Professional Services
Order outsourcing

Learn How This Smaug-Inspired Stylized 3D Character Animation Was Made

Nicolas Roth shared an insightful breakdown explaining how the Vesper – The Mad Emperor project was made.

Nicolas Roth, an experienced 3D Animator and Rigger, has recently shared Vesper – The Mad Emperor, an incredibly smooth stylized 3D character animation created for Agora Studio's AnimChallenge, a monthly animation challenge open to animators of all experience levels.

Inspired by Benedict Cumberbatch's Smaug performance from The Hobbit, the character was animated using Nicolas' self-made Vesper Rig, a full-body character rig for Blender set to be released in the near future. "I've been wanting to animate this audio track with a human character for a long time, and the AnimChallenge provided the perfect opportunity," commented the artist.

To help us better understand the story behind the animation and how it was made, Nicolas shared an insightful breakdown providing a closer look at The Mad Emperor:


I'm excited to share insights into my latest animation project, highlighting the capabilities of my upcoming rig, "Vesper." With my animation "Vesper – The Mad Emperor" I wanted to test the nuances of facial animation and the potential of my rig.

The Rig

My primary goal was to provide animators with maximum control while ensuring efficient results. Vesper's facial rig consists of three layers. The first layer offers just a few controllers to create expressions and capture main human emotions. The second layer allows for fine-tuning and brings in asymmetry and personality. The third layer delves deep into details, perfect for polishing every facial feature.

The Challenge

The topic of Agora's November AnimChallenge was dialogue and presented the ideal platform for this facial animation test. Not only did it motivate me to test the rig, but it also pushed me to complete, polish, and render the entire animation.

For quite a while, I had been eager to animate this particular audio track. However, I hesitated because it featured a widely recognized scene, and industry advice typically discourages using famous acting scenes, particularly those involving animated characters. Despite these reservations, I reasoned that the original character, Smaug, being a dragon with a constrained range of expressions, made direct comparisons challenging. In essence, I believed the unique nature of Vesper's animation set it apart from Smaug's performance, making it a worthwhile endeavor.

The Animation

To prepare, I recorded numerous references to refine my acting choices and began blocking out key poses. I focused on creating the most intense facial expressions, all in an effort to test the rig's resilience. To my relief, the rig proved steadfast even under the strain of extreme poses. Encouraged by this positive outcome, I proceeded with the animation process.

Transitioning from blocking to splining is always a hurdle, especially in a 15-second piece. Maintaining the overall feel of the blocking while breaking down the animation into smaller segments proved crucial. This approach helped me focus on refining each component, ensuring a cohesive and impactful result.

The Presentation

To enhance the narrative, I introduced a backstory involving a mad emperor threatening others after committing heinous acts. This called for blood, and I painted textures, exaggerating for effect. The result added a unique specular quality to the skin in the final render, intensifying the overall impact.

To wrap it up, I added a background to infuse atmosphere into the animation. It was a rapid and rough process, aimed at achieving a compelling composition and silhouette to complement Vesper's intense performance.

In conclusion, this animation journey surprised me in terms of the versatility of Vesper's facial rig. I found parts of the rig that I need to tweak a few things, but overall it's very solid. I hope this breakdown gives you insights into the creative process behind this animation, and stay tuned for more adventures with Vesper!

Check out more of Nicholas' projects here and don't forget to join our 80 Level Talent platform and our Telegram channel, follow us on InstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn, where we share breakdowns, the latest news, awesome artworks, and more.

Join discussion

Comments 0

    You might also like

    We need your consent

    We use cookies on this website to make your browsing experience better. By using the site you agree to our use of cookies.Learn more