Quiet Man Brings an Endangered Species to Life
World Wildlife Fund
The Plowshare Group
Creative Director: Larry Robbins
Creative Director: John LaRock
Account Supervisor: Jeff Boal
Business Manager: Jeff Boal
Link Entertainment, London
Director: Larry Robbins
Producer: Debbie Horvath
Editor: Pierre Fabre
Quiet Man, NYC
"Shelter From The Storm"
by Bob Dylan
Man 3D animator Dave Shirk, whose work is regularly featured in
commercials for Pepsi, Kodak and IBM, recently tackled one of
the most challenging projects of his career for the nonprofit
World Wildlife Fund.
lesson, part fur styling session, the process involved bringing
a panda bear to life for the WWF fund-raising campaign.
The: 60 spot,
scheduled to air this spring, encourages contributions for the
protection of endangered species by employing a straightforward
concept. "It takes place in limbo," Shirk says. "The
panda walks across the frame, a large contribution envelope falls
to the ground; we hear Shelter from the Storm in the background,
and the bear takes cover inside the envelope. He crawls in, curls
up and peacefully goes to sleep."
the spot with a live panda was out of the question so the WWF
decided to use computer graphics. "Animators generally rely
on two approaches to creating the illusion of life. You can make
the character so stunningly real," Shirk says, "that
people will say, 'Oh, it's a real bear.' Or you can make it come
to life through performance, capturing nuances so it feels real
although it doesn't look real."
bear was not intended to be photo-realistic," Shirk explained.
"It had to be artwork but the character still must generate
empathy. No matter what the look, if the performance doesn't ring
true, I have failed as an animator. We spent a great deal of time
creating a stylized look and tuning the panda's performance."
style of motion for a character begins by studying anatomy to
determine how its real life counterpart moves. Shirk developed
an understanding of the anatomic details by looking at film footage.
After watching the best footage he could find, Shirk began to
draw pandas, figuring out
how they move and what goes on underneath their skin.
character's motion is driven by its skeleton, but it is the interaction
between the skeleton and the surface defines what we see. "It's
important to develop the skeleton simultaneous with the skin,"
he says, "so you properly define the muscles, how the shoulders
move, where you need more or less geometry to create a robust
character in terms of the way it performs in the computer."
Skin and Skeleton Together
To develop the skeleton and skin together, Shirk turned to his
primary animation tool, Softimage 3D software to confront the
challenges of working with fur.
clear during tests that the best result would be obtained with
a single-surface model, which guided Shirk's thinking on modeling
with NURBS, or polygons."The advantage of NURBS is
that you can get a complex, curved surface with few control points.
So when you attach the character to the skeleton, there are less
points to manage," he says.
polygons allowed Shirk to create a single unbroken surface, to
which to apply fur. "You have a mesh entirely created from
one continuous surface so you don't have to worry about the parts
coming apart but you do have to manage numerous control points.
Up to this point in the modeling, Shirk has essentially been looking
at a bald bear. The process of growing hair began by creating
texture maps to control the application of fur parameters to the
model's surface. The maps are referred to by the main tool for
creating the hair, Phoenix's FurGen plug-in.
of the drawbacks to modeling with a polygon mesh," Shirk
says, "is that the implicit mapping one normally uses on
a NURBS object is not available. So Shirk used YouMap, the texture
fitting plug-in from Cineframe, to make a simplified NURBS surface
that acted as a UV coordinate "proxy," allowing areas
of the object to be mapped in a single projection.
itself was painted in Deep Paint 3D by Right Hemisphere. "I
exported models to Deep Paint," Shirk says, "and painted
directly to the surface of the model. It was like painting on
the skin of a panda bear and the colors, white or black, were
propagated onto the hair. Deep Paint plugs into Photoshop, so
I can use Photoshop tools. When I'm happy with everything, I send
the maps back into Softimage.
we examine how the fur is going to look on the surface,"
Shirk continues. "We paint several additional maps to control
the length of the fur at different places on the animal's body
and maps to control the thickness of the hairs. On the face, for
instance, we make the hairs much finer than on the stomach. On
the belly, the hairs are coarse and fewer are required so you
have to up the density."
For a bear
to star in a commercial, its fur must be appropriately groomed.
This was accomplished with Phoenix's FurComb plug-in "On
the face, you don't want the hair to grow straight up; it should
lay back against the muzzle."
fur elegantly styled, Shirk finessed the animation, finalizing
lighting on a shot-by-shot basis. "With client approval,
we applied animation to the final model," said Shirk. "Rather
than rendering all at once, the animation is rendered in a series
of passes, generating Softimage PIC files for compositing in inferno.
Quiet Man is a creative problem solving visual effects company
featuring the Flame compositing skills of Johnnie Semerad.
The company has attracted major brands like Pepsi and Nike,
and won the four-year-old company some of the industry's
top awards, including: Clios, Emmys, American Advertising
Awards, Cannes Lions, a Grammy and AICP recognition.
Quiet Man philosophy Do it with personality; Do it
with style; and keep it comfortable for everyone concerned.
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