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The day of the Bee

The day of the Bee

Lukas Schrader
by Greum on 13 Feb 2022

This video shows my 1st demo project in the final class of the PixlVisn Media arts academy. I challenged myself by using a not actual rigged 3D model (without rig controllers) to animate a Slow-Motion of a bee with 6 legs, 4 wings, a pair of antennae and a lot of joints within the core body. Enjoy! Cheers Lukas

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The day of the Bee

Animating the bee model without an actual rig (the controllers were missing) was quite challenging. It was the first time on a project where I had used Quixel Megascans for building scenery. To increase efficiency of the build I used the Quixel Bridge to import the assets along with the texture maps. Using the same type of approach, I used the Redshift render in combination with the Fox renderfarm.

How to become the bee's knees...

The objective of my first Demo Project was to animate an animal or insect to challenge my understanding of how they move in real life. This caused me to play with size, weight as well as with speed and slow movement. I also had to keep in mind that these types of creatures walk on 6 legs and have constantly moving antennas. In the end I decided, that I wanted to go to all-out and animate a flying insect with 4 wings. This made my choice of selecting a bee an easy one!

Words are like bees – some create honey and others leave a sting

This Demo Project proved and showed me the importance of references – these are so necessary throughout the whole project.

To create realistic movement and behavior of my bee rig, I studied a lot of scientific and nature videos of bees. I realized that the most challenging part was the complex movement of the four wings, which move in a never-ending infinity-symbol, this movement when viewed at normal speeds is invisible to our eyes, however, it became clear to me that I had to start with a slow-motion animation to show these exciting and incredible details for the audience. 

Bee in motion!

Animation: Starting the flight scene in slow-motion with the animation of the four wings. This required a lot of manual optimization on the graph editor to make the wings move in a realistic and smooth movement - like an infinity symbol or a figure of eight. As the wings moved, I realized that the insect has to move all parts nearly constantly, creating the impression of a living hyperactive insect, this even had to work in slow-motion. It was therefore necessary to use the animation layers to protect the base animation.

The animation was shot from two different angles, this is to demonstrate that the movement of the legs and antennas is different on each side of the insect. Another “lessons learned” was the walk cycle of an insect: insects move three of their six legs all at the same time enabling them to stand securely at all times. In the few weeks I became a little entomologist. 😉 It goes to show that to get it right you have to do the background research!

An effective way of reusing the flight animation was to add an additional cinematic slow-motion shot, with a camera looking from the ground up to a group of bees flying in the blue sky.

Lastly, I created an animation of the bee in real time. Here I focused on the landing and departure of the bee on a stone with a backlight sunset. This required additional lighting and light effects to show the details of the animation like the walk cycle and the bee’s grooming.

In the breakdown I also wanted to demonstrate that the model’s rig has a skeleton with a lot of different joints - even within the back part of the body. However, in the absence of rig controllers, I was forced to move all respective joints in parallel for each and every movement of my little bee. I used the perspective camera to ensure a proper look of the movement viewed from all directions. Additionally, calculating the distance between the key frames showed me how the long a shot would take. 

Once upon a time, in a strange land not far away...

Scenery/Environment: The two different sceneries were used for the four different camera shots.

The first scenery was created with a texture map of a forest ground, a dome with a forest in the late afternoon sun with a lot of grass and flowers. All these assets and backgrounds were taken from Quixel Megascans. The Quixel Bridge allowed me to import the assets in Maya without needing to re-build the complete texture nodes. The assets immediately looked as intended.

The second scenery was much simpler. I used a stone to give the bee a landing platform and a dome with a country yard in the light of a setting sun. The camera was placed in such a manner, that the bee was the undisputed star of the scene; in my opinion no additional assets were required.

Let there Bee light

Light: Both domes were used in combination with a directional light to better control the light and shadow. The shadows were already visible on the scene background and they have to show the same direction as the shadows caused by the model and the assets. To create a realistic color in the scene I used the temperature setting of the light. This was especially important in the sunset animation of the grooming bee as this required an additional very warm light source to harmonize the whole scene matching the warm of the sunset.


Assets by: Quixel Megascans

Bee model by: Evgeniy on Sketchfab

In case of further questions please visit me on LinkedIn

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