Crafting wings for Good Omens

We are huge fans of both Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett here at Peregrine HQ, so were thrilled when Amazon / BBC announced that a new Good Omens mini series was coming to their respective platforms.

The fine artists at Milk Visual Effects were involved in bringing the the authors prose to life on screen – including the wings for the leading characters.

The teams CG Supervisor, Adrian Williams and Senior Groom Artist, Matt Bell kindly shared details on how Yeti was used in the design and creation of these digital supernatural plumages.

“Demon Crowley (David Tennant) and angel Aziraphale (Micheal Sheen) both have large and impressive black and white wings (respectively) when seen in their real forms in the Amazon /BBC’s new comedy-drama Good Omens adapted for the screen and helmed by Neil Gaiman. Initially, our concept artist Grant Bonser designed bat-style wings for Crowley but Neil Gaiman preferred to have feathers for both the demons and angels.”

“We built each feather based on swan wings – which was most appropriate to the concept. We started building the feathers in geometry so that we had a map for our groom team to develop each feather. The wings were laid out in an anatomically correct way, with primary feathers (the long finger like feathers that feature at ends of wings); secondaries (above those on the ends of the wings) and coverts (top wings / fluffier wings). The wings were then re-groomed into feathers using Yeti. We modelled in a swan’s wing bone structure and this was then all passed to the rigging team to ensure the feathers folded correctly and worked well together. Working together, the groom, modelling and rigging and animation teams refined the wings, referencing heavily the way a swan’s wing physically folds and behaves to ensure that when doing our wing simulations, everything behaved realistically.”

“To help with rigging we extracted curves down the centre of each of the geometry feathers and converted these to fibres. The feathers were instanced to these fibres and scale determined by the curves length. A duplicate of the wing curves was then incorporated into the rig and our groom curves blended to these so as to match our animation. We created over 20 separate feather variations so as to give realism to the groom and feather orientation controlled by using the geometry’s surface normal as our up vector in conjunction with curves Yeti twist attribute.”

“We decided to create the wing texturing in the look development phase. It was all shader based so that we could have complete control over colour variants and no one feather was the same hue, to break up the overall look making it more realistic.”

“Getting the right balance of iridescence on the black feathers and then ensuring the white feathers had enough detail and variation to stand out was challenging. We spent time in the look development stages tweaking the shaders and then when we got to actual shot production we were working very closely with Neil and our groom and creature effects team so that we were able to get a look that he and Douglas were really happy with.”

“Some of the shots needed to have a bespoke groom set up as we soon realised that when the animators were posing the wings at some angles they would not capture the correct shape or volume that was required for that specific shot, but this gave us the freedom to sculpt the groom and make sure that none of the detail was lost and so the wings looked and felt a part of the actors as they progressed thought the scene.”

Yeti was also used for the digital neck and head extension of Adam’s lovable pet, the Hell Hound.  A big thank you to the Milk team and you can watch Good Omens on Amazon’s Prime Video now.

Yuriy Dulich’s Great Horned Owl

Yuriy Dulich kindly shared details about how he crafted his beautiful Great Horned Owl over the course of 4 months using Yeti, Maya, Arnold and Mari.


 

“I chose my typical approach with this type of character – to make it as realistic and anatomically correct as possible. The research process for this project included reading scientific literature, speaking with amateur keepers and meeting professional ornithologists including a live owl to study.”

“It all started with the collection of detailed references. There were no problems with photo-references as there are a lot of them from different angles and once I started gathering these the scale of the work became clear. But it was necessary to dig into more detail and problems started with the owl’s anatomy, the location of the feathers on the body and how their length and structure depend on their location and how the texture of the feathers varies themselves.”

