Studio Focus: Universal Production Partners

Universal Production Partners (UPP) is an award-winning visual effects & post-production house based in Prague. Since being founded in 1994 they have grown to be one of the largest and most versatile studios in Europe focused on pushing the boundaries of technology and art with a strong vision for storytelling, directing and CGI.

With a wide range of services provided, UPP’s VFX supervisor and Head of 3D for advertising Mario Dubec shared some thoughts (and beautiful imagery) about how and why they having been using Yeti over the last few years.

“At UPP advertising we have been creating CG animals for years, and since some of them have required realistic fur we’ve had to keep researching and searching for the best suitable tools to create it. In the old days, we have used extensively Shave & Haircut plugin for Maya and in some cases native fur tools in XSI. As new tools were appearing we had our fair share of experience with Maya Xgen and Houdini native fur tools as well. But currently, our grooming artists found Yeti to be most flexible and user friendly yet still partly procedural tool to groom the animals.”

“The main catalyst for using Yeti in our recent and ongoing fur projects was ease of setup, simplicity of nodal approach and flexibility to do constant adjustments which are so important in the look development of creatures until very end of the project. Another advantage is how light the groom setup is on the scene and how well the plugin communicates the data with our most used Arnold renderer.”

“So far we have not reached such a limitation of Yeti which would hold us back or motivate us to look for alternative solution for creating fur. Another advantage is also flexibility to change the underlaying model during the grooming process without necessity to redo the whole setup or go through painful steps of setup transfer. And as our artists work simultaneously more and more with Houdini as well, the nodal & procedural approach allows them to stay in the same mind-set while utilizing Yeti in Maya.”

Don’t miss UPP’s animal reel which is available to watch on their website.

Yeti 3.5 is here!

Yeti 3.5 is here and it’s one of our biggest point releases ever!  Our team has been working hard to introduce great new features to help with productivity and integration.

Alembic Logo

We have implemented support for Alembic into the core of Yeti for both importing and exporting geometric data.

For importing – a new File node has been implemented that will read both curve sets and mesh data from the specific Alembic file, along with any additional arbitrary attributes, that may be modified and referenced by down stream nodes. Our aim is to expand support for additional geometric formats in the future.

For exporting – we have expanded our caching commands to include writing the evaluated results of graphs to Alembic file(s) with multiple samples for motion blur purposes and either having all the data stored in one monolithic file (and for fur this can be truly monolithic) or on a per frame basis. Density and other graph options can be controlled from the command line.

 

OpenImageIO

Continuing the adoption of amazing open source projects, our internal texturing system has been completely replaced with OpenImageIO – besides added format support it also provides additional efficiency when reading a large number of high resolution texture files.

 

Volumetric Guides

We have introduced a new default Volumetric guide model which provides a more intuitive result with additional visual control over the shape and clumping behaviour with the option to switch to the previous Shape Matching model for backwards compatibility.

 

Parting, Switch node and more…

Additional highlights are the new Automatic Parting, a Switch Node, Projection based texture coordinates for feathers, Density based relaxation and the list goes on!  Check out the release notes for details.

 

Last but not least, we’d like to remind our lovely friends to the south that Yeti is now available world wide (including the US) – enjoy!

Please note:  This is a free upgrade for all 3.x users. 

 

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.

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.”