View Full Version : Brudders in 'Happy Box' - Final Version

11-27-2011, 10:35 AM

Here's the final version of Happy Box, the first mini-movie based on my comic strip Brudders.

Brudders in 'Happy Box' (http://bit.ly/uXmKJq)

Happy Box was created using Lightwave 10.1, iPi Desktop Motion Capture and two Kinect Sensors. An early 'preview' version premiered at Gothtober 2011.



Pamela G. Juust
11-27-2011, 11:30 AM
LOVE IT! the visual style is awesome! Can you talk a bit more on the motion capture technique?

11-27-2011, 06:51 PM
Sure! I used two Kinect Sensor to essentially 'puppet' the characters. Here's a video of the process using iPi DMC:

Dual Kinect Sensor Test (http://www.youtube.com/user/LGDTestTube#p/a/u/1/XLWygMW12HI)


Single Kinect Sensor Test (http://www.youtube.com/user/LGDTestTube#p/a/u/0/68W7Ye86gH8)

Here's how this project went down:

My wife and I had been working on another mocap project called Don't Fear the Pooper for quite some time. That project had gotten huge and complicated and we began to question whether 'homebrew mocap' was a practical method for making short films. Then Gothober came along and I saw this as an opportunity to create a much simpler project that focused on getting the final pieces of our pipeline in place. In late August, I wrote the script and drew the storyboard for Happy Box.

For weeks, it seemed like I was too busy at work and home to get any further with the project. Then in late September I made a schedule and forced myself to stick with it. The schedule was pretty horrible because it meant the only time I could work on Happy Box was in the wee 'a.m.' hours but it was absolutely necessary. I did not sleep much after that.

For the next week I built the assets and set up the shots. The characters were already built and shaded for 'Pooper' but I needed to build the sofa and all the props. I used Lightwave Modeler, Modo, and 3D Coat to get this done quickly. The only purchased item was Sister's chainsaw.

On the following weekend, I captured the motions for all three characters for 17 shots in my living room in about one hour. This included rehearsal time. The data was quickly retargeted to the LW rigs with no effort at cleanup--this version served as my 'blocking' version so I could finalize the camera setups. Tracking the data in iPi DMC takes about 0.67 second per frame on my computer using an average (by today's standards,) GTX 480 card. Retargeting the mocap data to my LW rig was done using Motion Builder (although iPi DMC is fully capable of retargeting the data directly to a LW rig via FBX.)

The next week of evenings was spent editing the motion data, and it wasn't long before I discovered that my original rig did not allow the characters to sit down on the floor with proper deformations. This problem set me back several evenings as I re-engineered the rigs. The new rigs worked very well though and minimized motion editing.

When I was mostly done with applying and editing the motions, iPi released the first dual Kinect beta. At first I thought I should avoid using it because I was really pressed to meet a late October deadline for Gothtober. When I realized that I needed to recapture a couple of shots, I decided to give the dual Kinect system a shot. The results were so good, I decided right then to recapture all but one or two of the original motions.

The original rigging and weighting was done in Lightwave. After exporting an FBX, the weights were edited in Maya for Motion Builder compatibility. After applying and editing the motions to the rig in Motion Builder, an FBX was exported for Lightwave.

Finally the mocap data from the FBX was imported and applied to the original Lightwave rig in Layout using Load From Scene with the Merge Motion Envelopes Only option enabled. This feature does exactly as described: it imports only the motion data from the FBX file and applies it directly to your Lightwave rig, allowing to keep all your original LW weighting and shading properties, and any special rig controls that already exist.

For the most part, the process went very smoothly. My biggest bottleneck came in the last week when it came time to render. Over half my render farm (four really old duo core comptuers) completely went down and I had to take a lot of short cuts to make sure the project would get done on time. For example, the 'preview' version was rendered on two's at 320 x180 pixels. Somehow I managed to get render times with full Monte Carlo radiosity down to around 1 to 4 minutes per frame. Despite rendering with serious limitations, I think the results looked pretty good. Thanks to Lightwave's fast and excellent rendering engine, the entire project got rendered in a couple of nights just before the event, which allowed me to get a little bit of sleep.

On October 29, 2011, the project was delivered to Gothtober, only slightly unfinished. (The lipsync was left out and some proxy objects were left in.)

For the final 'post Gothtober' version, the resolution was increased to 640 x 360. Render times increased to about 3 to 18 minutes per frame. Not bad, except I only had three computers available to render with, so this took some time. (Sigh! No HD for me yet.)

Motion blur was disabled to speed up renders and to achieve a slightly strobing 'stop motion' look. However, I did make sure that motion vectors were embedded in the EXR files (using exrTrader) and used this data to add motion blur to the 'chainsaw' sequence in my compositing program.

This was a lot of work for such a short project but it solved all the problems we ran into with our 'big' short film Don't Fear the Pooper, and now I'm confident we can finish that film. I'm also planning to use this setup for other Brudders short films in the future.