“I decided to visit the zoo to talk with ornithologists and thanks to my friend Simon Andrew, who is a scientist fond of ornithology, I managed to study the living Ural owl very closely. This made it possible to better understand the volume of feathers in relation to the volume of the body itself, the location of the pterilium, the anatomy of the body, the structure of the feathers, and much more. The book “The Unfeathered Bird” by Katrina van Grouw helped me a lot with anatomy and additional feather textures were obtained from the online database of ornithologists: https://www.fws.gov/lab/featheratlas/ and https://www.featherbase.info/ru/home. The rest of the textures I hand-painting according to the reference with the whole process taking place in parallel with the sculpting and grooming.”

“Before sculpting I managed to find a scan of the skull of the desired owl and assembled the skeleton according to the reference while basing it on a modified skeleton of a parrot.”

“The next challenge was building the skin up to the intended volume, making a guess based on all of the reference as there are no photos of this specific owl without feathers. When the base model was built, the grooming and feather creation began. This is a very delicate and long work that requires attention and a large number of references.”

“I have implemented an iterative grooming method in my pipeline and with this method, literally in 2-3 passes, I get close to the desired shape of the strands. In Yeti, I used a new feature with a shader node which allowed me to visualize where the right layer of feathers is on the body by procedurally setting different colors for each layer. An expression based on the length and layer was used to automatically selected the necessary set of feathers with the required density.”

“To generate the feathers, I used both the Yeti built-in feather primitive along with the jcFeather plugin and divided the whole owl into zones.”

“Each region has from 3 to 9 variations of feathers. In total, there are 3,913 feathers on the body and 2362 feathers covering of the wings. The wing and tail feathers were based on photo references I took from the ornithological researchers – although their resolution wasn’t great their shape was clearly visible and creation was not difficult.”

“I want to note that I did not use polygonal planes in general, all of the the feathers based on fibres where the total number of feathers was 6327 which consisted of 2188922 fibres.”

“I tried to keep the Grooming as anatomically correct as possible following the so-called pterilium and the length of feathers while measuring and adjusting to my subjects proportions.”

“This is quite a laborious business as there is very little information or scientific articles on this topic. But the analysis of other birds and familiarity with the Ural owl allowed me to solve this problem.”

“I iterated on the grooming by repeatedly fitting to the body model, adjust wing positions and small tests with body deformation – once I was happy I finalized the basic shape of the owl. In ZBrush, I performed a highly detailed sculpt and together with the vector textures I finalized the body model.”

“Next was the final fit of the grooming, the angles of rotation of the feathers, the number of fibres in the feathers and their thickness with repeated test renders to try and match the feeling and look of the reference.”

“Having good success with my previous work I decided to perform the final visualization in the studio as well. By lighting nothing complicated, I used from 2-4 AreaLigth to simulate a soft box of light sources and one sky dome at a low exposure.”

“In the end the average render time on 2*Xeon E5-2695v3 (2*14core @ 2,8GHz) for 8k images was approximately 30h, and 4k images for the head was 14h.”


 

And here is a fantastic breakdown of how it came together – thank you Yuriy.

 

Yeti Summer Sale

July is fast approaching and with it comes many great incentives (besides the beautiful weather) for a Yeti Summer Sale.

Canada Day lands on the 1st of the month pairing cold beer, Muskoka chairs and the Tragically Hip on the radio with more than a few pick up games of basketball expected.  (#WeTheNorth)

And now that all of our products are available to our southern neighbour it is only fair that we get to join in their Independence Day fun and send a few rockets into the skies!

During the month of July

%15 off all new Yeti purchases!

 

To celebrate the plethora of goodness we are offering %15 off all new Yeti purchases for the whole month of July!  Use the following code, GLOBALGROOMING, when checking out from our online store to take advantage of this discount.

 

Fine print: The discount is only applicable to new Yeti Studio and/or Indie licenses purchased between 12am (EST) July 1st and Midnight (EST) July 31st and can not be combined with other offers.  The discount code must be applied at the time of purchase. 

