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.

 

Elephant Tangles with Giraffe

Cirkus uses Yeti to help WWF remind us the fragility of fresh water

It’s always exciting to hear when Yeti is used for causes close to our heart, and Elephant vs. Giraffe created by the team at Cirkus for WWF doesn’t fall short.

In a poignant statement about the future of fresh water vs. global population growth Romain Borrel, the film’s director, came up with a concept where an elephant and giraffe end up in an altercation over a bottle of fresh water with many twists and turns (literally) along the way.

Giraffe inspects water

Romain told us Yeti was chosen by the team as it allowed them to achieve the level of realism and feature film quality required to create these two photorealistic animals.

A big but critical decision made part way through the project was to switch from their previous rendering engine to Redshift – with the tight integration offered between Yeti and Redshift the team felt both products worked incredibly well together resulting in five times the speed in per frame render times while still maintaining the same, high quality, result.

Elephant and Giraffe pretzels

Although many of the core crew were familiar with Yeti and happy using it due to its power and ease of use, the fact it is taught widely among New Zealand students provided an additional win for Cirkus who was able to scale their team with artists comfortable using it from day one.

Thank you to the team at Cirkus for reminding us our planet is fragile and supporting WWF and similar foundations who endeavor to improve life on Earth for all species is imperative to a long and sustainable future.

Below is the full video for you to enjoy.

Dinosaurs in the Wild

Milk created a ground-breaking range of CG Dinosaurs and their environment for ‘Dinosaurs In The Wild’ – an immersive, UK theatrical special venue experience which transports audiences 67 million years back in time to the Cretaceous period, to experience dinosaurs in their own environment!

The focus for the team was a digital ‘dinosaur safari’ – creating all of the external views of the dinosaurs seen through four ‘observatory windows’; and one windscreen-view for a ‘simulated drive’ sequence, all in Stereoscopic 3D.

“We created eight different species of Dinosaur for the show, which appear in every frame.” Explains Matt Bell, the lead grooming TD on the project – “Almost all of the Dinosaurs used Yeti to one extent or another and it was my responsibility to groom each one and help integrate the creature FX into our pipeline. Each dinosaur species had differing groom characteristics and each of these had multiple variations.”

©Dinosaurs in the Wild UK Ltd 2017 – Images supplied by Milk Visual Effects

This challenging workload was broken down into 4 X 12,000 frame continuous eight-minute shots and one x 6,000 frame, 4-minute drive sequence with Yeti being chosen for its ease of use and integration into the studios Maya/Renderman pipeline which was used for Dinosaurs in the Wild.

Matt continues “It was an incredibly challenging project given the large number of dinosaur variations and the length of the animation sequences. We rendered almost 80 million frames in the cloud using Google Cloud platform to accommodate the scale of the project. We are very happy with results we achieved.”

“Yeti achieves great results quickly and the flexibility allowed us to come up with workarounds to achieve specific looks, for example on the feathered Dakotaraptor we used a combination of heavily clumped fur blended with Yeti feathers which was layered into geometry feathers.”

“Yeti was perfect for such a complex and large-scale job such as Dinosaurs In The Wild.”

 

©Dinosaurs in the Wild UK Ltd 2017 – Images supplied by Milk Visual Effects

Yeti Tutorials by Antepost Studio

We are pleased to share a series of four Yeti tutorials by Antepost Studio who specializes in asset development and grooming and frequently uses our software.

We asked Francesco and Sofia, freelance artists who together form Antepost, to tell us about their experience using Yeti and why they created the tutorials. Here’s what they had to say:

“Our service is focused in character development for VFX and games, and our main expertise is grooming. We use Yeti as a plugin and it’s our first choice when dealing with groom projects. Its nodes system give us creative freedom and a higher control with a procedural and flexible workflow. By working with Yeti we can offer our clients a fast and high quality result and fulfil their needs.”

“We decided to record this first series of tutorials because apart from some great advanced tutorials, we felt the web was missing a proper introduction to basics of Yeti and grooming. Grooming is a complex subject, due to its technical and artistic aspects, we think a beginner could be easily scared to start if the fundamental topics are not provided and explained.  We hope this new resource can be helpful to students and experienced VFX artists that want to venture in the grooming world.”

Below is the first tutorial and the rest are available on Antepost’s YouTube channel.

FABLEfx used Yeti for Orangutang in Kids’ Cancer Research Spot

When tasked with creating a new version of Rynke the Orangutang, FABLEfx used Yeti to bring the primate to life in a recent kids’ cancer research commercial.  We were fortunate to speak with Janak Thakker, Animation Supervisor at FABLEfx about their experience using Yeti.  Here’s what he had to say.

“My name is Janak Thakker and I’m the Animation Supervisor (dabbling as VFX Supervisor too) and co-founder at FABLEfx, a VFX boutique started a couple of years ago with a firm focus on characters and creatures. On this project Kaj Steveman (CEO/Creative director) and I tag-teamed as VFX Sup’s. We undertake most of our projects like this – a collaborative effort helping us getting as much creativeness as possible into the mix.”

“In this touching spot from Rynkeby Foods promoting kids’ cancer research, we see the boy, Bertil, and his (imaginary) best friend, Rynke the orangutang, who’s keeping him company in the hospital. They play around, Rynke gets a little naughty and ruins Bertil’s card house, but above all, they are best buds taking care of each other.”

“Creatively it was an exciting and equally scary challenge creating a CG character in demanding shots like this. Not only did we need to make sure that we created a believable living creature to help tell this emotional story but it’s obviously also quite a technical challenge as well. This is where Yeti comes into play as part of the solution.”

“We’ve been using Yeti for our furry and feathery creatures since we opened our doors. Yeti is what we prefer to use both artistically and technically so it was a no-brainer to use it for this creature as well. With Yeti we get the creative control needed to create believable grooms and rendering pretty pictures.”

“Digging around in the Yeti toolbox, the groom itself was meticulously crafted and tweaked into submission based on references from the clients as well as our own references to make sure we got to a level of fidelity everyone would be happy with. For fur dynamics we use an nHair approach with simulated curves driving the converted Yeti groom”

“If we had more responsive viewport feedback for grooming and better built in simulation tools I think we would have been able to push this even further which is something that goes for all our projects using Yeti.”

“All in all I think Yeti is a really groundbreaking tool as it allows small studios like ours to create high end fur with reasonable resources. It’s also pretty straight forward integrating it into custom pipelines like ours which is great.”

Thank you for your kind words and for taking time to speak with us about Yeti, Janak. Keep up the incredible work!