Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Surly Bird - The Movie

Happy Tuesday, TAGgers.

Here is a quick screenshot and turntable of a digital maquette of Surly Bird, the star of an animated short I am going to make.

The maquette is a revived model I started in Maya back around 2001-2002 and updated in Modo. Then I refined it a bit in Zbrush. The final sculpt and proportional changes where done in 3DCoat. I'll retopo this maquette in 3DC and probably work on textures in Substance Designer. I'm going to rig and animate in Messiah: Studio. I'm working on a plot and storyboards right now. The story will involve his obsession with coffee and how it almost became his undoing. I did a teaser in the TAG Sampler using an alternate character design. I liked the original version of his beak and head.

Edited to add some pencil tests (one regular, one color) of Surly Bird done in ToonBoom Animate. Love that program.


MrGoodson2 said...

That looks great Ronnie. Quite the multimedia 3d project. I look forward to see that rigging effect on it.

Surly Bird said...

Thanks, Ellis. Tnis is one of those projects that has always been gnawing away at the back of my skull, saying "Seriously...when are you going to actually make me?"

Davis Chino said...

Very cool!!

This is lookin' so good! I am excited to see how this develops...and how the final story comes out (a coffee obsessive? I can relate!).

Rock on, brother Surly! So cool to see some of yr 3D work! It really dresses-up the venerable T.A.G. Blog!

MrGoodson2 said...

How many Toon Boom products do you have? The tests look cool. Have you got your edge loops done for nice stretches in the face and head.?

I barely know what I'm talking about on the subject of modeling these days. It's been so long since I did any.

Surly Bird said...

I only have ToonBoom Animate, Ellis. John Kricfalusi says it's all any animator will ever really need, so I took his advice and got that.

To be honest, I got so frustrated not making any real progress with this project for so long, I got TB Animate as a way of at least getting some kind of animatic down before I died. I'm not really kidding about that. I've been stalled out on this, for over a ten years.

In 3D, there are so many steps you have to do (and do right - no skipping) that I had kind of given up. I was getting bogged down in technical minutiae: Each part of the process is an arcane and highly technical skill. And as I mentioned earlier, this character has gone through the gamut of programs -- Maya, Modo, Zbrush, blah blah blah. I was never really satisfied with the look I got in 3D. Then when I got Animate, I did two drawings in a sequence and was like "Eureka!" More personality and life in those two sketches than in all the throw-away models I have made over the past decade.

However, when it came time to actually make the animation fluid, I got a lesson in humility and I understand why 2D animation is in the state it's in. Lots and lots of drawings to get anything resembling actual motion. However, there is so much freedom in those drawings. You can break all kinds of rules and it will work, mostly. So, I dunno... I'm still chewing on the best approach - 2D or 3D.

What I have thought about doing is blocking the whole thing out in 3D to get timing, spacing, masses and other essential storytelling things locked in place and then going over those renderings with straight-ahead animation to infuse a sense of hand-crafted life into the character. In truth, these pencil tests are partial proof-of-concepts and the technique works pretty well.

The pencil tests started as very simple blocking - three weak and choppy poses rendered in Modo. I imported and re-timed the three renderings in ToonBoom. Then I 'inked' over those poses and went in between the frames with more drawings. With a little finessing of the process (more poses in 3D), I can have a pretty solid system, I think.

That's a lot of boilerplate, I guess. But I really want to make sure I have a elegant way of making changes when I hit a snag or find something isn't working - either in story or in animation. And I really want the vitality and charm you see in the old MGM, Warner Bros. and Fleischer-era cartoons. It's always been my dream to make an animated short and I want it to be entertaining more than a technical showcase.

Tom Moon said...

Terrific Ronnie! Glad you are pursuing something you've always dreamed of doing!

MrGoodson2 said...

Yes, I'm with Tom. You always have a great sample if you just do what you're enthused about.
Marty's Teen Ellis should get him work if he ever wanted work in comics.
A fun short could lead you to a perfect fit job.

Surly Bird said...

Thanks, everybody, for the comments and support. Really stoked to get back on this. If I can keep consistent incremental movement, I'll be happy. And please don't be shy in giving constructive advice, critiques, etc. More stuff coming soon!