Character modelling was fairly straightforward: the team began by using a low-density mesh of around 40,000 polygons, then used 3DS Max’s TurboSmooth modifier to increase this to around 650,000.
“With the characters I set the biped up to fit the model and, before adding the skin modifier, I detached the head to create morph targets for the facial animation,” reveals Mark Taylor-Flynn, 3D animator at Finger Industries.
He continues: “With the morph targets, I duplicated about a dozen heads from the original detached head, then modelled different expressions for the character to give variety – using Morphs for the facial animation gives you a lot of control and you can keep adding to the targets if need be.
"The skinning is straightforward in 3DS Max – selecting skin modifier and assigning verts to bones is sometimes very time-consuming in more complex models, but when done right it works a treat.”
The large number of glass objects within the animation was a significant challenge for the team – with two scenes, in particular, featuring lots of glass objects in frame at once.
“The glass material was created using the V-Ray Material,” explains Chris Walker, 3D artist at Finger Industries. “It was a simple shader that required some trial and error before reaching the final look. The material was first set up as an accurate glass shader, but this looked too realistic and didn’t really fit within the rest of the animation.”
It was important to ensure the glass had realistic Fresnel reflections, but also a rough-looking specular highlight.
This was achieved by unlocking the reflection and highlight glossiness properties in the V-Ray Material and lowering the highlight glossiness.
The index of refraction of real glass is around 1.5, but this was lowered to 1.1 so the refractions weren’t as distorted.
“I’m really happy with the design, and the way the look carried through from the early stages right through to postproduction – it’s very satisfying when something comes out just the way you intended,” says Ford.
He continues: “A part of that is the way technical issues were resolved to get the look right – you always try to design without worrying about the constraints but often at the back of your mind there’s a little voice going ‘Sure I can draw this, but how do we animate it?’, but after the recent work we’ve been doing, there are pretty much no constraints. I’d say that the lip-synching rocks, too.”
Ready for a close-up
The puffs of powder from the makeup jar were created using 3DS Max’s basic particle tool Super Spray. “Each particle was a facing plane that had a simple standard material applied to it, which made use of radial Gradient Ramp maps in both the diffuse and opacity channels to give it the puffy, cloud look,” explains 3D artist Chris Walker. “This was a low-tech way to do the clouds, but it kept setup and render times down.”
These Days began the project with a strong creative concept for Hank as a folk protest singer with American roots in the style of Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash.
The soundtrack was recorded by a former member of The Flying Pickets, to which Finger Industries then lip-synched the animation.
While the lip-synch itself was fairly straightforward, says Arthur Tubbs, lead artist at Finger Industries, introducing character to the animation was tricky.
“The way Hank tends to speak out of the side of his mouth was challenging but once we got our heads around that particular process, it was great to see Hank come alive on the monitor.”
Project: I’ll Be Back animated viral
Agency: These Days
Studio: Finger Industries fingerindustries.co.uk
Software: Adobe Flash, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, Autodesk 3DS Max 2009, V-Ray
On the CD: You can view this spot and a behind-the-scenes video on this month’s cover disc.