TeamTO’s Mighty Mike and the Wild Bunch

TeamTO is a full featured producer and independent animation studio in France who handles 100% of their own CGI production process across two studios, one located in Paris and the other Bourg-lès-Valence. This strategy enables them to closely control every stage of production and guarantees the consistent quality of every show while maintaining a flexible, reliable and high-performing environment which encourages artistic talents to flourish.

We had the chance to speak with TeamTO’s CTO, Jean-Baptiste Spieser, about how Yeti helped them deliver their most recent endeavour – Mighty Mike and the Wild Bunch.

Mighty Mike and the Wild Bunch, Courtesy of TeamTO

“When we decided to launch our new show, Mighty Mike and the Wild Bunch, in 2018; we hadn’t experimented extensively with fur in a TV series production. Of course we’ve used Yeti previously on a feature film (“Yellowbird” directed by Chirstian de Vita) but our experience told us that feature films and TV series are so different in terms of flow and pipeline – the quality-budget-shedule equilibrium is very specific to each typology of production.”

“Our artistic requirements were high with Mighty Mike and we didn’t want the presence of fur to bring limitations to our directors and artists (close-ups on characters, cartoon deformation, number of characters in the same shots, environment and FX interactions ). That was quite an ambition to deal with and the choice of Yeti was definitely one of the good ones!”

“The 5 main characters were animals with fur and there is an average of two of them in each of our 10,608 shots. Once they were groomed and our pipeline stabilized, everything went so smooth on the farm or, as we say in French, au poil!

Mighty Mike and the Wild Bunch, Courtesy of TeamTO

“With a powerful toolset and open graph we were able to easily integrate Yeti in our pipeline. This freed us up to deal with the derivate characters while allowing the development of our dedicated collision-tools to deal with all the interactions the animals had with the sets, props or themselves – with the characters spending so much time chasing, fighting and hugging each other.”

“In total 1,697,280 cache files were exported with 8000 furry images being rendered each day enabling us deliver 3 episodes per week at cruising speed.”

“Peregrine definitely provided us a powerful tool to serve our artistic ambition.”

Bokeh Pricing

Bokeh has been available for purchase almost as long as our little studio has existed, within that time we’ve been lucky enough to have some of the top companies in visual effects use it on ground breaking productions.

As with all our projects Bokeh was initially developed for internal needs but due to interest from other parties we made it available for outside consumption, at that time we weren’t sure how we wanted to price it as a product and ultimately settled on a rate that was extremely aggressive with the aim of making it as accessible as possible.

Over the years we’ve made small adjustments to this rate, the biggest step was quickly moving from a perpetual model to the need for annual support fees to maintain a license. Even with 20 years of VFX production experience and having managed large scale development internally, the leap to selling and supporting software to a large (and demanding) user base was (and still is) a learning experience and our initial pricing was off.

Over the last six months it has become obvious that we needed to take our pseudo-subscription model and update it to a plain and simple annual subscription one. Our assumptions about how customers would be using the licenses differed from reality, rather than staying continually on maintenance; licenses would only be used/purchased when needed, sometimes years apart. This led to some confusion as to how and when maintenance could be renewed and the implications of the timing, many customers reached out and asked us to come up with another plan. In addition to this confusion with the annual maintenance model, it wouldn’t have made sense to maintain Bokeh’s availability if we stayed the course we were on.

As of now all Bokeh licenses are considered annual subscriptions, there is a single price for both a site license and single licenses with both floating and node locked (for single) options now being offered.

This means there is no longer an annual maintenance price, when a license expires a new annual subscription can be purchased with no time limit for how soon that needs to happen after expiry. If you purchase a new subscription prior to the expiration date of a previous annual term we’ll ensure the new license starts at the end of said term – otherwise it will start on the day of purchase.

Making this change isn’t something we’ve taken lightly and understand that this may impact some studios continued use of Bokeh. We are extremely humbled by the amazing craftsperson-ship of our customers and hope to continue our relationship with as many as possible.

Update: Single license pricing has been reduced to $129 p/a for a floating license and $99 p/a for a node-locked one.