Character Design

  / by Matt

Well you’ve seen our characters, Proog and Emo, so it’s time for a long overdue look behind the scenes at their design process. We spent some time in the earlier days of the project really trying to get inside the character’s heads, defining their personalities and then building up their visual appearance around them. When we had some idea about what these guys were supposed to be, we took some time drawing concept sketches that we could then evaluate , select our favourites, or see what interesting ideas could be lifted or combined on the way to the final design.

Emo and Proog clay models
Proog is old and bent, at least in his sixties. A man who’s been living a rough life (perhaps a nomadic, homeless existence), for the most part apart from the rest of the human race. He plays the role of commander and teacher, and he lives his life dominated by fantasy. His clothing should reflect his downtrodden existence, by being old and tattered,made from bits of mismatched and ill fitting clothes – cast offs from other people. He’s also authoritative, and his selection of clothes builds towards a kind of uniform, a cross between a teacher’s tweeds and a soldier’s outfit. Proog’s face is constructed along curves, almost as one would design a car. The curves follow along the contours of his forehead and nose, and around his exaggerated angular jaw, coming to a point in the front, giving an almost bird-like appearance.

Proog Proog
Proog Proog Painting
Emo is younger, between 20 and 30 years old and more naive, but also living the hard life like Proog. He should have a more sprightly build, and should be smaller and thinner than Proog. His face shows curiosity and his clothes hint at a dominated, perhaps captive position. His costume suggests work and subservience: work-goggles around his neck, a grimy face, knee-pads. He also wears a jacket that faintly resembles a straight jacket, and he too gives an impression of being put together from cast-offs. Emo is uncertain about what’s going on, a bit twitchy and curious and looking around with a cocked head. His long, thin neck will help to emphasise this movement and give us some interesting contortionist opportunities!

Emo Emo with Clothes
Emo x 4
Once we had a few candidate sketches, we assigned each character to single people to push further, to prevent an overload of different ideas and allow more of a style to come through. As I was working on Proog, because of his exaggerated lines and unreal jaw, I found it difficult to quickly visualise the forms and shapes, and how he looks in different angles, and how his form would work in 3D. We decided to go and get some modelling clay, which was a bit of a first for all of us, then I continued clay modelling with Proog, while Andy worked on Emo. Not only was using the clay lots of fun getting our hands dirty, but it was also really beneficial, allowing us to quickly and easily get a feel for the forms, and make very quick experiments with the proportions, without getting stuck in the details of buttons, edge loops and topology.

emo model proog model Wall
After we’d decided on something final, Proog went off to Bassam to be modelled in Blender, while Andy continued with Emo. The modelling process is still not over, as Bassam is working on rigging their mesh shape keys for blending in animation. Of course for nostalgia, we’ve kept the old sketches around – one of the walls of the studio serves as a memorial of those early days, and where have come from since then. Till next time!

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30 Responses to “Character Design”

  1. ZanQdo said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    Cool, why not including a 3d printer version of those clay models in the DVD XD

    See you and congratulattions on your awesome work

  2. Pencil Man said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    Pretty awesome stuff, reminds me of Weta Digital.
    What kind of clay did you use to sculpt the heads, they were very well done. I like the long neck on Emo, gives it a very interesting look. Almost as if all his features are up and active, while Proog has a short neck and all his features are down and drowsy. Very nice, very nice.

    You guys do incredible work

  3. elubie said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    Great stuff! It’s very nice to see the process you used to develop the characters. You sure put a lot of thought into them and it shows – you guys are really doing awesome work. I also enjoyed the concept art and drawings, is there a plan to include more of it on the DVD?

  4. jackuss said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    I think it’s cool that you can see how a movie like this is build up. This is really nice, and I’m looking forward to the day that our postman is dropping the DVD in our mailbox..

  5. AniCator said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    wowiewow! :|

  6. kakapo said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    i think 20to30 wasn’t always the same person because the criticism in his first posts at least were a bit constructive if i remember correctly. now it just sounds like a mockery of critics.

    i like the concept artwork! i find it kind of refreshing that not everything is as polished and perfect as pixar stuff.

    i hope you will post some short lip-sync snippets with the voices of the actors soon!

    are you already late with some tasks or is everything still within the limits of the production plan?

    this project is great and very interesting to follow!

  7. Timothy said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    Will you have Proog and Emo caps at the blender e-shop and
    Is orange the name of the Movie or is Elephants Dream or is
    Elephants Dream the name of the teaser???

    Keep up the Good work

  8. chrishillman said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    I have no idea what you would expect to see. I am surprised you guys took the step of working in clay, without a 3d scanner what good is working in clay (or did I miss where you had a 3d scanner).

    Keep up the work.

  9. Andy said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    Timothy: the name of the movie is
    Elephants Dream

    and to the teaser i’d like to refer as “Fred”

  10. DwarvenFury said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    [Quote Matt]”As I was working on Proog, because of his exaggerated lines and unreal jaw, I found it difficult to quickly visualise the forms and shapes, and how he looks in different angles, and how his form would work in 3D. We decided to go and get some modelling clay…”[Quote]

    I enjoyed seeing the concept work and 3-D maquettes.

  11. Timothy said on 20 Dec, 2005:

    I Know every thing now :]

  12. Johan said on 20 Dec, 2005:

    I like both the drawings and the sculptures. It looks like a lot of fun.

