A recent project sent Mill artists down the rabbit hole, but in the end, the studio emerged successfully. It took a team of more than 20 artists to turn the highly complex project around in just over eight weeks, as they created an intriguing blue CG rabbit to help promote O2’s live-experience rewards program.
Playing with the viewer’s sense of adventure and curiosity, the somewhat mystical character – coated with an iconic blue fur – dares you to follow him as he leaps and bounds his way into a busy crowd of people enjoying a gig.
The Mill’s 2D and 3D teams worked to create a creature that looked highly realistic but with enough personality and an air of mischief to really draw the viewer in and engage with its journey.
Much of the rabbit’s distinctive appearance was obtained through the color and texture of its fur. “Directors dom&nic wanted the blue coloring to feel as though it was in the DNA of the rabbit. We had to make sure that it was convincing enough when we altered it from brown to blue,” explains Alex Hammond, Mill joint 3D lead artist. “It was a real balance to maintain the wild rabbit markings in the blue version, and we went through about 50 iterations of fur grooming and texturing to get it right.”
Mill Joint 3D Lead Yoann Gouraud continues, “We carried out extensive research into rabbit hair, which we discovered consists of three levels of fur: down fur, awn fur, and guard hairs, all of which we replicated in the fur groom to give the correct density in the fur.”
Along each strand of hair, the artists were able to manipulate the color so “the root-to-tip” variation had some interesting blue tones, instead of one flat color – all of which added to the unique aesthetic.
The group also developed The Mill’s fur pipeline to allow multiple software, which gave them a quick and seamless transition from the animation through to the simulation and then the rendering.
On crafting the rabbit’s movements and character, Gouraud explains, “The animation was a real challenge, as we wanted the rabbit to engage with the audience but also maintain completely natural and realistic movements. There were some interesting results when we started to simulate the skin, which helped to reveal some nice wrinkle detailing and deformations within the fur, all adding to the highly realistic appearance of the CG rabbit.”
Adds Hammond, “Using complex skin and volume solvers in [Side Effects’] Houdini, we were able to input the correct muscle shapes into the model, which really improved the look and feel of the rabbit after animation.”
According to Mill Colorist David “Luddy” Ludlam, everyone’s main focus was the hair color and contrast matching with the iris of the eye so that it was consistent. “We had to make sure nothing compromised the photoreal look to compliment the final piece,” he says.
The Mill loves a great challenge, Executive Creative Director Neil Davies says, and creating a photoreal blue rabbit that could stand up to extreme close-ups while staring you right in the eye was an exciting prospect.
“Knowing this was a tight turnaround project, we drew heavily on our creature expertise, putting together a seasoned team and using our in-house pipeline and fur software, Furtilizer, to make the rabbit utterly photoreal and believable,” Davies adds.
Animation was key in portraying a sense of urgency and nervous energy of the rabbit, Davies points out, so the animators worked hard to craft the subtleties of the breathing and twitching that draw you into the narrative while maintaining eye contact at all times.
Davies notes that the team is looking forward to another adventure with the campaign.