he Spirit of Santa is a one-hour animated television special currently in development.  Below you will find some preliminary information about the technical aspects of the production.  For additional, more detailed information, see the pmG website.


The show takes place in the north-eastern United States during the mid 1930's.  Buildings and vehicles are based on actual designs from the period, but stylized to give them a unique look.

The characters are intended to be reminiscent of small porcelain figurines such as those by M.I. Hummel.  3D artist Taron not only designed the characters but also created a unique implementation of sub-surface scattering for their skin so the renders would have the type of translucency required. 

Animation & Rendering
All animation is being created entirely within pmG's messiah:studio.  As mentioned above, the skin of the characters is being rendered with sub-surface scattering (SSS), which gives a certain translucency just like real skin.  A good example of SSS is the wax on a lit candle:  the light from the flame penetrates the candle, giving it a glow.

In addition to SSS, we are using pixel displacement to give the show a unique look.   Things like hair, fabric, footsteps in the snow, etc. lend themselves perfectly to the use of pixel displacement.  This allows us to use simplified models for animating, yet achieve a high level of detail in the final renders.  Pixel displacement is superior to ordinary bump mapping in that it actually creates and displaces the geometry of the surface, creating real bumps rather than simulating bumps with shadows.  And since messiah:studio renders displacement with no increase in render time compared to traditional bump maps, the quality of the final product increases without affecting the production schedule.

At right is a test render for the porcelain Santa in Mikey's snow globe.  The color map and pixel displacement map was created in ZBrush (from Pixologic) and applied to a simplified object in messiah:studio.  (Note: This render does not utilize sub-surface scattering, because this is supposed to look painted.)

The black & white image below is what the actual model looks like.  Notice that there is no detail at all in the actual model.

Pixel Displacement is also being used for creating the sets.  For example, this method makes it very easy to add snow to buildings, trees, etc.  That saves an enormous amount of time in modeling, and it's much easier to do.  Plus it ends up looking better and is easier to modify if necessary.

For animation, a base rig is being created which will then applied to each character and customized for the needs of that character.  This approach has two main advantages:  First, for the technical directors (the folks creating the animation rigs) it lets them get the rigs into the hands of the animators much faster.  Second, it means that once the animators learn how to use one character's rig they can apply that knowledge to all other rigs, rather than having to learn a completely new rig for each character.

Over the course of the production, many new tools will be created and existing tools will be refined.  This ultimately benefits all animators using messiah:studio, because all of this will be available in future versions of the software.

Music is being composed by William Stromberg.  His work, with his writing partner John Morgan, can be heard in the teaser video beginning with the bedroom interior scene.   Click here for more info about William Stromberg.


Contact: Click here to e-mail.

© 2010