrots. That’s my hands, by he way.
And the sound of me eating a carrot.
The name Glenn Blast then? I thought
Glenn (yes, with two n) is silly enough for a professional entertainer
as this. Blast may be his catchy way of trying to be a cool artist.
For me it’s just even more silly. Also, 'blast' in swedish
means that green stuff on top of, for example, a carrot.
The tools that I've used are Maya
for modeling, setup, animation and rendering, Adobe Photoshop for
the texture maps, Digital
Fusion for some post processing (depth blur), Adobe Premiere
for cutting the clips together, and Adobe Audition (former Cool
Edit Pro) for some sound effects. An, of course, pen and paper.
designed Glenn mostly right out of my head, as I am a really
bad sketcher. I started out with a cone primitive, splitting and
subdividing, using the standard how-to-model-a-polygon-head method
until I got the result I wanted. Not a difficult thing - everybody
knows what a carrot looks like, even one with a face and arms and
legs. The haulm was tricky. I tested a couple of tree/plant generating
scripts as well as Maya Paint Effects, because I wanted to make
it look as realistic as possible. But I ended up with simple subdivided
branches with a few attached leaves. So much for wanting to avoid
to cartoonish feeling of it all. Darn.
The eyes is two spheres with textures
attached to them (wow, I wonder how I came to think of that!). The
eyelids are a couple of semi-spheres rotating around the eye spheres.
I followed a tutorial to make the eye's texture (unfortunately,
I've lost the link to that tutorial, but you can find a few similar
only by searching for 'eye texture tutorial' at Google).
There's also a specular map attached to the eyes so they refects
light differently depending on the texture. There should really
be more to the eyes when it comes to shading (an extra semisphere
for the pupil etc), but this was good enough for me. There is also
an aim constraint on a locator that Glenn always is looking at.
Since I modeled the carrot's arms
by extruding faces from the boy, and the legs separately, I had
spend a couple of days straighten up the UV's. Foolish me. That
together with me being such a perfectionist (sometimes). The body
texture, as well as the bump map was hand-painted in Photoshop,
with the UV grid in the foreground. The haulm texture wasn't even
painted, just generated. If you look close enough (well, you don’t
HAVE to) you can se some splices in the texture.
I created a bunch of blend shapes for the facial animation.
The eyebrows, the forehead, the upper cheek, the mouth and parts
around it, the "nose", had to be combined in order to
give Glenn the expressions he needed. I also created the seven basic
mouth position to form the words. You really don't need any more
for this kind of animation.
mixing the song a bit (for a more powerful chorus), I used
a exposure sheet to
break down the singing and write down which sound comes when. That
means listening to each part of a second of the song over and over
again. I'm also starting to write down special expressions at certain
points that I think is important. At that point I had not eyt grown
tired of the song. I thought it still was catchy.
Technobabble: For each mouth positition
blend shapes I created a clip in the character set for the mouth.
Then, using my exposure sheet notes, I created instances of the
different clips onto the trax editor timeline, to form Glenn's mouth
correctly at the exact moments. Creating blend connections between
the clips made smooth transitions between the mouth shapes, but
they still looked quite stiff and automated. To improve that, I
should've put another layer with secondary animation curves on top
of the mouth clips, which I never did. That's why his mouth movements
looks a little bit stiff when he sings. I'll do better next time.
To complete the lip sync, not counting the breaking down of the
song on the exposure sheet, took only one day and a half! Adding
two layers with additional expression animation around the eyes
and mouth took another two days.
When the lipsync of the lyrics and
the facial expressions was done, I build the skeleton, from the
tail and feet to the arms & hands, top of the head and haulm.
The hands was even simplier than Blitz's, like a glove. Which means
it's easier to animate, but on the other hand less expressive. I
made IK handles and a couple of driven keys to reduce the amount
of joints I had to control. I painted the skin wieghts so that his
skin should crease nicely, not affecting the wrong parts of his
body. At this point I tried to use a wrap deformer technique instead
to get nice deformation at elbows and armpits. But Glenn was to
heavy (too many polygons), so I had to abandon that and do it the
old-fashion way. That's another thing I'll do better next time.
tipped me about a script that I used for the haulm. The
script uses goal weights to get the branches to wobble back and
forth and side to side, reacting to one spine joint and to each
other, respectively. That gave Glenn some nice secondary animation.
The tail is also scripted that way, though in a more discreet way.
I don’t want him to wag his tail to much. That may steal attention.
I don't want this film to be rated NC-17.
By then it was time to animate the
arms, wrists and the spine. That was done in a couple of days, including
tweaking and and polishing the animation. But it was great fun to
do the parts that, in my opinion, looks best in the film –
for example when Glenn takes the steps to grab the microphone and
shuffles the microphone stand aside. And
the secret of transforming the microphone from being held by the
stand to being held by Glenns left hand? Duh, there’s actually
TWO microphones! Maybe that’s standard procedure in the Big
World, but I’m kind of proud of having figured that out on
When I thought his movements were OK,
I added a few cameras, animated some of them and rendered quick
screen (playblasts) previews from every camera. Before that I animated
the eyes aim object, so he looks into the cameras that I think I
will use. Then I brought the previews into Adobe Premiere and and
did a test edit. When I was satisfied with that I wrote down which
cameras should be rendered when, fixed some animation details
that needed to be done, wrote a few lines of render que, and hit
Crossing my fingers didn’t help.
Of course I had to re-render some of the clips because suddenly
the right arm’s IK handle animaion curve had changed, causing
the elbow to break in a scary way sometimes. Plus a couple a camera
animations that needed to be changed.
When finally all the clips were rendered,
I imported them one by one into Eyeon Digital Fusion to add some
depth blur, since I’d rendered the images with a Z-channel
included. Rendered again, I brought everything into Adobe Premiere
and cut everything together. And the rest isn’t history, yet.
Oh, I also spend an evening making the few sound effects for the
end of the film.
Once again, this is the first time
I’ve build, rigged and animated a complete character. (I gave
character to a couple of bicycles
once, but that's not the same thing.) If you managed to read through
everything above (congratulations!), you can see
that I did everything from scratch to end with not much testing
or external reviewing. Maybe that’s wrong, but it's a way
to figure out how good I am at this. As a result, Glenn Blast may
seem a little bit stiff on stage. I know he doesn’t move around
much. That may be because I’ve been careful (or afraid?) not
to exaggerate his movements, since that sometimes results in ugly
and unrealistic animation. Besides, at that point I was eager to
get to the next step in the project. Next time I’ll be more
bold and patient at the same time. With Glenn and/or with another
character. I promise.
some more pictures...