I think many digital artists, like myself, see animated films from Pixar, Dreamworks, Disney or Blue Sky and they begin to invision their own worlds, characters, and stories. Computer Graphics make it possible for artists to bring these visions to life inside a tangible medium that’s accessible to anyone with a computer. However, the accessibility and capability of a computer doesn’t mean the creation-process is a one-click operation. Taking a character from vision to animated reality requires many devoted hours in each discipline of computer graphics. We begin with this concept art from Tim Von Rueden:
The first step is modeling where the character is built with 3D geometry. No object exists in the computer intrinsically; it must be built by hand. Every subsequent step is dependent on modeled objects. Blender’s all-in-one nature allows the artist to use its sculpting and modeling tools in conjunction. Piero will be form-sculpted first, then retopologized into an animation-friendly mesh.
After being built a model must be “painted”. This texturing, or “surfacing”, process is where we introduce proper colors and material qualities that make our model more believable and tangible. Being a bird Piero is a unique texturing task because he needs to be covered in feathers. We’ll take advantage of Blender’s paint tools and Photoshop to paint our texture maps. A particle hair system will allow us to procedurally grow and groom our feathers.
While modeling and animation are perhaps the most coveted CG skill sets, rigging is the narrow bridge-less-traveled that connects them. Just like our human body needs a complex system of bones and joints to make movement possible, our digital model needs a complex system of bones and joints to make animation possible. This is a highly technical and polarizing process requires much more research and practice than artistic instinct. Piero will be rigged in Blender as an general-purpose armature with full control over wing and tail feathers.
The art of movement is arguably the most difficult skill set in computer graphics. But don’t tell an animator that – they think highly enough of themselves already! Jokes aside, good animation requires a hefty combination of practice and talent. With Piero we’ll apply the principles of “The Nine Old Men” to realize his personality in motion.
With the animation finished, our “ingredients” are finally ready to go into the oven! Post Processing begins by rendering our scene into individual frames that make up our entire animation. Once the hours of rendering are finished, we can edit the final shot together in Blender’s compositor.