Art Spotlight: Frey Couch Scene Sound

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Hello! We are Geril and Lussy, a small team of 3D artists who go by the name ExceptionGate. We like 3D modeling, texturing and animating the most, but we also take on various game development tasks such as gameplay scripting, level design and building, sound editing and some poorly done self-promotion.

You might have seen one of our scenes, a remake of the art piece ‘Underground’ by Yuumei. We first created Frey’s character for that scene, complete with all the morph targets that we would use in a video game. It was a challenge to see how fast we could get a character ready for a game engine. It turned out to be just about a week’s worth of work, as we had plenty of reference pictures to work from.

CREATING FREY’S MODEL

We’ve tried to make Frey look as close to his original look as possible, and because of this, we tried out new methods so we wouldn’t get stuck in our same-old routine and make something that is too similar to our style. We think we’ve succeeded at least partly, but we can still see our distinct style all over it.

Lussy is a big Yuumei fan – she really admires her use of colors and lighting -, so she wanted to try her hand at creating one of Fisheye Placebo’s scenes, complete with lighting and post processes. Geril wasn’t really familiar with the character, but he has experience with anime/manga character models in general – the biggest challenge for him were proportions.

As with almost all 2D characters, the proportions are always changing to fit the scene and/or the current comic panel. This is a lot easier to recreate with static models, because then we can impose limitations on viewing angles and obscure some parts of the character, ensuring it looks good in all viewable angles, but with an animated character, we had to make it look good from all imaginable angles.

The eyes in particular were tough to recreate – Yuumei places a huge emphasis on characters’ eyes, and they are quite big at times, too, so we used two huge orbs for eyes with some complicated IKs, because the pupils aren’t placed on the center of the orbs but rather a bit to the sides. Of course these IKs caused problems during the exporting process, but with proper baking, any IK issues can be solved.

LIP-SYNCING ANIMATION

Almost immediately after publishing the initial Underground scene, we started work on the lip-syncing animation. Lussy is a big fan of Yuumei, and remembered seeing a dub of her comic Fisheye Placebo (where Frey is from) by VisualRaid on YouTube. We looked up that video and cut a piece of the dub to match our animation to. It had to be a section where not much interaction happened between characters, so we didn’t have to model anyone else, and that’s how we came to choose this part.

Making the animation itself was a pretty straightforward process. First we laid out the voice clip in Blender and then roughly mapped out the major sounds for all the words with morph targets. Then we fleshed out the words more and added simple expressions to the other parts of the face using bones, and added some very rough body movement as the last step.

We uploaded this scene on the day we were invited to beta test the sound feature. However, at first the animation didn’t sync up with the sound, because somehow the animation exported at a different speed. We solved this in Blender by setting Render/Dimensions/Time Remapping to Old: 400 and New: 100, after a lot of trial and error. (Just throwing this out there, in case others face a similar issue!) This messed up the whole animation timeline in Blender, so we had to adjust the start and end points of the animation again, paying extra attention because of the distortion. After this setting, we rebaked the animation and fixed a few issues by hand, and then the export worked fine. The whole process was done in one day.

This is by no means a complete animation, but it demonstrates the model’s capabilities well, and we think it may also give some ideas to other Sketchfab users, or serve as inspiration – something along the lines of ‘see, this is also possible on Sketchfab!’

In general, we enjoy working with Sketchfab as a target platform because we almost always get feedback, and since it’s still a relatively small community, it’s nice to see familiar faces. It also helps that it’s really easy to share our work this way.

Most of the times we enjoy going for goals that stretch the limits of the target platform, or utilise it in unexpected ways. This is why we experimented with 3D webcomics that reached huge sizes, hiding things in our models, and now, lip-syncing. We have another, more robust sound-based project in progress right now, and we hope it’ll make people realise how much Sketchfab is capable of, and how many things can be achieved here!

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Seori Sachs

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