According to the calendar it’s technically Spring, but when stepping outside I’m not buying it yet, not at all.
One of the wonderful things about living in Central New York is our proximity to The Adirondacks, a massive park that IMNSDHO (In My Not So Damn Humble Opinion) is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Yes, the Park is a winter wonderland of snow-friendly activities (Hello! Lake Placid?) but in all honesty I’m not into them. I’m one of the Boys of Summer, and I’m all about shorts, sunshine, and the things you can do in shirt sleeves. As I look out on my lawn, and see the snow hasn’t finished melting away, and note that my home golf club hasn’t yet opened for the season, my thoughts turn to longing for that good ol’ fashioned warm weather.
To help move those sunny thoughts along, here’s an animated piece:
Since I also use this space to go into a bit of the background behind the stuff I create, this post will be no different. The general theme is a riff on a television commercial ad campaign that ran a while back, commissioned by the Matt Brewery (our hometown brewery and IMNSDHO another wonder of the world) to advertise their Saranac Pale Ale.
In the original ad, a casually-dressed fellow lounged on a porch in the Adirondacks, mellow music playing as he used a hand-carved opener to pop the cap. The whole setting gently eased into the closing caption: “Unwind.” I loved it, and I wanted to make something that captured that feeling—but ditched the human dude.
With the magic of CGI at my command I decided that few characters say “Adirondacks” like a black bear…so there it was. Another thing I decided, since I was calling the shots, was I would break one of the cardinal laws regulating alcoholic beverage commercials: my character was actually going to take a swig. Being that he was a bear, I also decided that he didn’t need no steenkin’ bottle opener.
For my setting I picked one of the many photos I’ve taken over the years while visiting the Park. I’m not 100% positive but I believe it’s a shot looking at part of Mirror Lake by Lake Placid (do I really need to link that?). The original photo was heavily Photoshopped because I needed a much larger panorama than it provided and I wanted nothing man-made in the scene except what the bear was using. The final image was projected onto a large curving surface for the backdrop of the digital stage while a second, horizontal plane was textured with a grass pattern to add some parallax to the terrain as the camera pans right.
The butterflies that flutter through the scene near the beginning are an actual Adirondack species (thank you, Wikipedia) modeled with articulated wings for flapping. Their flight pattern is animated using a cool feature in Lightwave 3D called “flocking” that creates realistic-looking crowd and flock behaviors you can define and then guide along a particular path. The bench, bucket, and beers are modeled in 3D, as is (of course) the bear character itself. The bear’s fur is created using a very powerful plug-in called FiberFX that renders every strand of hair realistically, including gravity, inertia and wind effects (though those aren’t evident in this piece because the fur is so short).
For the environmentalists out there I wanted to make it very clear that the bottle cap ended up in the bucket, not littering the ground. Oh, and the label of the beer he’s drinking? Why, Saranac’s Black Bear Bock, of course!
And there you have it. I hope I’ve helped you think warm, happy thoughts and may Spring finally really get here! Please leave comments below, and share this post all over the Internet! I’d like that.
Spinland Studios, LLC is a high-tech 3D modeling and animation studio in the Mohawk Valley of Upstate New York. Defy conventional branding and let me bring your brand to life! Visit www.spinland.studio for more information and examples.