Strange Behavior (Animation) Entry: Vikram K. Mulligan


Vikram K. Mulligan is entered in the “Strange Behavior Challenge” update: View Challenge Page

Latest Update: Final Render: The Biscuits


I’ve had a few ideas so far:

–A CGI tribute to Chuck Jones, showing a 3D “Michigan J. Frog” climbing out of his box, croaking, then bursting into the “Michigan Rag”. Upside: absolutely hilarious for anyone who’s seen the cartoon. Also, the visual gag might be even greater if the frog is completely photoreal until it starts singing and dancing. Downside: I don’t know if I’m enough of an animator to do it justice. I’d also worry about intellectual property issues (though I’d be careful to cite “One Froggy Evening” as my source of inspiration). I probably couldn’t use the “Michegan Rag” soundclip unless I re-recorded it myself.

–A janitor in a modern library polishing the floors, shutting off the computer terminals, then sneaking off to the dusty, rarely used stacks to – gasp – pick up a physical book and read it! I’ve actually got some ideas for fleshing this one out with a bit of a story… Could be more poignant than funny. I don’t know how long an animation I want to do, though. After all, I need to render this thing out at the end.

–A computer animator struggling to get a rendering right, fighting with his/her software, until he/she finally gives up and paints on the screen (with physical paints) to fix the rendering…

–A flying saucer abducting a farmer’s chickens, and completely ignoring the farmer…

 Thoughts?  Ideas?


I’m now thinking that I’ll animate a scene described by Douglas Adams in Last Chance to See (and also used in So Long and Thanks For All The Fish). Apparently Adams was in a train station and he bought a package of biscuits and a newspaper. He sat down at a table to wait for his train, and was astonished to see the man across from him reach over, open Adams’ package of biscuits, and eat a biscuit. Adams gave him a look and ate a biscuit himself. The man looked back, and ate another one. They went on like this through the whole package. Finally, the man got up and left. Adams watched him go, then picked up his newspaper to leave himself – and found his package of biscuits underneath.


I know it’s poor form to start modelling before concept sketches, but I had some ideas as to how my main characters should look, and I wanted to get started right away. I’ll post some sketches soon, though. Basically, I plan to have a thin man (the “protagonist”, who sits down with the biscuits and newspaper) and a fat man (the “antagonist”, who apparently starts stealing biscuits). This is the initial “thin man” model. I’m going for a stylized look instead of strict photorealism, so rather than model a naked figure and do a cloth simulation to drape the clothing, I’m simply going to model the clothed figure.

Incidentally, I’m using Wings 3D for the modelling. I’m planning to use Maya 7.0 for scene setup, and Mental Ray for rendering. (Though I might go with 3Delight and/or Aqsis again… I’m still not 100% sure).


Here’s a quick sketch of the fat man. I think I’ll aim for bushier eyebrows, and smaller, shiftier eyes that are either very black or very pale blue. I don’t want him to be excessively obese. He should just be plump. Think “European fat” instead of “American fat”.


Here is the finished model of the fat man, done in ZBrush. I’m still working on the textures, and I have yet to do the hair, the moustache, and the hat.


I’ve been away from my computer for a few days, but I’ve taken the time to get a hand-drawn storyboard done. I’ll post it very soon.


Here’s part 1 of the storyboard for the animation I’m planning to do. This will require a fair bit of rendering time, so I’m going to have to try to optimize my scenes…

The basic plot is as I’ve outlined before: a thin man buys a package of biscuits and sits down on a park bench next to a fat man. The thin man sets down his biscuits and a newspaper he was carrying, then adjusts his briefcase for a moment. He turns back to his package of biscuits to see the fat man open it, take a biscuit, and eat it. Astonished, the thin man takes a biscuit himself and eats it very deliberately, glaring at the fat man. The fat man glares back and eats another biscuit. This goes on, back and forth between the two character, until the fat man eats the last biscuit. He then tosses the package in the recycling and gets up to leave. The thin man watches him go, annoyed, then picks up his newspaper – to discover his own package of biscuits underneath, explaining the fat man’s “strange behaviour”.


Here’s Part 2 of the storyboard.


I’m working on the Fat Man’s textures, now. Here’s some preliminary work on his sweater. I photographed one of my father’s old sweaters, and used that as my base texture. I’m going to add a more interesting pattern. This image is rendered without the displacement map that will give the model much of its detail. Right now, some texture seams are visible, but I’ll be cleaning these up soon.


Here’s the model with the final texture and displacement maps. I’m not trying for photorealism, but I will be improving the surface material a bit more.


Here’s the final shader for the fat man. I added a bump map and separated the skin’s specular shading from that of the clothing. I’m not going to bother with subsurface scattering; as I said before, I’m not going for strict photorealism.


i like this story because this is funny and you’ll need to show subtle acting (i hope ;p) to make it understandable.
But i think the fat man should be more fat, because this is a caricatural scene (the thin, the fat, with a gag in the end) well that’s my opinion. :slight_smile:


Very good choice to pick Adams for the strange behaviour contest, he is the king of it! And good model too! (go go wings3d force! :slight_smile: ) Other than that, I agree with jayf that he should be even fatter. Also i think his mouth and nose maybe needs some more little modulation (especially mouth - looks a bit flat).
Can you possibly lit the face from the front ?


Thanks for the comments, Jean-François and Nenad. I guess I could have made this character a bit heavier. My main reason for avoiding too much body fat is that I haven’t done a whole lot of character animation in the past, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to deal with the technical challenges of animating fat. As you said, Jean-François, it will take subtle animation (especially in the faces) to tell this story properly, so I don’t want to compound the challenge too much.

You’re right about the lack of detail in the mouth, Nenad. The character will be getting a moustache shortly, though, which is part of the reason I didn’t model more detail there. I think once I set up my morph shapes, the mouth will start to look more “mouthlike”.


I’ve given the fat man (or maybe I should say plump man) his hairdo, moustache, and eyebrows, now. I wanted him to look like a bit of an unpleasant character without actually looking evil.


It’s not the most exciting of set pieces, but here’s a hastily-modelled and shaded recycling bin for the scene. It’s very loosely based on the photo at right. VERY loosely.

I need to add a few pieces of paper and maybe a bottle and/or a can to the bottom of the bin. I won’t bother with a bag, though; the translucency would be too expensive at render time, and the cloth dynamics would be a pain in the neck to simulate.


I didn’t get a whole lot done on this project this weekend. I did manage to whip up some eyes for the Fat Man, though.


I always find it helpful to make lists of things to do…


–Facial poses
–Jiggle weights

Optional (if time)
–A hat
–A cane


Here’s the tongue model I’ll use for both characters. It’s hastily modelled using Maya for the base mesh and the UV coordinates, and ZBrush for detailing. I exported a displacement map with MultiDisplacement 3 and used it as a bump map.

The image shows three morph targets (done with ZBrush). I’ve also rigged the model with a chain of bones to allow me to move it in other ways, making for a very flexible tongue.