BTW, just as I was finishing Happy Box, iPi released another dual Kinect beta which is supposed to be a significant improvement over the first release. I haven't tried it yet but I will certainly use it for our next 'mocap movie'. :D


11-27-2011, 07:07 PM
Oh, and thanks for the nice comments! Glad you enjoyed that. :D

11-28-2011, 02:25 AM
Anything with cute kitties characters in it is awesome and gets my paw stamp of approval - but even more so with it being done in LW and with affordable motioncapture tools. Awesome! :)

11-28-2011, 08:46 AM
That's ingenious!
Thanks for sharing the breakdown.

11-28-2011, 10:11 AM
Funny little animation though a bit imbecile :) No offense meant, I think it's a great achievement.
And cool explanation on how to setup the mocap.

11-28-2011, 11:44 AM
Thought it was great! and Congrats!

I love when the cat walks on during the motion capture demo, too.


11-28-2011, 12:05 PM
Funny little animation though a bit imbecile :)
Thanks. We aim to imbecile. Or something like that.


Ryan Roye
11-30-2011, 07:35 AM
I liked it, the chainsaw part was epic and I loved how the camera was purposely close to the character for a more intimidating effect. Heh, and that stock squealing pig sound effect: love it... even though it makes no sense.

12-05-2011, 11:54 PM
If you'd like to see how this project was planned, check out the new Studio Sessions article on the Little Green Dog website:

Studio Sessions 3: Storyboarding 'Happy Box' (http://bit.ly/tXgvQa)

Comments appreciated. :)


12-09-2011, 09:33 PM
Loved the work, G.

2 page script... ha!

12-11-2011, 02:53 PM
love the style!

09-02-2012, 04:38 PM
One last time, now in HD:

Brudders in 'Happy Box' (HD Version) (http://bit.ly/NKsLrX)

Please Like and Share.

Have to admit we were tempted to go 'George Lucas' for this version but we resisted. This FINAL release is more or less the same movie as before, it's just better looking for big screens.

Here's the cheat sheet for the few differences in this version: minor improvements to our cheap 'mouth system' (slight depth added to edges,) transparency issue in subsurface shading fixed, rounder eyes in the 'panic' shot, better use of Material/Object ID selections, enhanced color vibrance, and significantly higher resolution. (Believe it or not, the original Gothtober version was rendered at 360 x 240 and bumped up to 640 x 480.) In creating this HD (1280 x 720p) version we were also road testing our new render farm. It works great!

The new render farm is set up to render in either Lightwave 10.1 or 11.0.3, and we started to do the re-render with 11.0.3. Unfortunately, the 'look' in 11.0.3 was so completely different that we decided it would be best to stay with 10.1. We do have other movies to make after all. :)

Soon we'll be uploading to Vimeo in addition to our YouTube channel--I'll post the link when it's ready. (YouTube may be more popular but I think their compression is a little brutal with the original renders.)

Curious about how Happy Box was conceived and planned? Check out our behind-the-scenes article Storyboarding 'Happy Box' (http://bit.ly/tXgvQa) over in the Studio section of the website.



09-04-2012, 12:53 AM
Awesome work!....love it!.....congratulations and thanks for sharing it!

09-04-2012, 05:29 AM
Hahaha...made me laugh! :D
Love the comic and I'm looking forward to new episodes (both drawn and animated)! :thumbsup:

09-07-2012, 05:35 PM
Ha... very cool! Chainsaw bit is hilarious... loved the lingering shot with the pull-chord slowly retracting :)

Great work!

09-08-2012, 01:02 AM
Thanks for the nice compliments guys!

Right now we're busy getting the next Brudders short done. This one is a lot more ambitious than Happy Box was so it's taking a while. I'm pretty excited about it though and can't wait to show it. :)


03-13-2013, 01:12 PM
A couple of updates for this thread.

First, here's the Vimeo version of 'Happy Box':


Second, we have more info about our second 'Brudders' movie here:

Little Green Blog (http://littlegreendog.blogspot.com/)

And third, I started a LightWave-specific production log for 'Brudders 2' in these forums here:

'Brudder 2' Production Log (http://forums.newtek.com/showthread.php?133274-The-Brudders-2-Production-Log-%28Well-sort-of-%29)



07-04-2013, 03:55 AM
Minor revision to the above version of 'Happy Box'. Here's what's changed:

When setting up the mouth animations for 'Brudders 2' (currently in production) we found that when we used a slight amount of 2D frame blending on the mouth shapes layer in compositing, the transitions looked smoother but still retained that 'stop motion' quality. You can see how this looks for 'B2' here:

Excerpt from 'Brudders 2' (A Work in Progress) (https://vimeo.com/channels/littlegreendog/68543424)

The 2D blending trick works well here so we went back to 'Happy Box' and applied it there. It was less successful when we used the same frame blending settings because we had rendered that entire project on two's and what we were doing became visibly obvious because the blending effect was being held for double the duration. However, when we lowered the blending amount to where it was barely noticeable, it did help smooth out the mouth shapes transitions without being distracting.

The new version has been uploaded to Vimeo and replaces the old version here:

'Happy Box' (https://vimeo.com/channels/littlegreendog/55185005)

Admittedly, the effect is very subtle but I think the mouths are just a little nicer to look at now.

For a short time you can still look at the old YouTube version for comparison. We're probably going to replace the YouTube version next week if I can manage a little bandwidth for it.