One of my favorite marketing tactics is to scout out local businesses with interesting logos and/or banners, create some fun 3D animated stuff around them, and then approach the brand owner with something concrete to show them. Show, don’t tell. Armed with a demo piece that’s directly enhancing their brand helps to make the demo personal and to bring the message home: this is what your brand can do! Let’s go places with this!
My latest target of interest is the logo from my favorite brew pub, the Nail Creek Pub & Brewery. The owner is already a web app client of mine and the bar at his establishment is the setting for my Schultz & Dooley animation. A local artist created a fun character they call “Kingsly” and I decided he was a prime candidate for coming to life.
For reference, these are the images I had to work from:
As you can see, not only is a “toon” style called for, the character has an air of sublime bliss—and even some whimsy. Fun stuff!
After about a day and a half of modeling (interrupted by some other appointments or I could have banged this model out in a day) in Lightwave3D this is the basic motif I settled on:
There wasn’t much body image in the reference logos to work from, but I visualized him as somewhat short and a little pudgy, but not overly so. I kept the arms (and fingers) a little more spindly so they’d be more expressive when I start posing and animating him.
The first order of business was to do a “flyaround” beauty render to see how the model came out under different lighting and camera angles. This short video is the result of that test:
As you can see I experimented with a “photorealistic” surfacing treatment as well as the toon one that more closely matches the original logo design. For actual production I’d expect to use the toon style but it was useful to see the model under both conditions.
Once the model was essentially done, it was time to get that bad boy ready for posing and animating. First order of business in my workflow is to get the “morphs” done. That term means starting with the base model, pushing and pulling stuff around to alter the original, and saving those changed versions in the morph channel so you can swap between the versions later. This is the primary technique I use for facial animation: expressions, mouth movement for speaking, eye and eyelid motion, and so on. After I have a set of morphs I like I then move on to the rigging phase. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t enjoy rigging. The process (and I’ve done this in multiple modeling programs) is both fiddly and tedious, for all it’s vital that I be good at it. A poorly-rigged model (and/or poorly laid out rigging controls) is not only going to be a bear to work with, the results will stink.
Rigging Kingsly took me most of a day, mainly because I am very picky and spend a lot of time testing and tweaking sections before I move on. I expect any rigger worth their salt to be the same way. Here is a screen shot of the current rig and animation controls (I never say final because once I start posing I almost always find a spot or two for improvement) as of this morning:
You can see why the deformers are called “bones.”
And, then comes the posing! Here is a test shot of a whimsical pose I came up with on the fly. He’s either bestowing a benediction or accepting praise, I can’t decide which.
You might not notice, but there are some problems with this pose (which is why I selected it as an illustrative example of the process). The left shoulder was the main issue, as revealed by the odd shadowing there, and that part of the rig required some serious tweaking before the shoulder joints started deforming correctly. The middle fingers also deformed oddly because I missed a couple of polygons when I defined the weight maps (which tell the bones which polygons they’re allowed to deform). Sometimes you just don’t see coming problems until those test renders.
And that’s the evolution of Kingsly from a static image to a fully-realized 3D character ready to make some magic. I’ll be doing some fun animations with him soon, so stay tuned!
Spinland Studios, LLC is a high-tech branding and marketing studio in the Mohawk Valley of Upstate New York. We leverage the power and magic of 3D modeling and animation to take your company’s image places you can only imagine—for a lot less than you’d think. Defy conventional marketing and bring your brand to life! Visit www.spinland.studio for more information and examples—then hire us to boost your company’s marketing image into the 21st century!