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    Animating Sintel

    on May 22nd, 2010, by William

    Dear community,

    Here’s a much needed update on the animation front of project Durian. I’d like to take you through some of the challenges and workflows that we employ here in the studio.

    We now have a little four man club of animators, (Lee, Jeremy, Beorn and myself) that works as its own mini-team. We have our own dailies, we critique each others work, we help others out whenever we can, and having worked as the sole full-time animator on Big Buck Bunny, this is truly a relief! We have some really positive, respectful team dynamics amongst the animators, which really makes this movie a joy to work on. Of course, I’ve only been here for a few montha, so I’m relieved of any fatigue and burnout (so far!).

    However, even with more people and a strong team, this film is no walk in the park. The complexity, the variety and the realism makes the animation particularly difficult to pull off well. You instantly spot when something is off when you get close to realism, and some things are just really hard to get right. Luckily, it can also be very rewarding too. Once the animation is completed, it’s incredibly satisfying to see it nicely lit and rendered by the render team. Suddenly it looks gorgeous!

    To illustrate our animation workflow, I’ve put together a small movie of one of my shots at various stages:



    69 Responses to “Animating Sintel”

    1. jay Says:

      Thanks for the nice breakdown!

    2. Kewl Luser Says:

      that guy is always making video reference – lmao
      i like that – really great vid and project guys… keep up the awesome work
      amma be buying a copy soon 🙂

    3. lpetkov Says:

      great stuff. and video/photo/sketch references are a always a must.

    4. Ben Hubel Says:

      I like it! If only it included a final render shot as well, but I guess that’s wishful thinking.

    5. Thread Says:

      I like this video references !!
      It’s funny… funny but a little bit scary 😀

      Thanks William for news and good luck everyone !!

    6. Revolt_Randy Says:

      Short, but very informative. Keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    7. Bao2 Says:

      Many thanks for the update. It must be now really difficult to pick something to show without showing us more of the movie.

    8. Rob Cozzens Says:

      Awesome! Very cool to see stuff like this!

    9. kopi Says:

      Great! I really hope there will be a decent tutorial on how to rig and animate with the MeshDeform tool. Please please!

    10. Linkeltje Says:

      Great to see how it is improving every step.
      Thanks for the update!

    11. nice step by step shots Says:

      nice step by step shots!

    12. Siri Says:

      really cool…thank you for sharing William 🙂

    13. Dennis Says:

      Looks promising. Too bad Nathan has other stuff to work with, cuz his a pretty good animator as well, right? The more, the better.

    14. William Says:

      Dennis: Nathan is awesome, he’s just busy taking care of rigging *and* compositing 😉

    15. MeshWeaver Says:

      pretty cool, William 🙂 this will definitely help me when I’ll work my Simple Cat Rig again 😀

    16. AC Says:

      Very useful, thank you very much.
      Now, if only she didn’t look like Gollum… 😀

    17. quisto Says:

      More workflows, please!

    18. Jarred Says:

      It’s really nice that the team works so well together, must be great fun.

    19. grafixsuz Says:

      This is a nice explanation of workflow. REminds me of Bluesky’s workflow breakdown for the Iceage 3 movie.

    20. Le@ndro Says:

      Hey William! You are the one that made the “Character Animation” Training Video! I’m just going through it right now, grate stuff!!!

      Really liked your post!


    21. Alex Delderfield (AD-Edge) Says:

      This was great to see, I hope there will be more like this on the DVD 😀

    22. Reyn Says:

      Well described and emphasized, William. 🙂

    23. Todd Says:

      Nice work!

    24. Blendiac Says:

      More animation posts! MORE I beg of you! 😀

      By the way William, does your mother know there are videos of her son on the internet trying to act like a 16 year old girl? ;P

    25. blenderificus Says:

      thanks for sharing some of the Sintel process with us BF, cant wait till the release of Sintel & 2.6(or stable 2.5). Thanks to everyone at the BF and on Sintel for their talent and hard work!!!

    26. loopDuplicate Says:

      Respectful team dynamics… that’s a good way of thinking about it. Sometimes the more talent people have, the harder it is for them to work together.

    27. Milad Thaha Says:

      Man, I wish I was talented enough to be a part of your team- must be really awesome and exciting to work as a part of a brilliant team, all using blender.

      Brilliant work, and nice video; we want more!

    28. Hubberthus Says:

      Really scary video reference 🙂

      Did you use it in a video player as a reference or did you put in the blender as a background? As a background it could be used like some kind of “3D rotoscoping” tool.
      I also thought about a 2 camera setup: one in the front and one on side. Putting these videos into blender front and right/left views it would be like manual motion capturing. 🙂

    29. Chris Says:

      Wicked to see the progress from each step. The four of you must be kicking ass I am sure! keep at it!

    30. ray Says:

      Is there any dynamics simulation planned on the hair after that?
      I would’nt want to see it before the whole movie, not to spoil the global eye candy.

      I wouldn’t mind if there wasn’t, it’s good enough for the strory as it is,
      it just has to be a deliberate choice, not something you forget about in the rush 🙂

      Keep up the good work!

    31. William Says:

      Blendiac: Yes, it’s true, it’s a bit embarrassing 😉 I’m playing an old shaman and a young girl. On the other hand it’s more interesting than if I’d have to animate a 23 year old lad like myself. It forces you to get into character a bit – not always easy!

