Lately I've seen some amazing work from Jessica Herrerasaurus and Cabeza Patata. I've felt really inspired from looking at this type of 3D Characters from a far.  But this time I figured I'd like to get up real close and try it for myself. 

I suffer from severe case of Lepidopterophobia/mottephobia (fear of butterflies), so I created an animation of me running from firebreathing butterfly. In this post I'll do my best to summarize this process in 6 different parts.
STEP 1: Character Design
Early on I made the decision of not thinking too much and just sketch my own face very quickly in various ways. I picked the version I was the most happ withy and then proceeded to draw it from different angles as a future reference
STEP 1.2  :  Prepping 3d assets     

Next step consisted of continuing drawing in Photoshop and illustrating the rest of the body with the head. Since I knew I wanted to model and rig it in 3D, I drew the characters in a T-pose with one perspective from the front and other from the side. 

Opened up CINEMA 4D AND 
I imported the illustrations (front and side) of the Character as a backdrop for the front & side view camera of C4D respectively. I modeled only half of the character and used symmetry instance effector to make the other half of the body appear.

The topology could've been more consistent but since I had plans to dress him up, it was never ever really going to be an issue. 
STEP 2: Rigging and running animation.
At this point, before rigging and animation. I adjusted the size of different body parts, such as the head to make it look less weird. I then proceeded by creating joints inside the mesh which I then binded to it, this in order to make the joints movable for next part, the animation. 

After binding I started keyframing in trying to create a running cycle. It was not beautiful for the most part, but I found some good references in Animator's Survival Kit and Mixamo. After going back and forth between looking at the Animator's survival Kit and looking at a few mixamo runs, I was finally able to make an adequate running sequence. I then duplicated the keyframes of the sequence to make it and endless run loop.  

But... I then realised in order to be able to dress him up easily I'd need him to start out from a T-pose. So I went back to the beginning of the loop and just made the first pose a T-pose and to then let it seamlessly transition into the run cycle.
I then exported the animation sequence for the next part. 
PART 3: Cloth and a little bit of fire

I found this part of the project the most exciting. I think it mainly boils down to thrill of of trying and slowly learning something new. In this case it was Marvelous Designer where I created and simulated the cloth of the character. 

1. 2D structure of the garment. 2. Aligning the polygons in 3D Space before sewing and simulating gravity.                                                 
In Marvelous Designer I imported the aninmation sequence I made in part 2. I used the initial T-pose of the sequence as the blueprint when creating the clothes. It's easier to fit a T-pose than a character in action. 

In the 2D CAMERA space I started to draw polygons in shape of the clothes I intended to make. 
By creating a front and back sides of each garment (eg. Chest, back) I was able with small adjustments slide the 3D Character mesh between the polygons in the 3D Workspace.

 With the polygons in this position; I matched and sew it together. When I simulated with gravity, the polygons finally wrapped around the character like real clothes.

The garment and the character animation was done at this point, but the shoes was still missing. Luckily I had already modeled my Nike Cortez for practise a few months ago.

BREAKDOWN of the 3D compositing and texturing
1.   I exported the Marvelous Designer cloth mesh into an alembic sequence. 

2. I then imported the alembic sequence into the CINEMA together with the animated 3D character (see. part 2) and the Nike Cortez I modeled. I set up the camera and its rotatation in this step. 

3. In this part I applied some textures. I found textures for the pants and the sweatshirt for free on the web. The materials used for the shoes and the skin was made natively in CINEMA 4D. 

4. By using the Turbulence FD (Free learning edition) plugin I was able to quickly simulate the fire and the smoke. I couldn't do a ''real'' fire render as the learning edition is limited. The fire that I chose to go with is actually a hardware render. 

5. The compositing was made in After Effects.  
The comping consisted of adding an orange background and doing some colour correction. I spent most time weaking and making the fire look somewhat realistic since it was from the render view. 

PART 4:  Adding cel animation in Adobe Animate
This part was by far the most time consuming part as I had an aesthetic in mind that I really wanted to achieve.

 In this part I basically drew the outlines, highlights and shadows on everything that was missing from the final CINEMA 4D renders as seen in sequence 5 in the video above. I initially tried to draw every 2 frames but since it was such a kinetic scene it ended up looking really stiff and unnatural so I had to draw every frame separetely for each layers. There are probably smarter ways to do it, but the learnings was invaluable.

The face in the picture summarizes this part of the process perfectly. 

A deeper look into the cel animation

Pretty rough frames of the sand smoke.
PART 5: The addition of the butterfly
1. The initial step of creating the firebreathing butterfly consisted of modeling the butterfly in CINEMA 4D. I followed this tutorial, but in end I took a few liberties to make it look a bit more alive. For example adding a jiggle deformer to make the wings have a more exaggerated bend and overlap. ​​​​​​​
2. The material was provided and consisted of a base colour, alpha map and normal map. 
Step 6 - Compositing, FX and final grading. 
In the final steps of this process, I imported the butterfly, scaled it and put it behind the Character. I procedeed by doing some colour grading to make it blend into the scene. To make it blend even more I masked the fire to make the wings appear to be flapping around it.

This was followed by duplicating the butteflies. Once again changing the size, position and colour of them to then scatter them around the scene.

The final touches consisted of doing some more colour grading to the overall scene and adding some heatwaves towards the end.

That's it!

If you have any questions about this project don't hesitate to ask me.