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.

GDC, TED and FMX – our spring conference season!

We are entering spring conference season again, in fact – we’ve already enjoyed a visit to San Fransisco for the Game Developers Conference. With the release of Nvidia’s RTX cards and support from the major graphics API’s there was a lot of realtime raytracing coverage – including Epic’s release of Unreal Engine 4.22.

More recently I was lucky enough to attend the TED conference in Vancouver this last week – a very humbling experience to step outside of our usual thinking and enjoy exploring the world through the TED ecosystem. There was much to reflect on, which I will leave for another post, but a highlight was Doug Roble’s presentation of Digital Doug to the wonderment of the audience.

Doug Roble speaks at TED2019: Bigger Than Us. April 15 – 19, 2019, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Back at the studio I’ve had just over a week to breath before heading to the beautiful city of Stuttgart for FMX. The program this year looks solid and we’re very happy to highlight a few of the presentations our talented customers are involved with:

Mackevision – Best Friend, Tuesday April 30th @ 3:15pm
Check out the studios page to watch the spot and hear more about how it was made.

Method – Welcome To Marwen, Wednesday May 1st @ 4:30pm
In the Virtual Production track, don’t miss Kevin Baillie’s talk on some of the techniques used to deliver these stunning digital performances.

Goodbye Kansas – Overkill’s The Walking Dead, Thursday May 2nd @ 9:30am
GBK produced these stunning trailers for Overkill’s The Walking Dead, listen to a few of the team members discuss the challenges involved in bringing them to life. Watch Maya, Grant and Aidan on their website.

Ilion – Wonder Park, Thursday May 2nd @ 2:00pm
Head behind the scenes with the crew from Ilion to discuss production details of the animated feature Wonder Park.

Trixter – Captain Marvel, Friday May 3rd @ 3:15pm
Hear about Trixter’s involvement in Captain Marvel from Dominik Zimmerie including the stunning alien cat “Goose” (we’re biased) along with the wonderful Janelle Croshaw Ralla – this one can’t be missed!

Additionally there will be a Matrix Retrospective, Digital Doug talk with Doug Roble from Digital Domain, a look at the visual effects of Avengers: Endgame and many more exciting talks – check out the full schedule here.

If you’re going to be there reach out and say hi, and enjoy the week!

Freefolk’s furry trio for Smythson

We were extremely happy to hear that the team at Freefolk chose Yeti when tasked with creating a trio of furry photo real animals for an upcoming online film for Smythson.

“Our team have been using Yeti for a few years on a number of creature jobs so we already had a lot of positive experience and felt comfortable with the tools and functionality it provided.” shared Harin Hirani, Freefolk’s Head of 3D, he continued “We felt it was still the best solution for digital fur and we were very happy to use it again on this project.”

“This project required a Tiger, Giraffe and Elephant that would appear in close up shots so they had to be built to the highest detail. I was mainly responsible for the look development of the tiger, which involved modelling, texturing, shading and the grooming of the fur. It was by far the most complex groom we had completed yet with dozens of maps and attributes controlling the look of the fur across the body.”



“Yeti’s node based procedural approach made it really easy to create different styles of fur and layer them up intuitively while remaining easy to adjust if needed. We were able to pass attributes to the renderer to create variations of colour for each strand which gave us more control over its appearance.”

When asked if there was anything else that stood out about the team’s experience with Yeti, Harin replied “Initially we were nervous about having to create enough hairs to cover the surface area of a giraffe as the fur is so short. But Yeti proved to be very reliable and had no problems generating the 22 million strands that was needed.”

Thank you to the Freefolk team for the insight and letting us share the full Smythson film below:

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!

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.