Ted Season 1
Framestore’s Melbourne studio reunited with Seth Macfarlane on tv series Ted, streaming exclusively on Peacock. Set in 1993, the series depicts the early life of sentient teddy bear Ted, as he lives with John Bennett and his family in Massachusetts. In addition to John & Ted, the Bennett household includes John's father Matty, his mother Susan, and his cousin, Blaire.
VFX Supervisor Glenn Melenhorst led the Melbourne team in reinventing Ted for the streaming series. “It’s been ten years since we built Ted for the second film (Ted 2), so the technology has advanced quite a bit. The asset from the beloved Ted films was restored, and then processed through our build departments (model, texture, rigging, lookdev, groom) to get it up to modern standards,” explains Melenhorst. “One area that required a complete overhaul was the fur.”
Due to the volume of shots across the series (2400 shots delivered over a year of post production), the team could not adopt the traditional method of caching the hair. “We developed an in-house tool utilising USD, which allowed us to generate and render the hair procedurally at render time,” says Melenhorst. “This allowed us to quickly swap out any creative changes that needed to happen, and eliminate the huge storage requirements that would have been needed from caching the necessary data.”
Turning Back Time
In addition to re-building Ted, the team also took on the task of de-aging him. “Ted is a teddy bear but is younger, or perhaps newer, than we’ve seen him in the films. The series is set 20 years before his first film, so we had to think about how cuddly toys show their age,” expands Melenhorst. “His fur looks a bit more plush, less patchy in places than in the films as it hasn’t worn away yet. It’s a subtle distinction but it was important to us that Ted as a character is tangible, he’s not an evergreen digital asset, he will show age and wear just like a real toy would.”
Ted’s size also provided a challenge for the animation team, making sure that he could move through a human scale world with apparent ease. “Keeping Ted abreast of live action actors while they are walking together was tricky due to his tiny stride length,” adds Animation Supervisor Nick Tripodi. Ted creator Seth Macfarlane provided motion capture, video reference and dialogue, giving the Animation team plenty of material for the initial setup and first pass of the shot. From there, the artists began to work into the keyframes to bring Ted's performance to life. “We also regularly shot our own mocap in cases where either the brief changed, or Ted needed to move through space - walking, running, climbing etc,” finishes Tripodi.
As a character, Ted has a distinct set of expressions, so when re-building him the team took care to ensure his face would move in a similar way as to previous incarnations. “Ted is a unique challenge to animate as he has quite a limited palette of facial controls, so we had to find ways to maximise their effectiveness,” explains Animation Supervisor Nick Tripodi. “For example, having static eyes meant we had to translate complex eye expression details into the way the head angle and brows work together, to not only have the correct 'eye line' but also to deliver an engaging performance.”
Careful attention was given to making sure the timing of performance maximised the comedy of Macfarlane's dialogue. “Oftentimes we found that 'less was more' with Ted's performance, so distilling his performance down to the essentials was crucial. We developed a long list of rules and guidelines to make sure Ted delivered a subtle, consistent and clear performance that did justice to Seth's expressive dialogue,” explains Tripodi.