Yeti Breathes Life into CG Teddy Bear

Espen Nordahl, CG Supervisor at Storm Studios, knew Yeti was the right choice when tasked with bringing the head of a CG teddy bear to life in a recent commercial.  We asked Espen to tell us about his experience with Yeti on this and other projects and here’s what he had to say:

“I was the CG supervisor on this Norwegian commercial we did over a few weeks this summer. The sequence is a montage of a young boy’s memories of his relationship with his teddy bear. In these memories the bear is the same size as the boy and they vary between moments where they were happy or scared, plus a couple of teddy gags.  The shoot involved another child wearing a stuffed teddy bear costume, and we were tasked with replacing the parts of the suit that didn’t work on the shoot – which mostly meant replacing the live action head with a CG version, as well as patching up unwanted seams in the suit.”

soft_flora_vfx_stills_01

Nordahl continued, “We use Yeti for all of our fur and hair needs at Storm, because it’s simply the best off-the-shelf solution out there. The node-based workflow for grooming is something that appeals a lot to the way we work, and having a Maya-centric pipeline means it fits right in without having to jump through a bunch of extra hoops.”

“I really like where we ended up on the look and feel of the fur, and the team did a fantastic job. This was a fun and relatively straightforward project, and we solved it without bumps along the way, which is always refreshing when you’re on a tight schedule”, Nordahl added.

When we asked if there was anything else he’d like to share about working with Yeti, Nordahl told us, “I want to stress the importance of having a good fur/hair shader, both for the final results of the shots and also the process. If you have a physically based shader that behaves predictably under any lighting condition it means you spend minimal time tweaking shader parameters, and  instead focus all your efforts on the actual groom. Once you have your fundamentals in place, most of your look and “feel” of the fur – as well as the realism – will come from the grooming itself, so the more you get to focus your time on that the better.”

soft_flora_vfx_stills_03

He also went on to say, “We use the alShaders package for Arnold here at Storm, which has a hair shader that looks great out of the box. Being able to use brute force indirect lighting is something that takes what used to be a tedious setup of treating fur lighting separately from regular lighting, and instead lets you treat them like any other shots. Rather than fiddling with cheat lights, shadow settings and light linking, you can do it properly and proxy model the set and have light bounce around naturally in the scene, which both makes the process a lot simpler and gives a very natural feel to the lighting with very little effort.”

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us and share your great work, Espen!

Watch the full spot here:

Yeti helped Fido bring this Yoga Cat to Life

When tasked with creating a cat that specializes in downward dog, our product, Yeti helped Fido bring this Yoga Cat to life in a new commercial for ChocoFresh.

We asked Joakim Eriksson, Lighting VFX Artist at Fido, to tell us all about their experience with Yeti and here’s what he had to say:

“Have you ever seen a cat in a desperate attempt to catch a chocolate addicted mum’s attention by doing yoga? Probably not – but it’s a fun concept! Our team at Fido was asked whether it was possible to make a realistic cat in full CG and although challenging, we were all very keen to tackle it. As I’ve worked on both furry and creature projects at Fido as a Lead Lookdev artist in the past, I was asked to be involved in this project to contribute my knowledge and experience.”

“The challenge for each new project, and it is important to ensure that you do what is best for each individual project, is the direction you should take and what tools to use to achieve the best possible result. When creating an animal like a cat the focus is to make the fur as believable as possible, where every fibre is crucial in fooling the viewer’s eye, and you need flexibility to achieve these results.  It was a couple of years ago that we were introduced to Yeti from Peregrine Labs and we haven’t looked back.”

“Yeti has become one of our primary tools that has been used for many different assets including fur, feathers, or other geometry such as landscape, stone, etc. I knew we could rely on Yeti for Chocofresh as it would be powerful enough to provide the look we were after yet simple to use, even for those who have never used it before, allowing us to iterate quickly for the production.”

“We were very happy that we made the choice; grooming was fast and predictable and there was a lot of flexibility offered by the procedural node graph (which I love) – it is such a great tool! Another area that worked particularly well in the Chocofresh production was that we could easily do shot-based fur direction and changes without having to modify the original asset.”

“In short, Yeti is a great tool! It is smooth and works like a charm. We really enjoy using it at Fido and our clients are satisfied with the result!  Could we do this without Yeti? My answer to that would be: How?”

Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your experience working with Yeti, Joakim.  We love this spot!

Things get “Hairy” in Sausage Party

In the hilarious new animated feature film, Sausage Party, things get a little “hairy” with the help of Yeti. Nitrogen Studios‘ Senior Lighting Supervisor, Laura Brousseau, was kind enough to chat with us about how and why they used Yeti for this project.

