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Cinesite's Beans – Animated Short

By Paul Hellard

Web: www.cinesite.com (will open in new window)

(16993 Views) | 1 Comments
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Date Added: 18th December 2013

Making the beastie

The alien monster was created in a collaborative way, with Alvise sculpting, Eamonn adjusting and the whole team involved in generating the look. Cinesite is a Maya house for animation, and the creature was rigged in Maya as well. Mind you, it was created initially in Sculptris, the kit that Pixologic bought-out some time back. "This package is really quick to use, very simple so I could sketch the general shape and ideas very fast,” Butler explained. "I'd pass it to Alvise to work on, and he'd pass it back to me to get my thoughts. Some software encourages you to get in under the hood very quickly, but when you do that you stop being creative and you just fiddle, so we stayed loose and then we took it into ZBrush and also MARI for the textures.”

MARI was also used for the textures of the spacemen's suit, and ZBrush and Mudbox for the rocky lunar landscape. RenderMan was the renderer for the final push.


The Cinesite creatives wanted the creature to be big, bipedal, with short, stocky arms and a little head, but it took them a while to settle on his color. "We attempted versions in brown and grey, which blended in too much with the environment,” adds Butler. "In the end, we settled on a less saturated red color, so the creature looked suitably alien and other-worldly. We also added a lot of dirt and dust on the creature's skin which really helped integrate it into the environment.”


Beans was the opportunity for Cinesite crew to be creative and generate their own content

Butler was inspired by J.J.Abrams' bright red monster that greets Captain Kirk when he lands on the alien planet in Star Trek. It had to look completely out of place on the surface. The added color made it fit better and seemed like it didn't like being out in the sunshine at all. Perhaps he/she was just upset and wanted to get up and obliterate the astronauts and then get back inside its hole. Fair enough, too.

Alvise had initially wanted his eyes to glow, particularly when he comes out of the shadows at the start. FX were created to give realistic dust being kicked up from the moon's surface. "Initially, our highly realistic dust simulations created using Houdini looked like CG particle animation, so we introduced a layered approach. Some were simple, with particles reacting with each other, some were fluid-based. Some were cloudy and others clumped together. The team created several dust passes and tweaked the gravity on each dust kick to make it look better,” says Avati.

In reality, big rocks and dust actually fall at the same pace on the moon, but when it was created for the short, it just didn't look right, so they made adjustments. Thinking back to Apollo 12's astronauts jogging about kicking up the dust may have looked cool on the news footage but it didn't look right in the clear view. But the dust effects helped demonstrate how powerful and dynamic the monster was, and they also helped cover up the gory bits.

Still taken from the Beans short film created by Cinesite


Eamonn bought this book called 'Moon', which is a big set of NASA photographs from the moon missions. "One of the images really stood out,” he describes. "One image looked black and white but if you look really carefully, it's actually a full-color picture. The only way you can tell is that the lunar rover has gold fenders on it. It looks completely monochrome.”

It was decided that back-lit, high-key and the really deep dark shadows were important. Then with a very long depth of field, it was extremely bright. On the TV footage, the tube cameras used back then left blooming and soft edges. A little bit of that perception was brought back in the render, to give a notion of that TV broadcast look. "Otherwise it would have looked fake,” quips Eamonn. Yet the one element was the single high key light of the sun. "We added dirt on the lens, a bit of flare, some aberration.”

Still taken from the Beans short film created by Cinesite

Animation pipeline

Two rigs were used for the animation, with Alvise working on keyframe animation while Eamonn simultaneously worked on the muscle rig with the other. Changes were made in tandem, with muscle controls added as required, based on the requirements of the animation. Both rigs and the process allowed for quick updates as they went along, giving the animator a lot of freedom.

"It's believable and at the same time it's slightly ridiculous. We've created an awesome creature, but essentially it's all about the laugh"

Alvise contributed most of the animation. Essentially, he only animated the muscles you could see, so areas like the creature's foreground attacking arm had far more control, allowing for finer animation detail to be added. Ultimately, there were about 38 controls. He used a combination of shape targets and clusters to generate muscle tightening and bulging. "We do tests for projects all the time, but they are not something we can put online and show. Visually, I think Beans is compelling, cool and the scale is epic,” says Eamonn. "It hooks the audience from the very beginning with its realism. It's believable and at the same time it's slightly ridiculous. We've created an awesome creature, but essentially it's all about the laugh. The humor in Beans is universal; no language is required; everyone gets it. We've had a lot of fun making Beans and I hope that people have as much fun watching and sharing it.”

Still taken from the Beans short film created by Cinesite

Written and directed - Alvise Avati
Producer - Eamonn Butler
VFX supervisor - Richard Clarke
Art direction - Jean-David Solon
Concept art - Andrea de Martis
Modeling and rigging - Grahame Curtis, Royston Willcocks, Richard Boyle
Animation - Alvise Avati, Eamonn Butler, Peter Clayton, Tom O'Flaherty, Adam Bailey
Texture artists - Nicolette Newman, Gary Newman
FX animation - Andreas Vrhovsek, Luke Wilde
Lighting and compositing - Zave Jackson, Nikos Gatos, Jonathan, Vuillemin, Dan Harrod, Joel Bodin
Editorial - William Marshall-Wilkinson, Christopher Learmonth

Related links

Follow Cinesite on Facebook
Watch Beans on YouTube

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Teresa Santelli on Mon, 11 August 2014 6:45pm
You guys nailed it, great commercial. Should have had it played during supper bowl. Right up there with the best.
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