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    Background Character Sprint: Details

    on March 27th, 2010, by Colin Levy

    For the sake of clarity, I thought we’d just post all the sprint-related info to the blog.

    First, to answer some questions. The sprint will be taking place this weekend. We will be sporadically available throughout all of Saturday and Sunday. This is the time when we will be monitoring progress, giving feedback and direction, assigning tasks (if necessary) and hopefully maintaining a live stream on ustream!

    However, we know this work takes time to do well, and we will be accepting submissions all throughout this week, ending at the end of next weekend, on the 5th of April.

    An important instruction for everyone:

    When you start working on something, please add your name and what you’re working on to this wiki page:

    This helps everyone keep track of what everyone else is doing. Also feel free to link to WIP images/animation next to your name.

    Also, for now we’re holding off on animating kids, because we don’t have a rig for it yet. So please stick to animation of adults.
    Keeping the modeling focus on adult characters is also a good idea. If there are kids in the market, they will be in the minority.

    Background info

    A little background info about the world our movie takes place in to get your minds going:

    The world of the film is sortof a medieval fantasy. So technology-wise, we’re talking 1600’s or earlier. Dragons, obviously, exist in the world, as do other fantasy creatures. But these creatures primarily exist in legend. The city is populated only by humans.

    The city of Ishtar is decaying. It used to be grand and rich, with a prosperous population, but it was destroyed by religious war and drought and the following famine. Apart from the wealthy few, most people who live there struggle to survive. They are a hardy bunch, a bit possessive and curt.

    Character Modeling

    Lets start with some model sheets!

    We need city background characters modeled! A bit of common details in David’s character designs:

    Crossed belts/leather, patched clothing. Only basic jewelry. Simple tools, simple weapons for defense. Uncut hair and tattoos are common.

    Character List:
    – Market Vendor/Seller
    – young or old, boots/leather equipment/armor okay. Like Sintel’s design.
    – Loud and busy.
    – Commonfolk
    – young or old, maybe primarily women doing the buying
    – simple clothing
    – Ishtar guard. Man of authority.
    – Religious man.


    1. Download simple biped adult rig for proportion and size reference. If you like, you can also download a couple of our character files as a starting point (links provided below).
    2. Hop on IRC #blenderdurian on
    3. Look at the example concept art and reference
    4. Create your model based roughly on the size and proportions of the simple adult rig, and based roughly on the concept art. Variation is strongly encouraged, but try to keep the size and proportions within the “adult” range, and keep the pose similar to the simple rig.
    5. Post progress to the IRC channel. is a great site for uploading your images.
    6. When you’re finished, rename your blend file “description-name_for_credits.blend” Replace “description” with a simple 1-3 word description of the model, and “name_for_credits” with the name you want us to use to credit you in the movie if we use your model.
    7. Upload the file to under the Durian Category (IMPORTANT!). Note that by uploading to the Durian category, you are licensing your model under a Creative Commons Attributeion “By” 3.0 License.

    Don’t worry about fitting your character to the rig. We’ll be building custom rigs for the characters we use. Just use the rig size as a reference point.
    Where possible, minimize multi-layered flowing clothing (skirts, dresses, capes) as this is tricky to deal with on our side for animation.
    If you add hair, do it with particle strand hair.

    Model Downloads for Reference and Reshaping:

    Final Sintel Model:
    Ishtarian Woman (by Jonathan Williamson):
    Tanner (by Jonathan Williamson):
    Simple Biped Adult Rig:

    Character Animation

    What we need:

    Walk cycles:
    – Adult
    – Elderly
    – Kids (lower priority)

    Misc market place stuff, for example:
    – Person browsing at a market stand
    – Person tending a market stand
    – Person paying a vendor
    – People sitting on boxes, resting their legs
    – Two people bartering
    – Anything else you can think of

    Specific shots:
    – Person pulling a cart, coming to stop (cart model provided below)
    – Person startled by Sintel run/dodging around them (video clip provided below)


    Animation instructions:
    1. Download simple adult rig (link provided below)
    2. Hop on IRC #blenderdurian on
    3. Look at the list of animation tasks/ideas (listed above)
    4a. Pick one and work on it. You can ask one of us if there are any items that we don’t have enough of yet.
    4b. If you pick a “specific shot” (above), please ask for further instruction. The requirements for these are… specific.
    5. Animate the character directly in the rig file. Please *no* NLA. Work within a single action (NLA is difficult for us to transfer to other blend files). If you don’t know what any of that means, you’re probably fine. Just animate. πŸ™‚
    6. Post progress to the IRC channel. You can upload videos to youtube or vimeo, or upload video files to our public ftp (information below).
    7. When you’re finished, rename your blend file “AN_description-name_for_credits.blend” Replace “description” with a simple 1-3 word description of the animation, and “name_for_credits” with the name you want us to use to credit you in the movie if we use your animation.
    8. Upload the file to under the Durian *and* Animation categories (IMPORTANT!). Note that by uploading to the Durian category, you are licensing your animation under a Creative Commons Attribution “By” 3.0 License.

