Uyir - Short Film WIP

Hi everyone,

I’ve decided to move on to my 4th short film which I’ve entitled as “Uyir”. I was happy with the response for “Vetri” and took all the feedback to heart. The two main weaknesses of Vetri was bad character animation and mediocre story. So this will be the main focus of the short. I’ve also decided not to cheat like my previous films, and have decided to model and rig all the characters on my own. Eventually, I plan to release everything for free on BlendSwap (including characters this time).

In terms of story, I’ve sat down and had a good think about the story. To be brief, the story follows along the lines of, the life of a joyous old man is turned upside down when he is abducted by criminals. It’s a simple story but hopefully it will work.

I’m learnt a lot about character animation over the past two weeks, but yet to put it into practice. I will be using this project to hopefully bring out the best character animation I possibly could. I will be posting a lot of the animation dailies here and hope to get feedback on the character animation. This is something I didn’t do enough of in my previous film. The story though, is created in a sort of way to minimise character animation but there are a couple of complex animations, such as the kidnapping scene.

My goal is to make this film a lot better than any of my previous endeavours both technically and storywise. Since I’ll be starting this project from scratch, I’m expecting the film to release around December of this year (the total length of the film is planned to be 8-9 minutes). I’ll also be using the BURP Community Renderfarm again to do most of the rendering of the film.

In terms of my progress so far, I’ve completed the script and have now started to dabble with the look of the character. I have no experience in professional drawing or concept art, so it might not look impressive. I drew different character designs on a piece of paper over the weekend. I then settled with a character design I liked. I then scanned the drawing and traced it on my PC. This is what I hope to be using as modelling reference.

Here is the original character face ideas:

Here is the original character body ideas:

Here is the one I went with:

I made a list of the character traits for Uyir:

  • Short
  • Large, slightly chunky nose
  • Big, expressive blue eyes that look somewhat tired
  • Wears glasses
  • Not overly fat but has a stomach
  • Wears glasses
  • Wears traditional old man type of clothing
  • Neat, combed hairstyle (Grey hair color with some streaks of black)
  • Has not many teeth, so lips pout in naturally.
  • Small, fragile looking legs
  • Darker skin tone compared to Vetri
  • Tiny chest but clear enough to see breathing
  • Grey beard (later on in the film)
  • 65% realistic, 35% cartoony

hey there, good luck with this, definitely following :wink:

^^ thanks orux :slight_smile:

Here are the updates for the granddaughter. She is around 10-11 years old.

This is the first drawing I came up with:

I then scanned and made a modelling sheet version:

However, the eyes looked a bit creepy, so I tried to make them look more innocent. Here is the version I’m probably gonna go with (still doesn’t look as cute as I want it to be):

The main challenge for this character will be the hair simulation and the dynamic clothing. She won’t be seen in the film that long though, so it shouldn’t be too hard to bake and render.

I’ve now started work on the storyboard. Here are the first sketches of the opening scene:

The scene shows Uyir preparing to get up, grabs his walking stick and makes his way over to the table to pick up his newspaper. He notices a dusty photo portrait of him and his granddaughter and wipes it clean. He reminisces for a while and makes his way back with the newspaper.

I used MyPaint to generate the storyboard background. I also recently purchased a new Wacom Bamboo Pen and Tablet and used it to sketch out the storyboards. Although it has made the process of storyboarding easier, I do find the tablet a little difficult to work with, the sensitivity tends to lag a bit and is not as smooth as drawing on a physical paper. Hopefully with more experience, I’ll get used to this type of workflow…

I’ll now be moving on to creating the animatic…

I’ve now completed the animatic!

Here is a glimpse of the animatic. It’s a little bit useless without the music but I couldn’t add it in due to copyright from royalty-free websites.

I think I may have completed the pre-production phase. I’ll now start moving on to the production phase and start modelling Uyir…

I’ve now started work on modelling Uyir. This is my first time attempting to model my own character for a film so no more relying on Makehuman or the Flex Rig.

The head is quite high-poly and I referred a lot to Joshua Alger’s online tutorials. I do plan to create another version to sculpt in details like the wrinkles, pores, etc… and later add in hair, beard, eyes and so on…

I’m aiming more for stylistic rather than realistic, and hence the big ears. I’m looking to make him quite expressive and a sweet old man, and don’t mind if it veers away from the modelling sheet a bit.

Here is the model in detail. Any feedback on this would be great!
The wireframe shows a lot more polys than what I worked with and I think it’s because I didn’t switch off the subsurf. There are some triangles and poles around where I connected the ear to the head, but since the ear is not really going to be animated, hopefully I can get away with it.