“All of the work on Sausage Party from storyboards to edit was done at Nitrogen Studios. We did not have any specific sequences that required hair but more a large group of very diverse assets that needed some kind of hair. We had hair that went from very short and simple to beards and moustaches to crazy curly masses of hair almost all of which needed some kind of interaction with other assets. On top of that, we had a variety of foliage including grass, hedges, flowers, plants and even hay that needed to be created. We focused on great design, sim to support the animation style and shading and lighting that balanced our creative aesthetic with our rendering budget.”

darren_SausageParty_NitrogenStudios

When asked why they decided to use Yeti, Brousseau said, “Nitrogen Studios had previously used other hair systems and while each had its strength, we saw Yeti as potentially being better at supporting the needs of Sausage Party. The flexibility, available tools and integration with Pixar’s RenderMan allowed us to hit all the different looks we needed to and support the demands of a show with a stylistic approach to animation. To add to that, we had crew members that had used Yeti before and they were keen to work with it again.”

cashiers_SausageParty_NitrogenStudios

Nitrogen also told us that, “Yeti allowed us to balance our creative goals with our schedule and budget. We had a fairly small amount of ramp-up time for our hair workflow but Yeti is intuitive and we had great support from Peregrine Labs, even getting a visit from Colin Doncaster, CEO, to help us get started. While we did have some challenges with some difficult simulations and a few shots with heavy rendering we were able to deliver the desired look. The crew really enjoyed working with Yeti and we hope to be able to use it again on future projects.”

Your work on this film is absolutely fantastic, Laura and the rest of the Nitrogen Studios team. Thank you for speaking with us and using Yeti!

Credits:

  • Nate Barnard – CG Supervisor
  • Ryan Bowers – CFX and Shot Finalist
  • Laura Brousseau – Senior Lighting Supervisor
  • Kevin Phibbs – Look Development Supervisor
  • Marie-Eve Kirkpatrick – Lead Texture Artist

Note: Discretion should be used when viewing the trailer for this R-rated film.  

Supamonks used Yeti in Stone Age Trailer

Supamonks Studio used Yeti to develop the trailer for the new mobile version of Netmarble’s game, Stone Age. Romain Carlier, who’s first introduction to Yeti was at Fix Studios in 2012 and worked as a hair artist at Supamonks for this project, spoke with us about his experience working with our software.

“There were two artists assigned to grooming for this project: Guillaume Kerfriden worked on the lion’s fur and I was responsible for the boy’s hair, the bird and the dynamics. All hair, feathers and fur were made in Yeti/V-ray, and I used Yeti’s dynamics and the new motion node for the wind.”

SA01_Master-Cut-Render[1920x1080_1min32].1570

“When it came to choosing software for this work, Yeti was an obvious choice. It is really simple to incorporate it into the pipeline while being quick and easy to work with while creating fur. On a commercial spot like this, the fact that we can work without maps and just use face sets combined with paintable attributes saves a lot of time, we don’t need to concern ourselves with UV’s so the modelling and fur teams can work at the same time.”

“The difficulty was finding the balance between stylized and realistic hair. For the boy’s hair and the lion’s mane we needed a clean shape but we did want to maintain the the detail in the hair. To achieve this, we used a lot of clumps. In my opinion, clumping is really the strength of Yeti.”

SA01_Master-Cut-Render[1920x1080_1min32].2040

“Squash and stretch in the hair was a major challenge during animation and Yeti handled the job perfectly using guide curves and some clever solutions in the graph. I was also keen to use the new motion node introduced in 2.0 and, again, using some user variables to control the animation it did the job perfectly.”

Congratulations on another great project using Yeti, Romain! Thank you for sharing your work with us.

Case Study: Milk VFX, Beowulf and CG fur using Yeti

We are very excited to share this detailed case study prepared by the team at Milk VFX who used Yeti to bring almost every creature to life for the new series, Beowulf.

Incredible work, Milk!

Overview

“ITV’s new series Beowulf, helmed by Walking with Dinosaurs producer Tim Haines, is based on the oldest English poem of the same name. Milk was awarded all vfx work which meant we were responsible for bringing all of the creatures to life. We collaborated closely with Tim Haines and knew that from concept stage that we’d be having to add fur and hair to nearly every creature on the show from the protagonist Grendl to the wolf like Wulfingdogs.”

Barghest_Concept

Choosing a fur tool. 