    Walk cycles can either be animate in place or moving forward. We don’t really care. We can use it just as well either way.
    All animation should be 24 frames per second. Non-looping animation should be 3-4 seconds long (our longest shot in these scenes is 4 seconds).


    Simple Biped Adult Rig: and video tutorial on youtube and as ogg
    Cart Model:


    And here’s a short clip from the market scene. Each of these shots should be pretty much filled with people. πŸ™‚ Alt: market.ogv
    (Spoiler alert. But it’s really not bad. You won’t have any idea what’s going on. :P)

    Public ftp info

    ftp to:
    user: anonymous
    password: your email address
    When logged in, go to the directory “incoming”. What you put there is visible here:
    Please keep files to reasonably small file sizes.

    OKAY, I think that pretty much does it!! Let’s do this thing!

    –Colin & Nathan

    42 Responses to “Background Character Sprint: Details”

    1. Eibriel Says:

      All the characters are soooo cool πŸ˜›

    2. Jayden Says:

      Yeah. lets get started now!

    3. toontje Says:

      Don’t forget the handicapped townsfolk too, the leper, the guy with crotches, a legless old soldier in a low kart and such for texture….

    4. Jayden Says:

      Do we need to rig the characters we model?

    5. Danielonson Says:

      Hi im so happy with this sprint , it would be helpful get a layer reference to the rigging , to know where is everything, because i can’t find the fingers drivers

    6. D Says:

      Great! πŸ˜€

      For reference to the cart pulling animation, if I am not mistaken, it is more ergonomic and efficient to pull with your elbows to your side and forearms ahead, and definitely NOT by dragging your arms behind you.
      Videos of rickshaw pulling make good reference and demonstrate this.
      Unfortunately the height of the cart doesn’t lend itself too well to that. What to do?

      Small animation critique on the market scene! πŸ˜€
      The way Sintel stopped on second 4 isn’t right. She should have taken an additional step to the side she was moving in so she could push better on the ground and stop in the manner depicted. Otherwise, the majority of her deceleration was when her leg was practically perpendicular to the ground, which normally is impossible and means she will topple over.
      Please fix it? πŸ™‚

      Model sheets for the win. This sprint will be amazing. πŸ˜€

    7. MTracer Says:

      Which version of Blender do we use?

    8. Educonter Says:

      Hey guy’s nice work i have been following you guys from the start and it’s so great to see such astonishing work of yours all open for us.

    9. Frank_robernson Says:

      Okay question why not make us a simple character using Sin-tel then we can all change things like hair color eye colors and clothes etc…weapons as long as we have a base I think we can all do our part, its more simple for yous and simple for us I think, I’m free to do something.

    10. Wasa Says:

      @ Frank
      That works to some degree, but meshes and topology need to be character based. They have supplied models for those that wish to make edits only.

      Just as a for instance, when you see a piece that uses a poser model. For most it’s the first thing they notice.

    11. N.A. Says:

      IΒ΄m not very good at charactermodeling and animation. Are there any only-modeling-tasks in this sprint?

      I really like the timing of the sintel-scene!

    12. tin2tin Says:

      Just looked at the animatic. I had to run it several times, before I realised why the camera tilts up in the end of the first shot. Simply because the eye focuses on the part of the image with most motion. So I keep looking at Sintel even though the camera tries to force me to look elsewhere. You could consider a reverse shot (in “birds view”) instead of the tilt. That way the biggest moving part of that shot will be, what the tilt tries to tell us. (trying on to spoil) πŸ˜‰

      Another thing is the theory of cutting on “eye scan”, meaning when you make a cut the eye will be looking at the same spot the action was in the previous shot even though takes place somewhere else in the next shot. If you want a smooth cut you want to place the focus point in the same area before and after the cut. To be a bit more speciffic the if Sintel stopped in the right side of the 2. shot the cut to the 3. shot would be more easy on the eye. Actually I would cut to a close up of Sintel before cutting to the over-shoulder shot. A c.u. leads better to a p.o.v. or o.s. shots than wideshots. I guess it’s like saying ‘this person…’ ‘sees this…’

      BTW. the theory of eye-scan editing doesn’t comply to dialog scenes, because it mimics that in real life you would look from one person to the other natually(like a tennis match), and therefore it properly feels more correct if the characters are placed in each side of the frame with most space in front of the face.

