What 3 Months of VFX Character Creation
Visual effects or VFX has been around for a long time. It has only become more prevalent, with some million-dollar movies seeming like animated films due to the level of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and VFX included. The process of creating VFX for films, despite its growing accessibility and skyrocketing quality, is still something mystical to most viewers.
So, we decided to help break that down. To try and show what 3 months of VFX character creation looks like.
Characters from scratch
There are three main stages of character creation. First up is the idea.
This is usually the longest stage as once you settle on a concept, it has to be locked in. While this stage usually means ‘no more major changes’, all artists are ready and anticipating changes or tweaks down the line. As a result, it is usually the hardest stage as both the team and the client are seeking to finalise on something they both like. The client seeking to have their design come to life and the team trying to ensure it is the best version it can be.
This is concept art. Iteration upon iteration of character design and it is usually just the artists and the client discussing the character’s core design. This step is often referred to as the ‘artistic search’. The unknowable time before the design is found, the one that lives in the artist and client’s heads.
This ends with usually a few variations of the character and a maximum of 3 iterations of the chosen design. Then the client decides on the iteration they prefer. Once this is done and all details are in, a timeframe and cost can be estimated.
Take the design and give it life
The next step is creating the model itself, the shape of the character. The concept of art and design are taken into 3D modelling and it is ‘filled out’.
This means that the team take the idea, the base concept and add hair, clothes, and items. The body type is finalised, whether that be a human or animal, or monster. If it is a non-human, this is the stage you work on hiding, scales, or fur.
This step takes the concept and makes it real, makes it concrete. Something that has life and expression. This process typically involves the sculptors, the modellers, and the artists.
This stage progresses quite quickly as the designs have been finalised. We as a studio work to ensure that small tweaks can be made at any stage and that the process is streamlined. Meaning time is saved and everything continues quickly and smoothly.
They’ve got strings
Finally, the rigging. This is a step considered by many to not even be a creative process. It’s a heavily technical step and usually just involves the engineers. This is the system of motion for the newly created model. Controlling it, making it walk, making it run, fall and break and bend. In basic terms, rigging is giving the model a skeleton and this skeleton gives the animators the full range of motion when controlling it. There are human type rigs and rigs for non-humans, monsters, and animals. At Magic Room, we work with fully scalable rigging so there are no worries about size or dimensions. In the event of a particularly complex or unique model, custom riggings can be created and fitted.
The final product in motion is a big step from the original concept art. It goes from a two-dimensional art concept to something that lives and breathes, walks, slithers, or stalks. It comes to life. The process takes skill and expertise but also time, effort, and communication. For every major blockbuster character you’ve seen, whether they have CGI elements or are entirely CGI, this is the process that they will go through. Concept to model to rigging.
The world of VFX is mysterious to most, but we’d like to break down some of those barriers and reveal the processes underneath. Whether it be weeks or months, these are the common steps. If you have a need for character creation, animation, set supervision, and more, we’d love to hear from you.