2012
Oct
04

Hubert the Bear Animation Case Study

 by 

Introduction

There is an increasing trend for businesses to use animated 3D characters for their communications, and for good reason too. There are many benefits – animated 3D characters create greater product recognition, avoid negative stereo types, enable more efficient explanations of products and services and are cheaper to produce and modify.

Characters with quirky personalities achieve improved audience engagement and greater recollection of key messages.

Concept

We have created this case study to demonstrate that Bearfoot can produce high quality 3D character animation and the process undertaken starting from an initial concept through to a complete, polished animated short.

Given our heritage, a bear was the obvious choice for our character. We developed several hand drawn character drafts, filtering them until we achieved the preferred design.

The next step was to storyboard ideas for an animated short; developing ideas which were fun and entertaining.

We always storyboard our ideas before progressing to the animation stage. It’s a quick way to portray a visual representation of a story and also make sure the message behind it is clear and concise. A storyboard reduces costs by agreeing the sequence before the time consuming animation stage. Storyboards also help to estimate timing, reduce continuity issues (so that the story flows correctly) and in our case, establish what props and backgrounds needed to be designed.

After a few iterations, we chose to go with the concept of our bear attempting to fish… badly.

Construction

With our main character and storyboard agreed, we now progressed to the construction stage. To create a 3D model of the bear we created a wireframe ‘mesh’ of the character based on our initial sketch.

The mesh was then smoothed and inside it, we added a skeleton which allowed us to move our bear in 3D space. Lastly, we textured our bear which added colour and gave our bear a unique character and personality.

The next stage was to develop 3D props including rocks, branches, the fish and fishing rod which were going to be used in the scenes.

We also hand drew 2D backgrounds for each of our scenes and scanned them into a drawing package to convert them into a digital format. We then split the images into layers so that individual components such as the clouds could be animated at a later stage. The backgrounds were shaded and stylised to be bright and colourful to match the feel of the story.

Animation

Based on the storyboard, we created and animated each scene in 3D. We intentionally built the scenes with no backgrounds or special effects included since they were going to be added as layers later on in the process.

There are several reasons why we work in this layered fashion. Rendering out the animation (which produces an image for every frame of animation) is a very long process. By rendering the character and props separately to the backgrounds, it makes animating and editing a much smoother process, reducing the time and cost it takes to create these images dramatically. Lastly, it makes editing far quicker when changes need to be made at a later stage as components can be altered or replaced without rebuilding a whole scene from scratch.

Compositing

Once the animation was complete, we rendered out all of the frames into one complete sequence. We composited this onto our background images by layering it over the top. Some of the objects in the backgrounds including clouds and water were subtly animated as well to bring even more life to the scenes. Final touches including special effects; smoke, rain and fire were composited on top of the animation to complete the scenes.

After much deliberation, we named our bear Hubert and created a short title sequence both to brand the animation and give the piece a recognisable identity. We also animated the credits to finish off the graphical aspects of the project.

Lastly, we added a soundtrack that matched the feel and style of the piece. Sound effects were also incorporated to complete certain aspects of our story and further enhance visuals.

Conclusion

With all of our components combined, we rendered our project to create the final video in an uncompressed format. Uncompressed video has no loss of quality, and can be encoded into different video formats for playback in other mediums such as DVD, YouTube, Vimeo etc.

View the full animation here

As you can probably tell, we had a lot of fun creating this animated short and would love to do more of them!

If you enjoyed the case study and feel an animated short would benefit you or your business, please give us a call or leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

 

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