Ruby and Ralph

client: Virgin Experience Days



Character Development

During the storyboarding process, i had drawn very basic bird characters, which people seemed to be quite drawn towards, so i used these as my staring point.

The main thing i wanted to get in the characters was the big bulging eyes. Eyes are always a great focal point, and you can get across great emotion just using them. We used various sources for inspiration of getting emotion across using eyes, and one of my favourites is the cartoon Clarence by Cartoon Network.

 clarence eyes - cartoon network

Initial sketches

Working out color scheme for the characters

You can see at this point the robins didnt have their "accessories". We were trying different things, like adjusting the scale and proportions to create differences between them.


PS Yeah i didnt really sketch them in this notepad… they were done in Photoshop, but i put them on the sketchbook here to make it look a bit nicer presented!


Modelling was done in MODO.

Eyes were one of the key features of the robins, so I started with them.

Started with a really rough block model, then refined using MODO's sculpting tools. Once i had a shape i was fairly happy with i used the topology tool to redraw the mesh.



Since we were going with a more cartoony feel, the texturing was kept fairly minimal.

Started with getting a decent unwrap on the UVs, blocking in key areas using the paint tools in MODO, before exporting these into Photoshop to refine.

 UV map

Some early tests we did try getting a more feather feel to them, but decided that it didnt quite look right for what we were after.

The final textures ended up being a difuse layer, with a normal map that was created using the feathers.

 Robins textured


When modelling i was always thinking about how this would actually work and created the characters appropriately.

I've used a few different techniques for different parts of the character.

The main bird mesh is controlled using a normal skeleton rig.

The beak (to open and close) is controlled via a morph map, which is then controlled via a controller.

For shots where the characters are flying, they're actually using a different rig, with controllers setup to control each wing with a slider. This made is much quicker to animate. I also approached it this was as on Ralph, the scarf needs a morph applied to it to keep it in the correct position. So by connecting everything to a single controller, i was controlling 4 properties with a single control.

Once I had 1 character rigged, i literally duplicated the character and replaced the textures with other characters ones. Much quicker than having to rig 2 characters!

If i was to explore this part further, I'd have looked into adding dynamics to the scarf, so the hanging bit reacts to the movement of the character.


I've never done any character based animation before this…

I planned out the animation fairly carefully to play to my strengths of what i knew i could achieve. A good example of this is you'll notice you never see the characters walking as i haven't yet learnt how to do proper walk cycles!

I started by blocking out the animation, getting the key movements in place, before adding in the inbetweens and finer details to bring the characters to life.

I think i learnt the a lot during the animation process through failing, going away and researching what i was trying to achieve, and coming back to it.

Rendering / Post Processing

Rendering something of this scale was something I'd never had to deal with before.

Everything was sent off too rebusfarm for rendering as it was estimated about 36 days to render on my macbook pro!

I learnt alot about optimising animated scenes for rendering during this process and probably wasted a fair bit of money sending scenes with settings incorrect or wrong for the use i was needing. Things like optimising GI for animation was one of the biggest challenges.

Post processing was all done in After Effects. Some scenes were fairly simple, with just some curves adjustments and a vignette, and some were more involved, with snow, clouds, camera shakes, and lens flares!

We also had to do various different cuts for the video for different advertising channels, in the end we ended up with 10 different videos.

Here's an example of one of the adverts. This one was a YouTube TrueView ad (them ones that let you skip after 5 seconds) so we needed to make sure to grab the viewers attention within them first 5 seconds, so created a new shot of Ralph tapping on the screen and cracking it. I love the subtle focus shift effect on this shot.

stills from the video