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Wander - Winter

This is my dailies blog for the current short animated film production, Wander, releasing Spring 2019. look development, grooming, and research & development for the film. 

The official film blog can be found here.

week 1


Our team has made a lot of progress over the past winter break, which is presented in the video here (the password is ducks). 

However, I still have plenty of work for the next few weeks of the quarter:

  • Create Nia's hair groom in Houdini​

  • Lookdev for Nia's raincoat, romper, tights, and rain boots 

  • Make tweaks to the duckling's legs/beak textures, shaders, and duckling groom

    • Make color variations for siblings​

  • Surfacing tweaks for Nia's skin & eyes

  • Procedural tree modeling in Houdini from base mesh

  • Instancing system for environment

  • Lookdev & lighting for environment


Nia with romper (no raincoat) & proxy geo hair

During winter break, I made the rainbow hair sketches to the right (based on the model sheet by Erin O'Neal) as a reference for the hair groom.

My original plan was to model NURBs curves in Maya for each piece/curl in her hair. I would generate the guides from those curves to create the specific art-directed style from the model sheet. 

Upon seeing the curves in 3D space, we realized the size of Nia's hair may cause simulation issues or collision problems with her props. We are now going for slightly less voluminous style that is closer to the proxy geo hair style (pictured in the render above). 


Instead of modeling every piece of hair manually, I am using a more procedural method in Houdini with multiple guide grooms for different sections and layers of her head, using Guide Process nodes to control the direction, length, and shape of the guides. 


Most recent reference compilation for Nia's hair - silhouette, bangs, and texture

Procedurally grooming via guide process nodes is efficient for the back of the hair, but it's difficult to get the right shape for the bangs & "sideburns" with procedural methods. I'm planning to model tubes/"ice cream cones" for the bangs and front of her hair in Maya and then generate guides from that mesh.


First pass of Nia's procedural groom (back view) layered, slightly wavy bob


3/4ths-back view with higher density & more curl in hairgen clumps


"Can I speak to your manager" (unsuccessful attempt at bangs)

week 2



Test bangs generated from hand-modeled NURBs curves


Waves/curl, frizz & texture testing in Mantra


This week, I am working more on Nia's hair groom - I am modeling/sculpting the tubes for her bangs in Maya, and I am shaping the rest of her hair procedurally in Houdini.


UVs for backpack that I will eventually lookdev (modeled by Erin ONeal and Althea Wheaton)

week 3



Rough shader testing in Arnold 


Shaping existing guides, tweaking clumping & curling in hairgen. Mantra render


Render in Arnold


This week, I've combined the back of Nia's head, which is groomed procedurally in Houdini, with the manually modeled bangs (guides created from NURBs curves, created from modeled tubes). 

Nia's hair is still not quite the right shape; it's still too short and needs more volume at the ends around her neck. But her hair is getting closer to the right style.


week 4





Front view of duckling, with in-progress fur density and thickness. 3/4ths render of walk cycle has final density

This week, I brought Nia's shaders from Maya into Houdini to render in Arnold. I still need to make a few tweaks to her skin shader and am not quite done with the shaders for her clothes. 

I worked a little more on her groom to make it longer and add more volume to the ends of her hair. 

I also worked on troubleshooting the rendering and animation of the duckling with fur. I made a few tweaks to his shading as well – his shaders are not completely done (I still need to make a texture map for his legs and refine his beak shader), but he is close to being final. 

week 5



This week, I got significantly closer to the final look of Nia's hair. Though I've been working procedurally with guide process sops and guide masks in Houdini for most of the groom, I started working with the guide groom sop & the screen brush to quickly and interactively shape the guides on the sides and back of Nia's hair. 

The bangs and part of the hair is still somewhat clumpy, and the hair is now a little too long. But now that I'm taking a more interactive approach with the screen brush, it may be easier for me to get the shape we're looking for. 

Below are some of the "collages" I put together with my reference photos and material for the hair. 


week 6



This turnaround of the groom was really close to final - I ended up changing the size of the clumps and editing the curls a little bit to look like the images on the left.

I also had some difficulties going back and forth from Houdini to Substance painting a density texture map for her hairline, but it was ultimately not a big deal and the groom got done. 

The sim artists have already gotten to work on the shots, and her hair looks great simulated. So I'm really excited to see it all together!

week 10


Here's a short reel of my work on the Wander characters all together. It's been a really tough few months trying to get Nia and the duckling looking good, but I think our team has done a truly amazing job, and the film is going to be awesome. I'm really excited to see it all together at the end of next quarter! 

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