Hello everyone, my name is Hadrien Farre and I’m a 23 year old French student finishing my master in visual effects. I have discovered the world of 3D about 2 years ago. Except particles systems, I enjoy going through every step of a 3D work. That’s why I want to become a 3D generalist, but I’m currently doing an internship in Paris to improve my rigging skills to make this domain my specialty. I have some spare time during my internship so I work on personal projects as often as possible. My ‘Cuphead’ scenes are part of them.
I like to create fan art of my favorite’s movies, video games or TV shows in 3D because I’m really not that good in drawing things on paper, I prefer to see the world in the 3D space. I waiting the game Cuphead since its first announcement and I was very happy to finally go through the run and gun levels and all the bosses. At first I wanted to do a fully functional Cuphead, with the gun animation cycle, run, ect… But there were already some of them on Sketchfab so I searched to be a bit more original. While listening to the wonderful soundtrack the idea came to me to try to bring in 3D some bosses. I started with Sally Stageplay, I don’t know why, I liked her design. The result was pretty cool so I tried with an another one a bit more challenging, especially for the rigging/animation process.
I first recorded the whole fight with Cagney Carnation to have all the references I needed frame by frame.
I then modeled the base on Maya with a very simple topology at first and smoothing it a bit to have enough edge loop for the deformation.
Measurements and Topology
I usually don’t bother too much with unfolding the UVs properly because I use Substance Painter to do my textures and there’s a “Tri planar projection” option to hide the texture seam in Substance Painter. So I don’t have to care if the UVs are pretty or not. It is a great way to save time since I’m doing these project during my pauses at work, and with good smart materials, we can have some pretty result. But be careful, not every materials in Substance support the tri planar projection ! I used a Bone Material then tweak it to change the base color or the roughness maps. I didn’t want to have flat color material because the model would have end up boring, in 3D there’s a normal map so why not use it to pimp the shading.
The body’s UVs were made with the automatic uv tool in maya, and the other items with a planar projection.
Once the textures were done, I started the rigging part. I used a stretchy IK/FK spine for the body with clusters on the spine curve points to have an extra deformation control level. The arms are curvy and in a way, similar to a spine, so I used the same idea of a IK/FK spine to deform the arms. Simples FK systems were used for the hands, leaves and head.
First Cagney Carnation was just supposed to have a simple looping animation of “dancing” but I discovered that Sketchfab supported the blendshapes so I could try something harder. At the start of the fight, Cagney is like a nice little flower, without spikes or anything. So, I played with the scale of the joint in maya to make disappeared some elements by scaling them at 0.001, like the hands at the start. The closed eyes or the rosy chicks are just simple shapes that go inside and outside the head when needed or not, doing that quickly give the illusion of shapeshifting. The leafy arms or the mouth opening wide were made with blendshapes. Some blendshapes were used to clean some deformation on the body or the arms.
The fbx format doesn’t understand the IK system so I had to create a new “skin” skeleton parent constrained to the main skeleton so the animation could be baked on the “skin” skeleton and it avoids translation/rotation aberration. The black line going around the character was created following the Sketchfab tutorial but it was tricky because it had to be animated and deformed (for the blendshapes) exactly the same way that the main model. To hide the animation looping on the site I thought to add the black screen circle as a transition that we often see at the end of old cartoons. It was tricky to place it in the 3D space with the free camera but mrchlblng advised me to add camera constrained and indeed, it solved he black circle placement problem and prevented any behind-the-scene peeks.
Behind the scenes
I cleaned a frame of the game with Photoshop to create the background so it looks like Cagney is on the stage and added some post processing filters such as SSAO, Vignette, and of course animated grain to match the game aesethetic.
It was a really good project to improve some rigging skills and learn new animation processes. And to think a model for Sketchfab is different than thinking it for a render, because there’s other interesting specifics like the lighting, the vertex normal, the soften edge. It’s good to help developing new way of thinking a project!