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Counting Rabbits

Wit Animation's Jeb Milne describes animated bunny pipeline for Counting Crows video By Guy Wright

Wit Animation is a small (but, according to their own description ‘perfectly formed’) commercial production company and animation studio located Venice, Calif. The facility recently created a virtual alter ego for Counting Crows' lead singer Adam Duritz in a music video for the Shrek 2 hit song "Accidentally in Love." The dreadlocked bunny in the video, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Duritz, is Wit Animation's first foray into the world of mixing CG characters in a live action environment.

Founded in1998 by animation director Jeb Milne, Wit Animation specializes in character work and is focused on the production of television commercials and the development of original content.

In the music video, produced by Santa Monica-based production company Pusher, a cute couple awakens in a New York apartment. As her boyfriend makes a raucous attempt in the kitchen to prepare breakfast in bed, the young woman struggles to hold onto a few last minutes of sleep. When her large stuffed rabbit sees a clip of the movie Shrek on the TV it comes to life and wanders to the kitchen where he observes the boyfriend and performs the song "Accidentally in Love." After witnessing the culinary mayhem, the dancing bunny returns to the bedroom and coaxes the young woman to run off with him. The boyfriend enters the bedroom laden with the breakfast tray, only to catch a glimpse of the girl and the bunny slipping out the window and down the fire escape.

The concept for the dreadlocked bunny came from singer Adam Duritz himself. The character design was a collaboration between Jeb Milne, animation director and owner of Wit Animation, and Meiert Avis, the video's live action director and owner of Pusher. Milne was present on set for the live action shoot and consulted with director Avis on lighting issues. Because fur tends to look better with a strong backlight, they chose very strong directional lighting. Wit Animation then undertook various animation and fur tests and began the process of camera matching. The set and all of its physical elements were painstakingly measured so they could be accurately recreated in the computer. The process ensured that the CG bunny would be properly scaled when inserted in his live action environment and cast shadows on the appropriate surfaces. 

Many shots required the bunny to react to the lead male character's behavior. Avis and Milne decided to have the bunny act, dance and sing at the same time, incorporating performance with the lip sync and significantly ramping up the degree of difficulty.

While the live action part of the video was undergoing its final edit, Jeb and the Wit Animation team began the process of animating the lip sync of the entire song on a stationary bunny. This would enable Wit later on to import the bunny, complete with lip sync, into the individual scenes.

In a compressed production schedule of just over three weeks, Wit Animation's team of six animators, model builders and texture artists created 49 shots totaling two minutes of CG animation. 3ds max was utilized for modeling, texture animation, lighting and rendering. Digimation's Shag Fur plug-in was used for fur. Milne and James Kinnings were lead animators; David Dwang was character designer.

We had a chance to talk with Jeb Milne, founder of Wit Animation, about the project and how they managed to pull off the 49 shots in little over three weeks. 

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Related Keywords:Wit Animation, music video, Jeb Milne, CG characters, live action

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