Had the extreme pleasure of working on this Netflix Original with the crew at Hey Beautiful Jerk. "Delicious worms" and a pissed off toad breaking through a skull in the hands of the ballsy kid that licked him (Del) - these were the hallucinations I helped bring to life in this funny and charming coming of age story set in the modern LGBTQ, polyamorous, #MeToo world. The speaking worms and crackling skull presented some tricky rigging challenges that I spent the better part of 3 months figuring out. This project gave me a chance to dabble in character design and rigging and presented unique challenges that I really enjoyed solving.
I had to spend some serious time with real life gummy worms and notice every detail to bring that realism to the 3D version of them. The first round came off looking a too happy looking and the director wanted to get them to seem a bit more maniacal. I achieved this by setting their eyes further apart and lessoning their smiles. The shift from closed to open mouth was achieved with Pose Morphs in Cinema 4D and a ton of hand sculpting. I tried using dynamics to pile them into the container at first, but in the end, I had to hand place each worm to match the real life plate in the shot prior to them coming to life and speaking to Del. I then spent some time getting them to reflect and refract light as they would in the real world.
The toad scene presented several technical challenges that we solved one at a time. The shader for the toad itself was quite complex. Thankfully, 3rd party renderers, Octane in this case, could handle it and made lighting and setup fairly straightforward. We used an HDRI shot on set to get the lighting right since there were several LEDs and blacklights in the room this shot happened in. Octane made it easy to line things up realtime based on that HDRI.
A fellow talented artist, Mark Rubbo, did a killer job on rigging the toad and I adjusted the rig as needed for this particular shot. I then solved the skull fracture with Cinema's Voronoi Fracture. It had a few technical hiccups but was all good in the end.
Here's a look at technical aspects that helped us see what Del was seeing after he licked the toad. A lot of rigging and R&D went into bringing as much realism into these characters as possible while balancing a sort of cartoon-y, hallucinogenic vibe.
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