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Celtic Demon

Celtic Demon

by DToland on 28 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

Short sequence of stylised character comped into live action footage.

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The brief for this project was to produce a short advertisement for a Nike shoe, it was to celebrate Nike Air Max day and had to include a stylised character based on a myth or legend. I was provided some different footage to choose from for the shot. I chose the one I did because it had what seemed to be enough parallax to allow for a decent track. As well as that I knew I wanted a larger character and this shot provided opportunities for quite good framing of the character.   

Once I had the footage I started working on the character, for this project I opted to go with a Celtic legend that somewhat resembled a cyclops. I did this as it allowed me to relate it to a local legend which I think fits with the footage as they both share a geographical connection. The aesthetic similarities to a cyclops also allowed me to make the character a little more readable and something that a viewer will be more readily equipped to recognise.

From here I started iterating on the character in Zbrush.   

Maya Arnold test renders  

I experimented with a few different interpretations of the style but ultimately went for something a little less intense as I wasn't really able to make the overly primitive design look appealing .

Once I had a better idea of what the character was gonna look like, I went back to the footage and started working on getting a track. Initially I tried a few different methods in After Effects both the native tracking as well as Mocha but after some trial and error settled on using mesh room as it provided a proxy geometry for animation.

when tracking however I ended up having to use a combination of footage as well as slightly adjusting the footage I had by both removing the distortion and cropping it in places that were interfering with Meshroom (fences, class etc).    

From here I then re-toped the character and quickly created a rig in Maya using Mgear. Once I had both a basic rig and a proxy scene I created a previz  . 

Once I was happy with how the sequence was playing out I went back and started refining the assets. I stared with the final tweaks and re-top of the character model trying to achieve a better deformation than what I got with the previz model.

(See below final topology)

After getting a good topology with the model I then went back and refined both the high poly Zbrush model and the Meshroom track.

I then UV unwrapped the low poly and then took the new high poly model and used Substance 3D Painter to bake it to the low poly. From there I started iterating on the textures and working on the final rig (again with Mgear). 


Once I had the height baked to the model I then started iterating the characters texture. Below are some of the different versions I created, however I didn't find that any of these were really working stylistically and they generally felt quite unappealing. 

For the final texture I went for something a little simpler than I had been experimenting with. (Final texture below)

From here i started working on the lighting and final rig (which can seen below).  The rig was generated using Mgears bipedal guide customised to fit the proportions of my character and it was then weight painted using Mayas native weight painting tools. In addition to this i then created a facial GUI and used the node editor in Maya to have it drive a set of blend shapes I exported from Zbrush. 

Below are some HDRI lighting tests I did, my intention with these was to try and match the lighting in the footage as much as possible (specifically the direction and overall colour/ temperature).

Additionally I did a number of lighting test to get a sense of how the materials appears in different conditions, which I then used to further tweak the textures to achieve the final look I wanted as well as adjusting the sub surface scattering.    


With all the assets ready I began animating, for which i used a combination of found and custom references (which I imported into the Maya scene as an image sequence on a plain).

For the animation itself, i was trying to create a sense of scale and weight with quite slow lumbering movements with quite exaggerated follow though and overlapping action. However in the final version I ended up toning that down a little bit as it started to look excessive.      


Once the animation was completed I started the render set up, for this I set up some AOV's and render layers (see below). In this sequence I excluded the shadow catchers as all I really needed was the ones casted onto the character itself.


I then took all the passes into After Effects and began compositing. I stated with roto to get a good sense of how all the layers would fit together.

 I then moved to colour grading, for this I was trying to achieve the appearance of atmospheric perspective as well as good overall incorporation into the footage. The before and after of this can be seen below but overall its quite a simple grade.

lastly I added the text, effects and shoe model. All the effects seen in the sequence are custom and were created using tool native to AE. As for the shoe model itself, I did NOT create the model myself, it was a downloaded assets provided to me by a lecturer at my college. However I did UV and texture the model and outside of the shoe model everything else in the sequence described above is my own original work.

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