The Sidekick: Character Portfolio

I decided to take on THE SIDEKICK.

The Sidekick is Wayne’s sheepish second-hand man. He doesn’t even have a gun. A measly desert fly, he’s simply there to ‘intimidate’ and serve his master (although he doesn’t do a great job, he is the most intimated out of any of them). He has a belt, a backpack, and large wings that make up for his tiny stick arms. 


The Design

Wayne – the pink worm – is the antagonist, and we believed him having a servant-type character that seemed weak and insufficient would further enhance his villainous persona. I decided to take on this character and begin sketching out designs. Originally – as you can see in the first storyboard – I was thinking of something more simple, however when Josh developed his design for the worm’s cowboy hat I tried to think in shapes. The silhoutte of wings complimented the sharp downwards shape of the worm’s hat so I started from there and experimented with various mini silhouettes.

Eventually, I settled on this design and began modelling (using these as image planes as a basis for my modelling):

Additional Concepts

Final Model Sheet


3D Modelling

I modelled The Sidekick entirely in Maya, which was difficult in a way as the shapes were less organic than Blender sculpting, although it was more efficient when it came to animating. I started with four spheres and began taking the vertices and moving them where appropriate to match my conceptual drawings. As you can see below, I did attempt a pass with the waistcoat modelled, however I do not think the result was successful or that it added anything to the design. On the contrary, without it, the design looked bare.


Therefore, I decided to opt for a scarf instead which I believe improved the overall silhouette of my character and also enabled me to work with more variety in the textures later.

Below is my final 3D model:

*Colour Palette

I began with using simple Lamberts and Blinns to help decide on a colour palette. I worked with Josh on complimenting his and we agreed warm, Earthy tones (brown and beige) alongside reds and oranges felt both antagonistic and appropriate for the environment. It also juxtaposed Liam’s blue character design which highlighted the fact his character was the protagonist. My palette was a lot deeper than Josh’s which I thought made sense because he is metaphorically a shadow for Wayne. It also makes sense that his dry skin has been burnt in the scorching heat of the desert sun.

I decided that this was my final colour palette for my model, and I took this and moved forward into Substance to create a more distinct, final texture outcome.


UV Mapping and Substance

I ran into several issues during the UV mapping process which were enlightening in my knowledge of 3D. One key aspect was UV Sets. When I was unfolding my UVs, I realised I had accidentally been creating a new set each time. As my character was a group with many objects, this meant approximately six or seven UV sets per object in the group. This was the result:

It effectively looked like the UV map had unraveled on each and every object as if it was the entire UV square.

The solution: after lots of research, I found that the solution was to make sure all the correct UVs were represented in Map1 (the default UV set) and Map1 only. To do this, I went into the UV Set settings and copied the attributes of the correct UV unfold of each object into said default, and this immediately began working.

Once this was solved, I was able to delve further into playing with Substance which was an enjoyable process. I wanted to keep it simple but more dynamic and varied than the alternative in Maya.

One thing that was very intriguing to me was the idea of creating some kind of graphical gradient across the character. I felt this matched the style of the .psd ground we had made as well as Josh’s matte painting sky. I did this by adding a fill layer in a darker shade of pink, then planar projecting this and reducing the hardness. The result was successful and made the design pop.

As for the other elements of my model, these were the textures I chose:

  • Scarf – scarf wool in red
  • Belt – brown leather
  • Buckle – brass gold
  • Ammo – black metal
  • Wings and antenna – concrete

Originally it exported as separate texture sets for each object (of which there was around 15), however for efficiency reasons I amended this by exporting the selection of the character instead of the selection of the faces on the UV map.

See my Substance file here.


The Rig

I passed my rig several times. The first was very basic and he could simply move up, down, right, left with some basic head movements. At this stage, I had not yet decided how I was going to rig the wings.

After talking to Henry, I used a bend deformer across the Y-axis at the centre of the environment. This allowed them both to go in separate directions and also have a unique curl at either side which I thought was stylistically interesting and dynamic in terms of motion.

I also decided to add several blend-shape controls, key ones being the eyes blinking (I did this by using soft select on the edges of his eyes and heavily modifying my model so that there was eyelids) as well as the mouth opening (achieved via the same process). This added a lot more to the personality of The Sidekick and made his shots more comedic and emotive. I also played with IK joints on the arms, however after several animation tests I found these actually held the rig back and disjointed my ability to move the arms in the way I wanted. Instead, I skinned the arms separately and parented them thereafter which separated the controls –  this worked perfectly in the animation stage and also sped Maya up and made it more efficient to get my animations done (which were often in other regions).

The blend shape control was an interesting experience as it introduced a bit of Maya programming where you had to match the .translateY value of a locked external object. I am sure I will use this again when creating controls.

I also made sure my rig was set up so that I could create breathing motions using Scale. This added a depth of humanity to my character as he looked alive and anxious. It allowed me to work more closely with principles such as anticipation as I could use the breathe in as a tool for setting up an action (such as him running away).

Below is the final set-up for my rig:

See sample animation scenes here.

See final rig, static, here.



Looking back at the Pre-Vis vs outcome. LOL.

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