I’ve used a skin modifier to quickly outline the silhouette of his body shape. After some tweaking, I made this:

The top of his arms though could be skinnier but it’s a bit finnicky to fix this with the skin modifier. I’ll have to fix the arms after retopoing it.

The skin modifier was a bit difficult to work with but it at least assisted me a bit in defining the volume. Using this, I box modelled Uyir’s body and defined his features. I’m yet to add in his hands and feet. This is pretty much the proportions I’m going to go with.

I might make the feet a little bit larger than what is shown to create more of a stylistic effect.


Finished the hands! I followed Ryan Kittleson’s tutorial to model the hand:
Here is the result:

Now to add it to Uyir…

There’s some weirdness in the base of his thumb and I think it’s due to a triangle which I was forced to create in order to connect the hand with the arm. Since there won’t be any deformation in that area, I don’t think I’ll have to remove that triangle but I’ll have to fix that slight weirdness somehow.

After this, I might move on to his legs, or I might double-check with the script whether his legs will be shown. If not, I might go straight ahead and rig him and then start his clothing!

Very good progress, Solowy, although I’m still uncertain regarding these big ears. I see that the whole body is out of proportion. And I see that the ears follow that design. But they look better in your concept and I think you should follow your nice concept more closely for the ears. It will be interesting to see him rigged and in motion :slight_smile:

I like the face and hands! You’re going to work on this for 6 months? That sounds like a short time for an 8 to 9 minute short with human characters. Do you have a breakdown of when certain things need to be finished by so you can stay on track?

Thanks for the feedback! I’ve reduced the size of the ears a bit and repositioned them but I still want to go for a larger ear look to give it that stylistic look and hopefully the odd look won’t be as noticeable after giving him hair. You’re right about his body being out of proportion. I’ve modified the model to match more closely to the concept and he is now about 5 head sizes tall. Thanks for that!

Thanks! Yea, I’m aiming for 6 months based on my previous works, but I can always extend it later on depending on my progress (a benefit of not having to work for a company I guess :))

Here is a rough breakdown for the project:

Production phase

  • Model, texture and rig the main characters (2-3 weeks)
  • Create the environments (inc. texturing, lighting, compositing) (3 weeks)
  • Create props (1 week)
  • Animate the characters per the animatic (3-4 months)
  • Polish (1 week)

Post-production phase

  • Rendering (ongoing and overlaps with the production phase)
  • Audio production (DONE)
  • Video editing (2 weeks)
  • Release on YouTube!

Progress: I’ve now completed the body modelling of Uyir and spent some time detailing him. His feet won’t be shown in the film but I’ve given him feet anyway since I’m going to upload it on BlendSwap eventually. The most challenging part was connecting the head to the rest of the body. I had to remove a few edge loops on his face so that the vertices would line and match up with the neck. I’ve also reshaped and given him some neck muscles and bones around his neck.

Here is what he looks like now:

Here is the model in 3D and wireframe:

It was already good, but now it’s even better. I guess that we see a subsurfed version in the wires of the 3d view? And you have the audio production already done? I must say once again that I admire your well organized workflow!

^^ oh, yea i forgot to turn off subsurf before uploading :/, thanks for that. I managed to complete the audio production during the planning stages when I was developing the animatic. I just downloaded a few preview music from royalty-free websites and experimented with which one sets the right mood for the film, so that I could basically experience the film without any of the visuals. I’ll purchase all the music during the post-production stage when I’m completely happy with the music. This was the same workflow I used when making ‘Vetri’ :slight_smile:

I’ve now worked on the inside of Uyir’s mouth and given him eyes. The teeth is really just a placeholder. Since he’s an old man, I don’t plan to give him teeth but is there anyway when I need to modify the mesh for the granddaughter.

Here is the inside of his mouth, I’ve added a tongue and a simple uvula:

And here is his eyes:

His eyes are also placeholders that allowed me to define and sculpt the skin around his eyes. Giving him a tear duct was also a bit of a challenge.

I think I’m ready to move onto detail sculpting his face…

Here is his UV map. After a couple hours of tweaking, I decided to go with this. There is less detail on the body as his body will be covered by clothing and rarely seen in the film.

Here is the result of the detail sculpting. I used references as well as followed Kent Tramell’s realistic head tutorial for reference.

