fstretch fstretch

CG Squash and Stretch Just Got a Little Easier


To paraphrase Patrick Henry, Give me squash and stretch or give me death. As an outsider to the CG animation production process, I’m struck by how inefficient industry-standard software seems to be in accomplishing basic animation principles like squash and stretch (or squish and squash, as some enlightened animation execs like to call it). From what I’ve read and seen, Matthieu Fiorilli’s fStretch, his Maya plug-in for Windows and Linux which just came out with a 2.0 version, appears to be a decent solution to tedious blend shapes and allows riggers and animators to achieve squash and stretch more intuitively:

Its unique work flow allows one to precisely control effects such as stretch and squash, wrinkles and fat deformations to name a few. At one end, it lets one create cartoony rig with stunning stretch and squash while at the other end, it will allow another to create very realistic fat deformations.

If you have experience with fStretch or just want to talk about CG squash and stretch, share your thoughts in the comments. An fStretch demo vid is below. Go HERE for a detailed ‘making of’ for the fun Albert Einstein facial animation at the beginning of that demo. (Don’t worry, I didn’t know it was supposed to be Einstein either until after I read the making of.) To learn more about the plug-in or download a demo, visit CGAddict.com.

  • I’m going to go ahead and do the same thing I did while observing my ill-fated CG animation peers in school–while they were troubleshooting what algorithm was needed to turn an eyeball in an eye socket, or how to have a character touch another character, I just sat there with my pencil and laughed quietly to myself.

    • Why not use your skills to aid in the process? Why not draw out how it should look so the CG guys and gals can better understand the subtlety and figure out how to achieve what they are after? Why not learn what they are doing and try to plus it by using your skills as an artist?

      • Teamwork

        I agree, teamwork is essential in this biz. The golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated

      • I think you’re missing Barbara’s point which is 3DCG is notoriously technically oriented and, from experience, you have to wade through endless GUI’s and nodes and codes to get something looking normal, and THEN get to work bringing it to life.

        That said, it’s not nice to laugh at others’ misfortune…

        Also, this tool looks AWESOME and could almost lure me back into 3D!

    • Jason

      Man you really think 3d artists don’t know how to draw? Hahah Really?

  • Ken Cope

    Meanwhile, the tools that Disney outsourced at great expense to University consultants to create the look that made the facial animation in “Tangled” look so much more loose and fluid than any other contemporary 3D animation, is attainable to hobbyists at close to shareware prices.

    • this looks like a fantastic tool.

      @Ken, can you give any more info on the disney tools you are talking about. i.e. what are they called and where can one have a look at them?


      • Jim

        Unless you can purchase Glen Keane and a team of sixty feature animators at “shareware prices” (as well as the talented team of character TDs that set up the rigs), you’re not going to find any magic tools. It’s always the people.

      • Ken Cope

        While Columbia’s consultation for Disney had more to do with tools for hair and drapery, skin looks inelastic if it doesn’t fold and wrinkle properly. Here’s a link to the NY Times article about them: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/movies/30animate.html

        I shouldn’t imply any connection between tools development at Columbia and the team offering these tools. The ease of use for fStretch addresses the problem Barbara raised in the first post: rigging is scarily process-intensive, so much so that handing it off to research scientists sounds like a great idea to an artist. What I like about fStretch is that it takes a complicated procedure and breaks it down into a few simple tools.

      • Ken Cope

        I was referring to the issue of the accessibility of technical tools for computer graphics, not to the skillset required to know how and why they should be applied to animating characters. As an animator, I lack the skills required to make such tools, and I’m grateful that I don’t have to be a corporation in a synergistic relationship with university grad students, thanks to Matthieu Fiorilli’s team.

      • Adam Green

        I agree with Jim. The Columbia lab was a hair and cloth research team, and had little or nothing to do with the facial animation. At all. Credit the awesome riggers and animators/supervisors for that one. Good old fashioned bones, blendshapes, and hard work.

      • Ken Cope

        I’ll withdraw my initial comparison to the Columbia team, made in a fit of hyperbole. Hair and drapery were two-thirds of what set Tangled apart from standard fare, but imagine how much better much 3D character animation would look if this approach were more common. Before vertex weighting was wide-spread, this was the only type of solution in some of the packages I used, back in the roaring twentieth century (Symbolics/Nichimen/Mirai).

        Squash and stretch and facial wrinkling is accomplished, as Adam says, by integrating blendshapes at rotations with displacement maps during the rigging process, which requires an artist’s eye and a rigger’s skillset, and today’s fast hardware makes it more practical. It’s labor intensive. Most projects don’t take rigs that far, usually because the rigger lacks the animator’s eye, few animators will whip up a straightforward interface in ICE or MEL, and weighted vertices alone get you pretty far. I’d rather use my time as an artist, so tools like this make that job a lot easier, and worth the money, since rigger’s who can do this should be expensive. YMMV

        For Maya users, I’m evaluating fStretch in comparison to a roughly similar approach from Joe Alter: http://www.lbrush.com/index.htm

  • Hopefully CG tool designers will follow this principle: a minimum number of control points to create a maximum ranges of expression.

    Some rigs become become so complicated with control objects, you begin to feel more like a switch board operator than an animator.

    • CallmeZ

      haha so true! Switch board operators! :D

  • This looks like a great tool! Love the effect they achieved on the head and tail.

  • mara

    all i can say is that the animation of the head in the beginning looks fantastic! theres a real fluidity in the change of expressions, and it doesnt look as rigid as some of the “official” cg expressions used in some movies (heres looking at you SW the clone wars…eek).

  • Based on the “making of” description it sounds like the plugin still leaves a hell of a lot of work to be done to get a good result.

  • Jason

    For those who don’t want to shell out bucks for this plugin as well as Maya, you can get the same results using ICE in XSI.


    • Ads

      I’m not sure fStretch is based on tension altogether, but more like a mix of Pose Space Deformations and Tension Map.

      It’s really cool for a demo, but unfortunately, it’s really hard to say this will make it easier. You still need quite a bit of polygons to do the proper deformations. I’m not sure if there’s a way to plug displacement map in there, but that would be a better solution for finer details.

      That’s cool, nonetheless.

  • Donald C

    Wish they had this for Max

  • anon

    So is there an option to choose how much squash and stretch there is? like a slider between On and Off?

  • Einstein wasn’t bald.