Animating Wood and Water

About 2 months ago we received a script from Jim Beam with the idea of a bourbon barrel twisting for Devils Cut's TV commercial.
The challenge of animating wood, in this case a wood barrel twisting was something that I never had tested before.
We have been working on the project for 8 weeks and after working on the animatic I started creating the barrel rig. Basically, I created a simple rig for each wood panel, and a more complex rig where the metal rings and the panels could be twisted together in four main sections of the barrel. I end up with a complex rig where I had 6 main controls and another one where I could twist and add geometry deformers to the entire barrel.
After researching references of wood breaking, I started testing the rig.
That was fun. I spent 2-3 days on this process, adjusting the rig and testing it.
I started then animate the barrel having in mind an entire piece of wood being twisted. The animation should be not flexible but snappy and mixing slow twisting with fast movements happening in the small sections (layers) of the barrel. The timing was the key point of the animation, and the shapes shouldn't vary that much.
The wood layers/splinters
In the Graph Editor, the movements showed small bits being twisted at the same time with different timing and without blending shaped. I blocked out the barrel shapes creating the tension point in the metal rings imagining that the heat from the fire would contract the metal rings making the wood panels twist after. When you twist a piece of wood the top layers are forced to break and gradually it separates from the main piece. If you break a wood panel, you never will end up with a smooth cut. The splinters will peel from the main structure as the wood is a group of individual "layers". The animation polishing process was basically creating the tension moments with the layers peeling from the main structure, and creating the splinters individual animation.
The main structure animation was a mix of snappy keyframes (step tangents) with very subtle but fast key frames (flat tangents).
I also hand animated the bourbon droplets coming out from the wood in the last shot of the movie.
I was responsible for the animation layout (Animatic), where we created the idea of the droplets coming from the wood compression. The first tests of the droplets animation wasn't looking right in the renders. The timing was good but something in the droplets wasn't looking organic.
The gravity affects the droplets creating a bigger volume down forcing the object to move towards the floor. It is like a sand sack effect, where the velocity of the droplet should match the shape of it.
More volume in the front, more fast the object travels. After debating the renders with Richard (Light TD) he said that the light would look more interesting if we have a bigger 'gap' between the droplet and the wood.
We concluded that the droplet should have a more 'fat' shape when it is moving which matched with the concept of the gravity affecting the droplet shape animation.
The first renders showed we were right so I animated all the droplets using that concept.

I am happy with the final product and think we created a "believable" piece to sell the idea where the product comes out from a twisted barrel.

Check it out the TVC:
I hope you like it!

Jim Beam - The Devil's Cut - Directors from Resolution Design on Vimeo.

Director: Tim Dyroff

3D Supervisor: Daniel Vasconcellos
Animation/Animatic Drawings/Barrel Rig: Daniel Vasconcellos
Lighting TD  / Droplet Rig Effect: Richard Pang 
Modeling: Sam Williams

Software: Maya 2012
Rendered using VRay


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