  13. joeri said on 20 Dec, 2005:

    Nice to see this stuff. Good to share the production process.

    @ZanQdo: the 3d printer versions will be on the dvd, just export the blender model as stl!

  14. Matt said on 21 Dec, 2005:

    Hey, I’m just the messenger, everyone knows those paintings of yours that I posted are the lekkerst of them all, Basse. ;)

  15. Basse said on 21 Dec, 2005:

    14th post! woohoo!

    that drawing with the guy on green jacket rules! Matt you are the king!


  16. Bassam said on 21 Dec, 2005:

    16th post! whee! Yeah, nice green jacket guy! where’s the one of the guy in the dress, eating the apple?

  17. Bmud said on 22 Dec, 2005:

    I would also like to know what kind of clay was used – and I would also like to know who out there has been looking into 3D scanner options for a while. Not too many people take the time to model things with clay or find real world objects that perfectly represent their 3D needs. I’m not sure how much development for 3d scanning and working with 3d scans will arise. There has been some already. (3D scanner data is verry messy!) There are mixed results out there though.
    ZBrush, IMO, is the best cleanup tool out there in the software world so far because of the new “draw a new mesh on the surface of a reference mesh” feature as to build proper quads. that would be a very powerful tool in Blender but mostly only applicable to things like cleaning a 3D scan or making low-poly versions of milli-poly models.

    I feel like I’m on a big irrelevant tangent… Maybe in the future its a field that will be further explored for Blender. I’ll search the dev forums.

  18. ditto said on 22 Dec, 2005:

    i like the models,but why did you make the clay models? They look so much like Ton and Bassam that you coud have modeled directly from them ; )

  19. Bassam said on 22 Dec, 2005:

    you mean they’re that handsome?

  20. Hugo - said on 22 Dec, 2005:

    From Brazil

    Toda à equipe do Orange é muito talentosa e eu fiquei muito admirado com o trabalho que vocês fazem.

    Parabéns para toda a equipe.


  21. Ryan A Neily said on 22 Dec, 2005:

    sketches never look like the finished artwork. They are not particularly supposed to. 3D scanning is not the point, nailing down the concept means the artist understands what they are then going to create, in this case in Blender. Good work.

  22. Mr Lec said on 29 Dec, 2005:

    You guys, are not making what the most of people expect to see
    when hear about a 3d movie. And for me that is great!!!!
    I can’t wait to see the final result of all this work.
    Your work are fresh air to the 3d scene, not to mention the
    talent that i see in the released images.
    Keep the good work.

    MrLec from the nose of an icecream down in Argentina.

  23. FloofyPoof said on 29 Dec, 2005:

    The clay looks like Sculpey, which rocks so much arse btw :)

    Honestly 3d scanners are for industrial design and the like, they models they produce are polygon-heavy monstrosities. However, I would say sculpting a character in real life before attempting it on a computer is a crucial step for any professionally done animation. It allows the ARTIST (not the computer) to get intimately acquainted with the shapes and forms of the character. That step is essential, so that when you sit down in front of your modeling software you aren’t stabbing about in the dark as to how it’s supposed to look.

    ’nuff said.

    Great work guys, btw :)

  24. Arathald said on 31 Dec, 2005:

    On the one hand, yes, the clay models may not look like they would if a professional with some years of experience had done them, they are awfully good for “a bit of a first try.”

    And I fail to see why some of you think that the only reason to model in clay is to do a 3d scan. Either you haven’t done a lot of 3d modelling, or you’re good at it (or at least a whole lot better than me, which is probably the case anyways :P ). I have a hard time visualizing what I’m going to make, and even if I have sketches to go off of, I can get myself into a jam. I’ve honestly never tried clay modelling before sitting down at a computer, but when I read that, a light went on in my head. Of course! That’s the answer! Once you model something in clay, you know exactly what you’ve gotta do to model it in a computer. And even if different people model it in clay than model it in the computer, that gives the computer modeller a heck of a lot better idea to go on than a bunch of random sketches.

    I look forward to seeing the movie and its developments, and thaks for the ideas, and for getting the blender modifications done that help me out, too. I’ll try to keep you guys posted on how the modelling thing works (It’s for an independent study at school in Blender modelling, so it won’t even start for another month or so).

    I believe that’s all I have to say. Keep up the amazing work.

  25. chaos said on 2 Jan, 2006:

    is there a way of downloading your chars? i mean the are opensource, you said.

  26. Youda He said on 31 Mar, 2006:

    Geometrysystems has GSI studio does this sort of thing, from scan to finishing up with the ability to draw polygon on “messy” scan mesh. It can also add texture map as layer to scanned model.

  27. sdvsdv said on 17 Apr, 2006:

    dvdv dv d

  28. si_nyam_nyam said on 31 May, 2006:

    do u have a plan for making this film in 3d animation, i think it will be great :)

  29. BigBird said on 9 Jun, 2006:

    ‘#!!! WOW !!!!#’

  30. Marinus said on 18 Jul, 2006:

    BTW guys, I’m downloading the film in HD at the moment, and I am looking forward to viewing it. I’ve seen some of the derivative films which is how I learned about the project. The character design process looked kind of cool!