FABLEfx from Stockholm, Sweden is a small studio focused on creature development and animation. Utilizing the cloud, they have the opportunity to put their hands on a variety of projects around the globe.
Sometimes their projects require a lot of intensive, hands-on work, like with "Rynke" the fully-CG Orangutan featured here. And to keep as nimble and efficient as possible, they rely on off-the-shelf tools like our own Maya, Arnold, and Shotgun to get the job (expertly) done.
Over to you, FABLEfx!
FABLEfx here, taking over Autodesk M&E’s Instagram from Stockholm, Sweden! With a small, tightly knit core team focused on creature development and animation, we work in the cloud with subcontractors all over the globe.
Working like this lets the core team focus on the more creative and artistic parts of the process while a lot of the supporting work like matchmove, roto and cleanup are outsourced. We do a lot of the other tasks in the cloud as well- it all depends on the projects and their individual needs. Sometimes there's a lot of hands-on work for us, like on “Rynke” for example, and sometimes we're mostly supervising. It's not unusual that we jump in and do the final bits and pieces of polish to make sure we always push those extra percents though.
Since we have limited resources, we use as many off-the-shelf tools as possible. We’d rather spend our development time on building a flexible and artist-friendly character/creature pipeline tailored to our workflow and needs.
Today, we’ll look at how the Orangutan "Rynke" was crafted with the help of Maya, Arnold, and Shotgun.
1/6 - In this first clip, you can see the different stages of the first shot of the film featuring our CG buddy.
1) Starting out with the plate, we had actress Lynn Roberston Bruce standing in as Rynke the Orangutan -- it was great having her there not just for the boy to interact with throughout the shots but also for everyone to have a live reference in the shot and edit.
2) We did a rotomation pass of the actress to get a foundation for the Orangutan performance.
3) A cleanplate was created where we removed Lynn from the plate.
4) Final animation was a mix of the original on-set performance of Lynn, references of director and actor Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and our own creativeness.
5) The fur has been simmed; lighting has been matched to the onset survey, and comp have done their magic. As you can see, we've poured a lot of love into this to get to the final result.
2/6 - The body rig was done with the Advanced Skeleton rigging tools. We also rigged the skeleton, and a did Maya Muscles setup – these were used as a reference while creating deformations, Pose Space Deformers and shot sculpting. The facial setup is based on Jason Osipas classic setup with our own bits and pieces thrown in for additional flavor. The shape editor was used extensively while crafting blendshapes with the Sculpting Tools. Grouping of shapes kept the shape editor neat and tidy too!
3/6 - Here we can see the actors references and final animation; it's all a creative mix culminating in what's getting us to and over the finish line yet again. Fur grooming was done with Peregrine Labs Yeti, and Lookdev was done in Arnold with the alShaders from Anders Langlands. With the onset data from the shoot, it was pretty straightforward setting up matching lighting conditions inside Maya and Arnold to make sure our creature blended nicely into the environments.
4/6 - Using VP 2.0 we can use proxy UDIM textures in our animation rigs to get a better representation of what it all might look like in the end. There's always quite a lot happening when you start rendering stuff, but this really helps (although it gets confusing for people “not in the know” so we usually just show them the good ol' gray shaded animation dailies :)). The jaw setup is a combination of joints and blendshapes for extra control. The eyelids are also a combination of joints and blendshapes driven by the ZV Radial Blend Shape plugin. The tool also helps you get that nice interaction from the cornea to the eyelids, for example. Shape mirroring and being able to do combination shapes in vanilla Maya these days is great!
5/6 - We pulled out all the stops to try and sell this as a living, breathing being. Grounding a creature like this one, in reality, is key -- simple things like making sure the joints have their pivot in the right place goes a long way. Same thing when doing facial shapes: always respect the underlying anatomy of your creature to make sure you don't stray away from what's physically possible. Or at least plausible ;) As an example, Orangutans don't move their eyebrows much, most of the time not at all. But this was something that the clients wanted so we did what we could to sell it believably. What do you think -- did we make it or break it?
6/6 - For this spot, we had teams and artists working in Sweden, Norway, Great Britain, China, and India. Shotgun came into play here, providing a solid back-end for setting up shots and providing tools for dailies reviews and communication. We've tried some other tools before Shotgun but feel that the off-the-shelf Toolkit for Maya integration (and a lot of other apps) is what really sets it apart from the competition.
Well, thanks for having us and we hope this takeover was as much fun for you as it was for us! Cheers!
Big thanks to our friends at FABLEfx for sharing your story and your skills with us! To see more of FABLEfx's creature creation work, visit FABLEfx.com.