    13. Mike Says:

      Are you going to have any Dogs or Cats or birds etc hanging around too? Walking through a market there’s always a lanky dog and a yappy little ankle biter hanging about the stalls. Seagulls hang around nagging for food also….. Just a thought.


    14. Carsten Says:

      I see little pink dragons now everywhere…

    15. dd Says:

      it’s interesting πŸ™‚

    16. Jayden Says:

      yes. Very interesting. πŸ™‚

    17. futar Says:

      I can’t get the ‘torso’ bone in the ‘simple_adult.blend’ to do anything. It seems to be locked or something. How do you get it to rotate and twist the upper body?
      Also, how are you supposed to bend/curl the fingers?

    18. Jayden Says:

      for the fingers, search throught eh bone layers. It is bone layer 4 I think.
      For the torso, update blender, by goign to graphicall and downloading the latest realease for your os.

    19. P@ddy_anim Says:

      i get the following when i type /join #blender

      Not connected. Try /server []

      how did i find get and give that info to x-chat?

    20. P@ddy_anim Says:

      sorry, that should read

      i get the following when i type /join #blender

      Not connected. Try /server [ []]

      how did i find get and give that info to x-chat?

    21. N.A. Says:

      its #blenderdurian

    22. jpbouza Says:

      Here is another human base model in case someone wants to reshape it.

      It may be a little too highpoly, but you could delete some loops there.

      Here is the link to the model:

    23. jhoolmans Says:

      The fingers are hidden by default. you can unhide them with the Hands button with the other IK/FK switches in the side bar.

      How long will the sprint go on? cuz i really want to join, i really love Sintels movement! really natural, good job!

    24. Rod Naugler Says:

      @toontje – I think you mean crutches. Crutches are padded supports meant to go under your arms to aid in walking. Crotches are where your legs meet below your hips. If you have more than one crotch, you have more than two legs. πŸ™‚

    25. futar Says:

      I still can’t get the torso bone to do anything. I’m using blender 2.5 alpha 2 r27793 on an Intel iMac running OSX 10.5.8

      The only way I can move the upper body is to show the ‘Body Extra’ bone layers and use the bones there. But surely that torso bone should work too. What am I doing wrong?

    26. erik90mx Says:

      ooo that is great!!

      Only one question… we can use Make Human for the extras?

      I think that with a little work the result model can be very acceptable for a background character πŸ˜‰


    27. illwieckz Says:

      On the market clip, is it the bird from Peach project ?

    28. MTracer Says:

      What “Animation” category?

    29. Alfoncio Says:

      David Revoy, what a beast… Insane character design and one with most probably a story too, for instance I see a lot of Man A. in Kid B. It’s these subtle connections which he orchestrates that make this project even more intriguing… I really want to know these characters back stories now… It’s annoying how good he really is.

    30. Sockie Says:

      I love them all, but, really, do people get angrier when they get older?

    31. taniwha Says:

      Sockie: if they lead a generally harsh life where they have reason to be angry a lot, then yes, their faces will tend to become set with an angry expression. One good reason to be angry a lot: never having enough money to feed the kids.

      Haven’t you ever been told something to the effect of “Don’t make such a face. If the wind changes, it will be stuck that way.”?

    32. woodge Says:

      Wish I could contribute. But I got family in town this weekend. I’m hoping those walk cycles improve…

    33. Gulwer Says:

      I could be mistaken, but the bird in the market clip is it my chicken brought back to life?

    34. munhu Says:


      if there is time, can we have the contributors of chosen assets to be allowed to contribute some sort of tutorial or something to the final DVD? Emphasis is on chosen assets. The quality of work is just amazing.

      I think allowing the creators of chosen work to give tutorials, challenges and steps would be an excellent way to give them credit. This could be submitted as simple PDFs or Videos or whatever format that may be dictated and structured by the Durian team. It will really be nice to get to know how people created what they created

      #End of Suggestion

      Keep up the good work!!!!

    35. nawabz Says:

    36. James Says:

      The Simple Biped Adult rig video tutorial ogg link gives error 404.

    37. Paul Hastings Says:

      So how about giving us an update on the progress made so far during the sprint?

    38. Werner van Loggenberg Says:

      Pets….people always have pets.
      Well, since they are outside livin folk.
      Mostly children will have pets or bugs as they get outside to play and explore.
      bigger folk might have a dog like creature laying one side asleep.
      I think it just lends to the fact were they live and what the surrounding environment is like, even if there are just some kind of strange bird hoppin round a clearing for food scraps.

    39. Riste Says:

      I’ve tried to animate simple_adult, but thorax bone does not work – you can put keyframes on it, but it cannot be moved or rotated.

    40. taniwha Says:

      There’s a typo in the rig tutorial link: change prem to perm and you can get the file.

    41. ucupumar Says:

      I can’t download model and reference
      Connection timed out
      What happened?