While animating my walk cycle, I tried to mimic as best as I could the high kneed, short-gaited walk of the claymation Gromit. This proved slightly problematic during skinning, as I had not prepared enough polygons to allow the knee to raise as high as I would like without warping the stomach. In the end I managed to find an angle that worked.
One problem that I couldn’t solve however was the eyes, which seemed set on a huge circular axis, despite being skinned to the head. This meant that no matter how many different ways and times I reset the axis of the eyeballs, once I tried to animate their movement within the walk they would fly off on a different axis. In the end I was forced to keep the eyes completely still, only animating the head to look at the camera.
I originally planned on an animation where Gromit transitions from walking on all fours to a standing position.
I collected screenshots to see how they did it in the films, but after skinning it became clear that wasn’t going to be possible with my model. For this reason I decided to focus on morph targets and expressions in my animation
When texturing Gromit, I tried to avoid the shiny ‘CG’ look of films such as Flushed Away and instead try and capture the original hand-made feel.
Creator Nick Park has specifically mentioned that he loves the authentic look of fingerprints and signs of manual animation that can be seen in his older films – even going so far as to put deliberate fingerprints into the perfect models made for the feature length ‘Curse of the Were-Rabbit’. To keep with his vision I added fingerprints and noise as a bump map
When you are sculpting with your hands, he says, it is a direct and intimate process. Something about the idea of the clay having your fingerprint on it. In this sense there is a ‘smoothness’ to CGI he doesn’t like.
While looking through clips to find suitable reference for the proper shape of Gromit, I realized that there were many details – such as the width of the neck and number of digits – that I could not remember
To help make the 3D modelling simpler I decided to make my own Gromit out of over bake clay. This allows me to physically hold the object, which is invaluable to me while modelling.
Looking through the film, I was trying to think of iconic moments in which Gromit walks, either on all fours or like a human.
I noticed the detail in a scene where Gromit is going down a slide, as it contains all the elements I am looking for – anthropomorphically climbing the slide and then transitioning smoothly to 4 legs as he walks away (04:56)
After 10 weeks on a public art trail in Bristol, our Gromit Unleashed sculptures designed by famous artists, designers and celebrities, and prominent local artists, went to auction on Thursday 3rd October 2013.
Gromit Unleashed was a public art exhibition by Aardman Animation in which 80 fiberglass statues of Gromit the dog were painted and displayed around Bristol, before being auctioned for Charity. On 3 October 2013 the statues were auctioned off and raised £2,357,000 for Bristol Children’s Hospital.
The statues were designed to be an instantly recognizable pose and expression for Gromit, and the amount of them made and posed together means they make good reference for a 3D model. There were even blueprints available at the time for schoolchildren to design a Gromit – perfect model sheets. Unfortunately I was unable to find any exact dimensions for the original clay model, which would be ideal.
In many of my character designs, I find myself gravitating toward animal design. I find animals easier to design than people for several reasons – more visible joints and less chance for uncanny valley are especially useful in animation. To avoid comparison with the original character I also wanted to avoid 3D characters, as I cannot compete with professionals and anything I do would be rubbish in comparison.
However, I felt that I might get away with claymation characters such like Wallace and Gromit, as they often look creepy when computer rendered, and it would be an interesting but simple project. In the end I decided to model Gromit, my favourite silent character. Gromit has a single brow and no mouth, resulting in a simple but highly expressive face. This presents a perfect opportunity for working on expressions and facial animation.
I would like to add some roughness back into the medel, taking away the fake, CG sheen. I will base my model on the ‘Close Shave’ – ‘Wrong Trousers’ Gromit, as his face was much rougher and skinnier in their first short, ‘A Grand Day Out’, and it looks odd in retrospect.
Oh no – what did they do?!