Paddington: The Making of a Bear
Studio Canal / Heyday Films
Furry creatures aren't new in visual effects, but when they're the star of the show you know you need to be top of your game. Paddington provided Framestore's R&D team with plenty of technological challenges, and it wasn't just the famous bear's fur that needed attention – the team was involved in the technology behind his relatives Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo, a little dog, a flock of pigeons (with both hairs and feathers) and even Paddington's iconic hat and duffle coat. Here we look at the development of our Marmalade-loving friend, from the original art department concepts to creating that famous fur.
'It was challenging taking on such an iconic character... we spent a lot of time on the design before we found something that hit the mark.'Andy Kind - VFX Supervisor
Caring for our Bear
Beginning in 2012, a 350-strong team spread across Framestore’s London and Montreal studios delivered 760 final shots for Paddington, 570 of which feature the marmalade-obsessed bear. 'You don’t really think about the fact that you’re creating a lead character at the time', said Animation Supervisor Pablo Grillo. 'You think wow, what a great potential to do some really lovely work and work with some wonderful filmmakers. That’s the hook. It’s only when you reach the end and it takes shape that you realise quite what a big thing it is'.
Capturing Paddington's Spirit
Director Paul King briefed the animation team on who Paddington was before they started work, focussing on every nuance of his personality. In the stop-motion TV series he would often remain quite still, before doing something that took you by surprise, and there’s still a little bit of the old style in this new bear. Framestore tried to maintain that spirit in the way they crafted the performance. 'We didn’t put in too much and instead let things sit and rest. It’s very much in the style of the filmmaking – there’s no excess, it’s all very classic storytelling', said Animation Supervisor Pablo Grillo.
'Framestore has surpassed all our expectations and dreams in bringing such humanity, emotion and humour to Paddington.'David Heyman - Producer
Hair Necessities: the R&D behind Paddington
At Framestore, artists use a proprietary hair system, fcHairFilters, which was originally developed for the polar bears in The Golden Compass back in 2007. At its heart, fcHairFilters is a node-based evaluation framework where nodes (filters) can be connected arbitrarily to form a directed acyclic graph where the hair data flows along the edges and gets manipulated by the nodes. In addition to hair or feather data, the nodes can also receive other data such as geometry or functions that change filter parameters on a per-hair basis.
One challenge during the creation of the fur effects on Paddington was the many interactions of fur with other objects that get in contact with Paddington or the other bears (including, in one sequence, Sellotape). To handle all of these shots efficiently, Framestore extended the toolset to be able to generate data right inside the fur system and then pass it to other packages.
Working Out The Wobble
A Marmalade-saturated diet has resulted in Paddington (and his extended family) being on the chubby side. This led to further development on Framestore's finite element tissue solver, fLab, for use on the project. Although fLab had previously been used sparingly on the horse's muscles in Winter's Tale, Paddington was the first project during which it was used to simulate fairly large volumes of fatty tissue, both on Paddington himself and more noticeably on Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo.
The switch from using small, thin volumes to large ones brought significant new challenges to the stability of the system, which would require a more advanced solver. Framestore therefore adopted a more complex, realistic algorithm (based on one developed at Stanford University) that formulates the non-linear elasticity model into an implicitly-solvable dynamics equation.
'...charming, thoughtful and as cuddly as a plush toy, albeit one with a few modern gizmos thrown in...The "acting" from Paddington himself, or rather the CGI animators at London’s Framestore, is subtle and expressive.'The Hollywood Reporter
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