About Fern's Rig
The main idea behind this rig was to make it very intuitive for the animators, which is why the visual interface was created (Fig.10 and Fig.11).
Basically, it controls everything on the rig; instead of using sliders, that some animators just can't stand, buttons in the interface handle the IK/FK switching as well as the dynamic linking, and even the selection and the trajectories. Also, what's interesting with this is that it's quite accessible! Making such a visual interface does not require a high level of scripting skills; for example, when I was at school I made my very first visual interface in 3ds Max using only the macro recorder and visual MaxScript. Making those interfaces is fun, so try it for yourself!
Actually, the less complicated but longer step was the skinning. Because of the Deformation Layer (Fig.12) on top of the Control Rig (Fig.13), there were a lot of bones in the skin (Fig.14). I'm showing you the envelopes to show you just how many bones there are inside Fern (although I don't use envelopes to skin characters). For the skinning, I used a technique that I will call "substractive skinning"; for example, I skin every point of the leg to the thigh bone, and then I go on the calf bone to "steal" some weight for the thigh in the knee area, then all of the foot area will be weighted to the calf, and then the same thing goes: the foot will "lend" some weight to the calf. I find this technique to be very good in creating rough skinning (before the painting), or to skin low resolution characters.
This kind of project is a good opportunity to learn how some techniques work and others should be avoided. This will be shown in Dpuppet - a new rig in progress that will be available for free so animators of the world can enjoy some Fern-like animation (the visual interface will be included, too), so stay tuned on www.D-Puppet.com for updates!
The compositing was the simplest part in the creation of this image (Fig.15). We created this character for a webisode. Fern was built to give us the ability to render an animation sequence really quickly, without render passes and without a complicated process - one click, one render. We added some tweaks to the final image, added a background, tried to remove the 3D effects, adjusted the brightness and contrast and added some details. We used the lighting effect tool in Photoshop on the final images to adjust the lighting. This did a good job in boosting the colours, the intensity, and mixing the background with the character.
So, finally, I hope you have appreciated this "Making Of". As you can see, there is lot of work behind this character and our team has worked really hard to create him. It was a great thing for us to make Fern and to see how we can work together, and we're happy to be sharing the final result with you. We hope that you will enjoy this character, too! Please don't hesitate to contact us at Chevisodes.com with questions - it will be a pleasure for us to answer them! I'm entirely at your disposal - if I have the time...