Posted Oct 29

TechAnim in Focus: What makes a good CG character?

by Joe Beedle
TechAnim in Focus: What makes a good CG character? by Joe Beedle

From talking Pokémon to the abundant wildlife of the African savanna, 2019 has brought some impressive photorealistic characters to our screens.

But what general qualities make for a good CG character and what steps are taken to avoid falling into the depths of the uncanny valley? Chris McKenna, Head of Technical Animation at MPC Film, gave us some key insights into the dos and don’ts of Technical Animation.

Authenticity is vital

One of the key objectives in the creation of visual effects at MPC Film is making them seamless; as if the characters and worlds are, and always have been, part of reality.

“‘How did they do that?’ or ‘There was no CG in that film!’ is the reaction we strive for when developing any CG character,” McKenna told The Focus.

In light of this, it is sometimes very tempting to pick out large amounts of references in the real world then try and re-create it in software. However, reality is not always what looks best and sometimes it’s difficult to find a reference for a flying elephant or a talking Pokémon in the real world.

McKenna says that there are two main aspects to consider when creating any CG character.


Chris McKenna, Head of Technical Animation at MPC Film
Chris McKenna, Head of Technical Animation at MPC Film


“Firstly, the story is key. A combination of all disciplines that are involved in creating the character should result in the ability to convince you of real emotion and be able to seamlessly draw you into their world,” said McKenna.

Apart from making the character authentic and believable, it must also be technically sound.

“Secondly, it should be technically good, so it can be efficiently used with the demands of a film pipeline,” McKenna explained.

“TechAnim is a combination of both technical and creative skill, and Tech Animators are involved in a few different aspects of CG, this includes cloth simulation, skin dynamics, fur simulations and so on.”

He added that “every project [MPC works on] gives us the opportunity to develop our CG characters, both technically and creatively and it takes every artist involved in the creation to make that happen”.

Working in TechAnim

TechAnim and the VFX industry in general are in constant development, with studios always seeking to better and build upon previous work, technology and methods. For this reason, it’s important to keep your skill set modernized whilst ensuring that you maintain the fundamentals.

“VFX is an exciting and demanding industry, it can allow you to work on unruly cute lion cubs, ghostly pirates with a grudge and a baby elephant that takes to the sky!” McKenna said.

In offering advice to anyone specifically wanting to get into technical animation in VFX, McKenna quoted recent lovable rouge, Scar: “Be prepared! And remember to have fun.”–

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