I’ve given him wrinkles, pores, shaped him further to add more years to his age. I first UV unwrapped the model and then duplicated and deleted all the vertices except the head. I then used a Multires modifier and spent a full day sculpting him. Not all these details might be preserved since I will be baking the displacement from multires and applying the bake to the lower res model.

Here are front and side views of him:

The sculpted details of the head look great! Perhaps you could add some pores and wrinkles at his temples, he is very “young” at this area :slight_smile: But you caught the age of the character very well.

Are you really going to use a displacement map for the character? And if so, with what displacement method? I wonder why you don’t want to use a normal map?

I know you’re very into modeling right now, and that’s good for now, but one thing that I’d suggest you do fairly soon is to determine the proportions of the room (vs. that of the character), and then, within that room, put together an “actual running-time animatic” using preview renders and, as necessary, simple geometric shapes that are of the right size.

Also, if it’s going to be to-music, put some kind of music in there, especially with regards to the rhythm and tempo of it. Even if it’s a recording of you saying “boop, boop, boop,” or a click-track.

By “actual running-time animatic,” I mean that you actually build a set, to scale, and you put actual objects into it (including your perhaps-incomplete and/or un-rigged character), and you have the characters making those moves. (The picture of the girl, for instance, might be nothing more than a box … but, a box of the correct size. Likewise, the bed is just a series of boxes, but the mattress is the right size, the right distance off the floor, and the bounding-box of the headboard is correct. You know exactly how many feet/meters corresponds to one Blender Unit.

You put cameras in, and, with OpenGL Preview rendering, “shoot some film.” Shoot lots of it. Preview renders can be completed very fast, such that you can easily afford to say, “well, what if we do it this way?” You can easily afford to shoot more coverage of a particular move, before taking the strip into the editor, and decide from there how you want to “cut” it all together. Just like is done with real film.

Then, go into VSE or something else and actually edit it down to what could actually be the “final” cut. (I happen to use Final Cut Pro, but you can also use iMovie or something else. Or, of course, VSE.)

Then, you start doing take-offs from that, working to replace each clip with the real thing, using the camera placements and so-on, linked directly from the rough shots.

I do this, basically, because “I can’t draw worth a damn.” :mad: But, when you do it this way, it’s a real eye-opener as to the timing of the scene, the camera-angles you might actually use or not-use, what’s going to be important (because you can see it) versus what isn’t (because you won’t see it), and of course, exactly what strips you need to render “for real.” Also, it makes the whole thing “feel alive, real,” much more quickly, which is a boatload of good encouragement. Your focus is put onto the show, very early on, and so it feels like you’re watching the show, even though most of the pieces are stand-ins. If the pace and timing’s off, as it usually is, you can tighten things up here and relax them there.

Use object-linking, too. Start with that, from the start. One by one, those boxes and cones become real assets of the same outward dimensions.

Rig up the set, put cameras in it, name those cameras, and include file-name, camera-name, and timestamp in each shot. (If you shoot with one camera and decide to move it, duplicate the camera, instead. So what if you have a bunch of “extra” cameras lying about.) Later on, you can link-to those exact cameras, reference exact object dimensions and coordinates and so on, so that the completed footage exactly matches the animatic … which is, of course, much more than an animatic now. The coordinates, angles, camera f-stops and so on … are real.

The frustrations of trying to sandwich “completed” shots into a coherent form late in the game, when you have so much time invested, are reduced by moving them early in the game, when you have options and real creative choice. You find that there’s a lot of “slop” and that, by cutting a second here or two seconds there, suddenly it becomes a lot more “tight.” And, you’re doing it when you can easily do it. The preview renders, lower-res though they might be, will exactly​ match the high-res replacements. (OpenGL’s capabilities these days have become quite stunning.)

This workflow has been described: “Edit, then shoot.”

this is exactly a problem I’m running into right now. The displacement map is giving strange unexpected results. Since I sculpted details such as wrinkles in his cheeks well into the skin, I’m not sure if it will reflect in the normal map. I’ll give it a try and post results…

Thanks minoribus for the feedback on the temples, I’ve given him more wrinkles and pores in this area. Here is the latest sculpt on the temples:

Thanks for the very detailed and thought out comment! This sounds like a great idea. I have been using this technique (a bit loosely) in previous projects and this has helped tremendously. This can really help fine-tune the screenplay as I need a more tighter screenplay. As soon as I complete all the modelling of the characters and environments, I will give myself time to create and play around with the running-time animatic and also post some of the footage here on BA, so I can get some feedback here :slight_smile: Thanks once again for the cool advice!

Wow this is really interesting what you are doing now. I will look forward to seeing more