Artist in action: Vico Sharabani

Rhinoceros Visual Effects and Design Supervisor and Creative director Vico Sharabani, created a full character animation rig within Inferno, and used it to produce an x-ray effect for Fox Sports Net.

The fact that the x-ray effect for the 3D skeleton models was created and animated in Inferno, and not CGI, is what makes this promotion for Fox Sports Net unique.

Throughout the spot, an x-ray effect exposes/reveals the extraordinary abilities of hockey players, such as engines in their legs, springs in their backs, lenses in their eyes etc. The reveal is done while the players skate, jump, crash and fall, and their inner organs get the proper impact. “I had to insert skeletons and other elements into the hockey players bodies” says Vico. “Schedule and budget did not allow full 3D-animation of the players extreme movements, and motion capture was out of the question.”

Frame from NHL on Fox Sports Net by Rhinoceros Visual Effects

The limitations merely challenged Vico to develop an innovative and unique rig in many ways. Vico’s rig uses tracked points from the live action shots to calculate the position and motion of a 3D skeleton. For extra control he added adjustment handles that can override the trackers. “The usage of tracking points and manual adjustments combines the fundamentals of motion capture with the benefits of traditional animation into one powerful tool”, Says Vico “The resulted motion overcomes the weightless feel of animated CG characters.”

The development of Vico’s rig was possible thanks to the latest features of Inferno such as, Expressions, deformations, and the robust batch module . The Inferno turned out to be an even better choice than expected. The ability to tweak the animation and instantly see the shaded and composited results helped address the comments and wishes of Director Robert Gottlieb. Armed with the artistic license and support of Gottlieb, Vico tested his own “2D shaders”, a series of manipulators which created the desired x-ray look mimicking shaders in 3D packages.

All the elements were modeled in Houdini and, in order to keep consistency with the look, were imported to Inferno to be animated and shaded. “This cut the production time and made it possible for one person to rig, animate, light, and shade the whole spot without compromising the level of our work.” says Executive Producer and Partner Michael Miller.

Vico adds for fxguide:

The first reaction I get for telling people the x-ray was created in Inferno is �Why the hell did you do it in Inferno�. Well, that was the only way I could deliver this job with on time while accommodating the budget.
Inferno�s batch allowed me to:
1. Use Discreet trackers to drive the animation.
2. Cut rendering time to minutes per sequance. There was no need for different passes, no need to switch software packages. Render once, and the result is the final shot.
3. Animate while seeing the rendered resault.
4. A procedural approach that allows switching objects, but keep the animation, deforms, etc. Through out the process we designed the different elements.
5. Copy and paste shaders, lights, composite parameters etc.
6. A flexible 2_D Rig. This rig made it possible to animate in a few hours shots that would take a few days with reverse IK or FK rigs.

Inferno offered me the artistic flexibility, and for my client the best interactivity. Director, Robert Gotlieb, worked on the cut on the west coast and I updated him every day with QT�s. He was on top of everything, look at something and then decide. So when Robert asked for a change in animation after we lit the object I was able to do it easily.

To view the completed spot, visit here: