Ed Venture is a spunky 7 year old. With the help of his friends Dern, Gemma and Kirch, the kids get thrown many amazing adventures. The Crystal Eye brings anything Ed imagines to life! Only learning their lesson, or righting a wrong, will return them to their world.
I was brought onto the team at Keyframe Digital Productions in Niagara-on-the-Lake to work on this particular project. The art style we had in mind made for some very interesting rigs. With the help of the whole Keyframe team, we worked together to bring our vision of 2D made with 3D to life! Through working on these whimsical episodes, I’ve developed biped, quadruped, giant monster rigs, and everything in between!
The setup for these rigs is relatively straightforward–a simple IK/ FK blend on the arms with twist bones, with IK legs and a couple custom attributes to help with the transition between IK and FK. This all facilitated the characters being able to strike dynamic poses while giving the animators plenty of control.
The real tricky part came with the faces of the characters. Despite the bodies moving in 3D space, the faces had to maintain set views to mimic traditional drawing styles. Eventually, this was achieved with a series of points that aligned to one another using maxscript. All of this was built into a custom modifier that created a simplified, graphic display for use by the animators. For the facial expressions themselves, textured planes–some with over 50 images–were implemented. These planes were outfitted with multisub materials that were then cycled through using wired parameters and some maxscript working away in the background. As with the overall facial setup, each area of facial animation was incorporated to modifier panel and controlled with simple graphics. Ensuring the 2D look was preserved, while still allowing the characters to fully act in their 3D space.
Beyond the tools used for developing the pipeline, throughout the production we’ve run into a number of unique issues. Ranging from unifying the asset libraries between the Toronto and Niagara studios, to changing all of the FinalToon textures in a scene to native Max formats. Each issue has been resolved by the simple implementation of callbacks and the like running in the background. A couple of the scripts are available for download on my Warehouse 13 page.
We developed a suitable stack, ensuring the geo would act as closely to water as possible once in motion.
For the second episode, we ran into a small conundrum. There was a tank of water in the back of a vehicle which had to flip upside down and quickly jolt from side to side. It became apparent that a simple simulation wouldn’t quite cut it in this instance. It was suggested that I set up a few controllers and just let the animators handle getting the water to look right. Well, those who know me also know I don’t like to just give up on something. The challenge presented was not how to simulate water, without simulating water. With some help from Paul Neale, a solution was devised.
Once the stack was decided upon, it was a matter of figuring out what matrix math would drive it and wire that to the main controller.
The final result, with a short demo of the rig’s other capabilities.