Corrected forest scene re-uploaded

A fellow blenderhead called Jack-Jack  informed me that the actual blend file for the project ‘The Other Day in The Forest’ was in fact corrupted. It was missing some external data and didn’t render correctly.

Thanks to Jack-Jack for bringing this to my attention.

A new version is now uploaded, which should work now correctly. You can download it directly from here.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, but then, until now nobody has complained :).

90 sec Storyreel V1

As already indicated in my prevoius post I went back to rework the storyboard.

In fact I ended up rewriting the script as well, although only slightly.

My approach now is the following: work through the book ‘Directing the Story’ and thereby improving the storyboard and storytelling of Ara’s Tale.  Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it ?

Continue reading “90 sec Storyreel V1”

Ara’s Tale – An important step back


Even bad things have their good side.

I have now somewhat recovered from my flu and start to feel the inkling to continue work on Ara’s Tale.  But instead of going on, I will right go back to the start again  (well almost, the story remains) and will work again on the storyboard.
Continue reading “Ara’s Tale – An important step back”

Some remarks on scale and hair

Where scale here stands for the relative size of  things rather than the parts constituting the skin of a dragon.

During work and planning for my short ‘Ara’s Tale’ I explored some intrinsics of blenders hair implementation in regard to actual size of models in combination with animation. What seemed rather simple in the beginning turned out to be quite tricky to apply for my needs.

But first things first.

Continue reading “Some remarks on scale and hair”

More on Ara

Ara with hair

Here is a peek at the current state of Ara. The time since my last update was quite interesting and informative.

After finishing the head I did a small detour into hair simulation. I needed to know if I am able to give Ara a hair ring of sorts ( as in the concept drawing) and be able to control the hair, so that it doesn’t pass through the ring ,even if wind is blowing and Ara is moving.
For the moment I have abandoned the idea of a hair ring due to technical reasons. I simply was not able to achieve a convincing effect.

Next I had to model the body. This posed a completely different problem. I needed reference photos of a 11 year old girl. Me, being an adult male I deemed it not a very wise idea to go looking for these sort of images on the internet :). I ended up using photos taken 2 years ago from my daughter, which gave me quite some good references.

The body won’t be seen anyways, so I didn’t do too much on good topology or exact modeling. I wanted to have a good basis for the dress. And this send me to just another detour again. I wanted to know if using the cloth simulation had any impact on decisions to be made during the actual modeling of the body and/or dress. I had to force me back on track as I tended to get distracted with all these nice toys.

Anyway, I learned a way how to use the cloth simulation for my purpose.

Ara dressed

Ara dressed closeup

I ‘cheated’ with the feet. I took the feet from a makehuman model and heavily modified it and attached it to Ara. As the feet will only be seen from far away and then mostly covered by the dress, this is quite acceptable.

The hands now are a totally different story. Similar to the face there are at least two shots where you will see the hands in closeup, so the hands should be modeled with care. Hands are my second first time modeling experience during this project ( the face being the first one) and I really wasn’t sure if I could come up with something satisfying. Again I used my daughters hands as reference. After looking at some tutorials I gave it a try and I dare to say I managed quite well.

Ara's hand

hand model

Current production status

8:45 Animatics
42:02 Concept Art
--12:00 Ara Design
--18:35 Color Tests
--11:27 Dragon Design
78:06 Modeling
--35:01 Ara
--43:05 Dragon
21:51 Research
--1:16 2d-art
--1:30 animation
--12:00 effects
--7:05 modeling
4:00 Rigging
--4:00 Dragon
4:30 Script
21:25 Storyboard
180:39 Total

Ara is evolving

Ara Head - first test

After all I decided to continue modeling on Ara before doing the rigging on both models.

I was maybe too optimistic or naive (or both) about modeling Ara. I soon trashed my first try after recognizing that there are some huge gaps in my knowledge and experience.

It’s just different to model something which exists in the real world, where any minor mistake done is immediately obvious.

I did some studying of existing head topologies and looked at a lot of reference pictures, both anatomy and normal pics. I even used my hands to feel/grasp the anatomy of my own head as well of my daughters.

With all this done I started from scratch, this time using the topology I studied from the ‘simple’ model Angela Guenette from the Durian team was doing as test drive for blender 2.5. This helped a lot and gave me some good starters.