    32. Todd Says:

      William will you be creating or updating a new version of your Animation DVD that will walk people through 2.5?
      I’m interested in learning the basics of rigging in Blender but would rather have an something that deals with 2.5 and eventually later.


    33. Loken Says:

      The animation here looks just excellent. Great work guys.

    34. Oliver Says:

      Very cool animation there! Love it 😀 And yeah, it could be cool if a render pass was in the video, but never mind 🙂

    35. bigbad Says:

      Very high quality animation. Facial expression is top notch.

    36. yoff Says:

      Quite an interesting post, thank you 🙂

    37. Eagleshadow Says:

      thanks for the video it’s a great! We want more stuff like this about workflows you guys use 🙂

    38. William Says:

      ray: Yes, this is before the hair is simulated. After the animation is done, hair is simulated, then sent off to the render team for lighting and compositing.

      Todd: It would be interesting to update the animation tutorials, especially seeing as 2.5 now includes the really nifty Rigify system for rapidly creating nice rigs. I dunno if it’ll be possible though, but it’s definitely something I’m interested in.

    39. Giovannni Lanfiuti Says:

      I never tought Durian’s animation would reach this level… Great, great work!

      My suggestion: be sure pupils never get covered too much by the eyelids (especially by the lower eyelid)… Of course you already know that, but I noticed that in many shots this happens more than expected…

      However I think this work is already awesome.
      Go go go!



      DVD training 5: Chaos & Evolutions

    41. Demohero Says:

      Regular behaviours, great animation! Go Blender team go! Your only competitor is a motion capture device. 🙂

    42. ochacon Says:

      thank, for the tips

    43. Meaning Of Lines Says:

      Thanks a lot for this short, but very clear explanation. You are doing a awesome work. Congratulations!!

    44. Christiaan (AniCator) Says:

      What’s that track playing in the background? It’s awesome!
      So is the short tutorial too btw. 🙂

    45. mfoxdogg Says:

      Very nice breakdown, and being able to mark those extreames and breakdowns in the action editor is quite nice aswell.

      Funny thing is i follow that exact same method here at work, too me ages to learn it, and you sum it up in a min, well done 😛

    46. Paulo Bardes Says:

      The song is really cool! Is it from the movie???

    47. Max Puliero Says:

      well done!

    48. franzrogar Says:

      Gollum is back!! 😛

      Great vid, congrats 🙂

    49. Shinobi Says:

      Wow, is fantastic to see you guys work so well togheter and comments and critics yourself in order to reach an astonishing result!

      Very appreciated blog post, Durian animation is really top notch!

      And please, don’t pay so much attention to us asking for updates.
      We all obviously would want to see every moment of the production blog posted here, but we also know very well that the more the deadline is approaching the less you’ll get time to update the blog, so don’t worry about our yell and beg and let the movie being awesome instead 😉

      Thank you for your time!

    50. hetors Says:

      Interesting, I didn’t know about the animation process, now I do.
      Always thanks.

    51. Wray Bowling Says:

      I hear a rich amount of development in the musical score! 🙂 Props to Jan!

    52. Rob Says:

      A very informative insight into durian’s animation process! It’s always fascinating to see how these things are put together.

      (also, if I ever properly get into animation, I will have to remember the Video Reference stage – it looks fun :D)

    53. jan Says:

      I have nothing to do with the music. I’d guess it’s some CC track.

    54. Paulo Bardes Says:

      I really liked the song ^^

    55. Jan de Vries Says:

      The music is “Jaracanda” it comes included with Apple iLife

    56. Robo3Dguy Says:

      Thank you for the video!

    57. Paulo Bardes Says:

      I think it’s not Jacaranda, because its not CC….

    58. Brad Cathey Says:


    59. [cool name here] Says:

      Amazing what you can accomplish in a few “montha” :]

    60. Hanmac Says:

      why only a short film? the trailer is great enough to be a 2h cinema movie

    61. Jirms Says:

      I think this blog should also be posted under tutorials … it is a very nice breakdown of the different animation stages. Then later maybe others could follow up with some more detail for each production stage?

    62. hetors Says:

      I totally agree what Jirms says.
      Greetings Blender community.

    63. Pablo Vazquez Says:

      @ Jirms, added it to Tutorials!, thanks for noticing that.

      BTW, I’m preparing a new blogpost 🙂

    64. Victor Says:

      I like it!
      One minor issue, for the grunt that she’s putting into it… she doesn’t seem to have the movement there… I would of thought more of a thrust forwards with the weapon as she moves would be more suitable.

      It’s like she’s holding it out and grunting/growling but doesn’t move it until the end… as the transition into the “surprise” face just doesn’t seem right.

    65. Victor Says:

      EDIT to above:
      Just re-watched it… I can see the thrust but still seems a little awkward.

      Overall. I love the breakdown 🙂

    66. jcl Says:

      This progression is wonderful. I know you don’t have the resources, but I wish you could do this for every shot in the film.

    67. jirms Says:

      Thank you Pablo, your awesome!

    68. Amy Says:

      This progression is wonderful. I know you don’t have the resources, but I wish you could do this for every shot in the film.

    69. Temitopa.A Says:

      I hope I can do something like these someday