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Rhinoceros Visual Effects & Design Animates Mr. Potato Head

Studio's first venture using Softimage XSI for production By DMN Staff Writer
Rhinoceros Visual Effects & Design has created a five-second fantasy opening for a spot featuring Talk 'N Pop, Hasbro's new Mr. Potato Head toy.

In the short sequence, Talk 'N Pop's curiosity compels him to push a mysterious button which, to his surprise, makes his features fly off. The sequence leads into live action which demonstrates kids having fun with their new friend.

The spot was produced using Softimage|XSI and rendered in Mental Ray. Final Gathering, an intensive rendering process that creates the natural look of color diffusion and soft illumination, was used to render the photorealistic Mr. Potato Head. This project was Rhinoceros’ first venture using XSI for production.

According to CG Director David Barosin, “At Rhinoceros we have several 3D software packages to choose from. At the onset of this project we need to choose the right package to use for this project. In making this decision there were several factors to consider. One is the needs of the creative, in this case that means the look of the imagery and action, two is the capability of the software, and three is each artist's competency and preference in software. We chose XSI primarily for its rendering capabilities”.

“Since the scope of this job was quite manageable, it was an ideal opportunity for us to explore a new software package,” he continues. “The artists that contributed to this project had various backgrounds in Maya, Softimage3D and Houdini. The team had a healthy enthusiasm about learning XSI. There were many positive comparisons drawn between XSI and our other packages ranging from the procedural aspects of the operator stack to the shader building in the render tree. On this job, some of our favorite XSI traits were the polygonal modeling tools, Render Passes and Final Gathering.”

Barosin explains, “The Potato Head character was modeled in polygons and geometric approximation was used to smooth out the shapes for rendering. The animation rig was quite easy to do. Several Custom Parameter Sets were made to facilitate the animation process. These sets had sliders that controlled the eyes, mouth, fingers and scaling of the arms. The mouth was primarily animated using shapes but also had additional enveloping to allow for finer control. Deformations such as a lattice and shape jitter were also used on the body for some subtle effects.”

The lighting and rendering was designed around the final gathering process. In this technique the surface intensity, color, and proximity of one object will contribute to the illumination of another object in the scene (and vice versa). For this job a hemisphere was placed over the entire scene which had a texture map to describe the location of the key light. Additional passes were created for highlights and shadows. Mattes were also renders to create the contact effect of the lips pressing against the screen.

Rhinoceros Visual Effects and Design is a Multi-Video Group/Gravity company.For more information, go to


Production Company: Aegis
Director: David Sandbank
Exec. Producer: Robert Berman

Where Shot: Vancouver

Advertising Agency: DDB Worldwide, New York, NY
Producer: Molly Schaaf
Creative Director/Copywriter: Dan Lombardi
Creative Director/Art Director: Mark Mazut

Editorial Company: Rhinoceros Editorial & Post, New York, NY
Editor: Stu Eisenberg
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Berman

Postproduction Facility: Rhinoceros Editorial & Post
Colorist: John Binninger
Online Editor: Jimmy Drakoulias
Assistant Online Editor: Jeff Salzberger

Visual Effects: Rhinoceros Visual Effects & Design, New York, NY
Executive Producer & Partners: Michael Miller & Rick Wagonheim
Senior Producer: Bennett Lieber
Digital Artist & CG Director (Animation): Dave Barosin
Digital Artist & CG Director (Lighting): Natalia Saenko
Digital Artists (Modelling): Vincent Serritella, Jeff Guerrero, Patrick Porter
Digital Artist & Design Director (Bob): Marc Steinberg
Digital Artist (Mr. Potato Head): Joon Seo Lee
Inferno Artist: Niklaus Schlumpf
Production Coordinator: Linda Gallagher

Audio Post: Cool Beans, New York, NY
Mixer: Mark Franke

Music Production: Mambo Music (Mr. Potato Head only)
Composer: Paul Weinberg

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Related Keywords:Softimage, XSI, animation, mental ray, Rhinoceros

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