Its still a lot of work and tweaking. As of now Ara is not ‘perfect’, but she goes in a direction, where I recognize her as the girl I want to see in the short. And this is encouraging.

See here for a wire of the current state

Ara head wire

The image on top is just a quick render with some fake eyes and some very crude polygon hair, just to have a better idea.

Dragon Turntable

flying dragon

A quick update on the dragon model. I tried to incorporate some ideas I got from from feedback in my wip thread on

I corrected the size of the head and added some muscles at the base of the wings.

I have now to decide if I continue with the rigging of the dragon or if I stay with the modeling and start with creating Ara.

See here for a turntable video (without the table) of the current dragon model in a nice pose.

Dragon Model – Ara’s Tale from loramel on Vimeo.

The dragon model is finished – for now

Dragon pose

Doing a short is definitely different to doing a still. Besides from being much more work, its the various aspects for animation influencing the modeling which kept me busy since the last update. And its a wealth of information about oneself.

I also learned to better economize my energy. I tend to immerse myself completely into the project, blending away hours far into the night. This is not advisable for a project like this, as the end point is too far away and I end up exhausted both emotionally and physically. This in turn affects motivation and I already had to experience my first low during this project.

Anyway, I think the dragon as a model is more or less finished. The storyboard guides me here as I know which parts of the dragon will be seen in high detail. The head will have some very near closeups and received the most attention.

As I started with the first rigging steps, I recognized that weight painting (especially with the bone heat method) is not functional once you have a mirror modifier on your  model. That makes me a little nervous. In order to do the weight painting I have to apply the mirror modifier, so I have to be sure there won’t be any major modeling tasks coming along.  I do not have  the experience if the animation workflow will demand any changes on the model (like changing topology for better deformation etc) . If there are, well then it will be more work.

As for the rigging progress,  I only have added the deformation bones with some weight painting to see if the poses work as I want them to be. As it turns out, tweaking the deformation will be quite some task …

I also stumbled upon a problem with bone heat weighting. At first blender always told me ‘failed to find solution for one or more bones’. I checked all the naming and setup of the bones but could not find an error. For weight painting I had the subsurf modifier deactivated, as this slows down the process drastically. Only reactivating the subsurf modifier ( and only using level 2 ?) let me use the heat weighting feature. I just fail to see how the subsurf modifier should influence the heat weighting solution …

I want the dragons rig finished before starting to model Ara. And this includes creating a nice controller set and maybe even a fly-cycle for the dragon. To get nice deformations especially on the head area and on the wings I will most certainly use action constraints, maybe mixed with ipo driven shape keys, but here I have to gather more experience.

Texturing and lighting is the area which I like most, so its very tempting to work immediately on the dragon, but I stay firm. The sculpting, texturing, uv-unwrapping and materials will all come after all the animation is done. This again should avoid unnecessary work.

Here are some wires of the current dragon model.




And here are some poses done very crudely with the current deformation-only rig. The poses are taken from actual shots from the storyboard. I wanted to see how they work out on the 3d model.



Actual status

8:45 Animatics
42:02 Concept Art
--12:00 Ara Design
--18:35 Color Tests
--11:27 Dragon Design
38:05 Modeling
--38:05 Dragon
2:46 Research
--1:16 2d-art
--1:30 animation
4:00 Rigging
--4:00 Dragon
4:30 Script
21:25 Storyboard
121:33 Total

Modeling the Dragon

Dragon head wire

I entered the modeling phase now. To be precise I started modeling the dragon’s head.

As said before, modeling is my weakest point, and I have spent already ~14 hrs for this head model alone. This is just the basic shape with all the details I want to have in without sculpting. Teeth are missing too.

The head will be the part of the dragon where some extreme closeups shots will be seen, so the detailing should begin already with the mesh. Later on sculpting and most importantly texturing will add even more details.

I am quite satisfied so far, as I managed to match my design quite well and it looks fine as 3d model too.

I reserve mesh cleanups and tweaks for the rigging/skinning phase, as I am sure this will trigger mesh changes.

Although the dragon won’t be much animated, there are certain areas where I will try to portray the dragon’s emotions – eyes, lids, nostrils and front snout. I also crudely tested the jaw movement as this will of course animated too.

Next will be to model the rest of the body. The level of detail is certainly lower there, so I am curious how I will cope with it.

dragon modeling