Silver Linings and the Design Process

Sometimes the difference between a disaster and a blessing is all in how you react. When faced with an unexpected outcome you can either fall prostrate and wailing in grief, or you can sit back and recooperate, and hit the problem from a refreshed perspective.

It’s like the saying goes: “Never model a tropical copepod when an arctic one will do.”

… You’ve never heard of it? Maybe it’s a regional thing.

copie5 2 copie2 2

Let me explain. When an artist or technician embarks on the journey of creating a model, they usually refer to a folder or scrapbook of reference material. This collection of images helps define proportions, feature/detail variations, behaviour and the overarching concept of ‘copepod-ness’ that needs to be understood by the viewer.


Unbeknownst to the production team, the rather varied and exciting photos of copepods we gathered included some tropical species. This became especially apparent when we presented a sculpted copepod model to one of our Marine Biologist consultants, Carin Ashjian. We found out I had modelled the wrong beastie.


Luckily, Carin recommended some images of the correct arctic species of copepod; the vanilla, parka-wearing cousin of the original model.


Now that the copepod model parameters had been reset and I knew where I stood, I went on a demolition and salvage mission.


Step one: Analysis. The antennae were unsalvageable. Deleted and scheduled for remodel.

Head ‘horn’ protrusions deleted. Head resculpted to fit new dimensions.

Eye resized, organs resized.


Step two: Scale and move body sections on gross scale before getting onto individual features.


Step three: Separate the body segments (I had modelled them together originally) and resize/reposition/re-sculpt the vertices, edges, and faces.


Step four: Now the tricky part. With all the body segments in place, I needed to remodel the overlapping edges without them intersecting. This meant working systematically from largest segment to smallest segment, and tweaking all the edges and vertices until the segments looked natural and flush.


bodysegmentsWIP6 bodyrevWIP7

This screenshot was taken prior to re-sculpting the last segment into a more rounded, respectable copepod bottom.

Also, that floating blob is an egg sac. Well, was an egg sac. I deleted it.


Here you can see the close-to-finished model, with re-sculpted segments, resized legs and tail, and a new oil sac in his body cavity!


Beautiful new antennae, one segment copied and resized. Rinse and repeat.

The edge vertices of this body-half were straightened into a line, then the body was mirrored to create a whole copepod!

wheecope10 wheee

Front view looking good.


Closer look at the internal organs and oil sac.



Polished and merged edge vertices, with some other minor size adjustments, ready for review!

Keep a cyclopean eye out for some rendered stills soon. I’m done with modelling for a while, and getting back into animating whales. Roger has given me a list of exciting shots to work on. Odds are you’ll get to see those soon too!

— Hannah Foss (Project Lead Animator)

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