Aardman hams it up with Burgerotti
You’ve probably heard of our friends over at Aardman(opens in new tab) - you know, just the British animation studio casually behind smash hits such as Wallace and Gromit, Shaun The Sheep, and Chicken Run. They’re kind of a big deal. Imagine our delight when they told us they’d been experimenting in Dreams lately! When they suggested we collaborate on something small together, we leapt at the chance to work with these rock stars of animation. Read on to find out what they’ve been cooking up in Dreams…
Hello! George Rowe from Aardman here!
It may not be common knowledge, but here at Aardman, we’ve always been interested in new technologies - whether that’s building motion control systems to move a diffuser made from a pint glass in sync with stop motion animation, the VR system we built on Early Man so Nick (Park) could line up shots in the CG stadium, or the compute shader-based painterly system for our narrative video game 11-11: Memories Retold, using new tech to create beautiful things that have that handmade warmth is what we do.
So when we saw Media Molecule’s Dreams, and how you can sculpt in a 3D space with paint strokes using PlayStation motion controllers (and much more besides!), light bulbs started going off in all the heads around the studio. A chance meeting at FMX 2019, where I gave a talk right after Kareem Ettouney (Media Molecule art director), led to a visit to their awesome studio - and the realisation that we shared much the same ethos as companies.
So what to do together? I’ll pass over to my learned colleague Will Studd…
We got together with Michael, Ed and Gemma at Media Molecule over a Zoom chat to kick around some fun ideas for an animated dream. We thought about games versus straight animation, but we decided we wanted to make something musical, characters that people could pick up and play. Eventually, we came up with the idea of a two-player interactive puppet performance - essentially, a little music based toy with silly characters for people to bring to life.
To start off, I created a bunch of initial designs in Dreams. Our first thought was to design a character that could be in segments, like a concertina. We wanted a body shape that could be very mobile and dynamic. Each section of the main character (in the case of Burgerotti, burger, cheese, tomatoes, etc) is linked with bolts in a stack to create a bendy, kind of snake-like, ketchu- I mean, setup.
We included lots of dynamic attributes that take advantage of Dreams' physics engine. Stuff that makes the puppet feel tactile and physical, such as the hairy moustache, hairstyle and monocle. These assets shake, ruffle and jangle like the real thing, giving Burgerotti lots of lovely follow-through with overlapping animation.
We also wanted to create a classic Aardman loop mouth that you could trigger live, with audio. Michael Pang created a really clever setup that reacts to sound, with random 'm' and 'v' mouth shapes on the closing action to mix it up and make it feel more natural. Tom Colvin created the perfect spooky opera musical accompaniment, inspired by Grieg’s Hall Of The Mountain King, using Dreams’ composing tools. A big thanks, too, to John Robert Matz, who sung our operatic burger parts.
Michael didn’t stop at Burgerotti’s mouth animation; he also created the fantastic stage hand. I love how his eyes are movable, using the thumbsticks of the controller, and that the fingers have a slight wobble as he moves.
After modelling, we used Dreams’ simple logic tools to rig a bunch of levers and buttons for the hand to trigger that, in turn, affect the audio. For example: if you lower the lights, it causes the burger to catch fire, and also mixes through to a different singing track that features lots of painful-sounding ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’. This bit was really fun to play with as they could be linked to a wide array of audio effects - I think people will have fun remixing them.
Dreams makes the creative process so enjoyable. It’s great knowing you can get brilliant results so quickly, without learning loads of UI and caching loads of previews. Alright, enough cheesiness from me: I’ll leave the rest to Burgerotti. All of us here at Aardman hope he’s, erm, to your taste.
Well - what are you waiting for, CoMmunity? You can jump into Dreams right now and grab yourself a heaping helping of Burgerotti - and don’t forget to share your sizzling operatic performances with us and Aardman across all the usual social media channels via the hashtags #MadeInDreams, #DreamsPS4, and, of course, #Burgerotti.
Finally, a big thanks to George, Will, and the rest of the team at Aardman for helping us help them bring this delectable concept to life!
The Dreams User Guide is a work-in-progress. Keep an eye out for updates as we add more learning resources and articles over time.