“CG fur and hair has until recently been very much a luxury of film work given the time and research required to get it looking believable (i.e., Life of Pi, Tangled, and The Planet of the Apes films). Given fur is a real world asset, there are certain rules and behaviours we have to abide by in order to convince audiences that what they are seeing is real. We needed to find a tool that could help us achieve this. We had used Yeti previously on the feature film Hercules with great success.”

“At that time we were using the feather features introduced in Yeti 1.3 which were still quite a new asset to the Yeti toolset. Anytime we ran into a problem or requested a feature, the Yeti team were quick to respond and help out. The support we received and the features available to us made using Yeti in Beowulf a no brainer. A lot of the creatures in Beowulf also required varying fur/hair styles on different parts of their bodies and this was easy with Yeti. We could create multiple graphs inside one node and then simply duplicate setups and even reuse them on other creatures if necessary leaving us with just a small amount of tweaking, this flexibility was key.”

beowulf_still08

Pipeline

“In episode one alone, we are introduced to three very different looking creatures and they would appear in no less than 100 shots, fur and all. I can’t think of another TV show to date that required such a heavy need for CG fur, which meant we had our work cut out.

The first part of the fur development was to take each creature model, create a fur groom which would roughly take 2 to 3 days and then attach it to the look development scene so we could test how the fur would look as part of the final creature design. We’d create turntables for client reviews and make changes according to their notes.

Once a groom had been finalled, we needed to figure out how we would populate each shot with fur. Each groom needs to be attached to the animated creature mesh on a per shot basis, then cached to file and loaded into the final creature template scene that had all the working shaders and lighting. This meant a lot of manual time would be required. At this stage we hadn’t even considered dynamics, and we wanted to avoid heavy dynamic tweaks being done on each shot. It became clear that we had to figure out a way to streamline the fur dynamics and caching process for each shot.”

beowulf_still02

Fur Dynamics

“To test the dynamics, we ran our groom lookdev scenes through a number of different animation cycles all the while adjusting the dynamic settings until we felt we had something that would work in all circumstances. Our goal was to have just enough dynamics to add a nice amount of weight to the fur as it collided with the body, horns, etc. whilst still maintaining the original groom pose. These settings were then stored for each creature.”

“In summary, our Yeti pipeline consisted of a 3 step process for each shot.

  1. Bake the tension displacement to a single tile map sequence.
  2. Add displacement to the animated mesh thus offsetting the Yeti node that is attached
    to this mesh.
  3. Set a pre­roll, assign the optimal dynamic settings and bake Yeti to file (cache).”

“To simplify things further, our in-house technician, Alexandre Pavot, created a UI which ran all these steps automatically on the farm. All we had to do was provide the UI with the animated creature alembic cache (which stored all shot information in the filename) and it would automate all the steps and deliver them to the farm leaving us with a final Yeti cache.”

beowulf_still13

Getting Dirty

“On previous projects, due to software limitations, it was a challenge to attach dirt or snow for example to fur and have it move with the fur as though stuck within it. With Yeti, we knew we could add instance geometry into the Yeti graph on the same groom curves. So we created four distinctive dirt objects and scattered these through the fur by introducing instance nodes to the graph. We could then randomise quantity, size, rotation and position along the groom curves.”

beowulfDirtInFur03

Shading and Lighting 

“For Beowulf we decided to use the AL shaders (a group of shaders created for Arnold by Anders Langlands) for all the CG creature look development. This meant we could use the included hair shader allowing us to take advantage of the extra features absent in the current Arnold hair shader. For example, we could add kajiya­kay scattering, dual specularity (a broad and tight specular at different locations along the length of the hair) and transmission to bleed light through the hair giving us nice rim light results. It also made creating ID’s much easier (they are built into the shader) because often you struggle to retain the opacity in fur when creating ID’s. All of our renders required that we create deep aov’s and this shader set worked perfectly with Yeti for this purpose. For the dirt we were able to create custom attributes in the Yeti graph that fed into our shading networks allowing us to further adjust their look separate to the main fur shader.”

The Team

VFX Supervisor – JC Deguara
CG Supervisor – Nicolas Hernandez
Lead Modellers – Sam Lucas and Jason Brown
Lighting & Look Dev – Bastien Mortelecque, Adrian Williams, Dominic Alderson
Grooming – Dominic Alderson
Lead Animator – David Bennett
Lead Rigging – Neil Roche
2D Supervisor – Sara Bennett
Tracking Lead – Amy Felce
Effects Lead – James Reid
Lead Concept Artist – Grant Bonser
Texture Artist – Henry South