3D Character Animation Charlotte Tilbury

The making of the 3D animated rabbit for Charlotte Tilbury’s 2023 Lunar New Year advert.

Late last year, Atom Studio was approached by leading beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury to design, create and animate a 3D rabbit as part of their 2023 Lunar New Year advertising campaign.

Despite each shot only lasting seconds, a huge amount of work was required to bring this character to life and integrate into live-action footage. We needed to ensure the rabbit looked visually stunning and also could convey emotion. Not an easy task when a key part of the brief was that the rabbit had to have a celestial look to it. In this blog, we outline the process and share insights into how we went from initial sketches all the way compositing onto live-action footage.

The brief.

We started the project off with a call with the Charlotte Tilbury team and discussed the look and feel of the rabbit. Although we were given a lot of flexibility to develop it further, the rabbit had to look young, radiant, strong, golden, youthful and celestial. It also could not look too cute and couldn’t feature fur. And it had to look beautiful too. Once the core look was determined we discussed the size of the rabbit relative to the model in the live-action footage. As the live-action had already been filmed, we needed to ensure our 3D animated rabbit would work in certain shots.

Early concept sketches.

Before we even thought about the style of the rabbit, it was vital to dedicate some time to exploring the overall look and form of the rabbit. The brief was clear that the rabbit needed to look strong, youthful and elegant but we soon realised during the process that it could soon start looking a lot like a hare instead of a rabbit. After several iterations, we soon had the perfect balance and our lunar rabbit was born.
Charlotte Tilbury Lunar Rabbit Sketch
We started off with a series of quick sketches to develop different proportions of the rabbit.
Charlotte Tilbury Lunar Rabbit 3D Animation Sketch Design
Once we were happy with the direction, we explored different poses and refined the design.
Charlotte Tilbury Lunar Rabbit Animation Sketch Design
We then presented these early sketches to the client for feedback.

Colour exploration & concept art.

Once the proportions and general look of the rabbit were established, we started to develop the colour of the rabbit. It had to have a golden finish to it but we soon realised that if we didn’t get the right balance it could take the celestial look too far. Also, as the rabbit had to include facial features, we needed to make sure we could see its eyes and mouth clearly from a range of distances. We presented multiple options and then developed final concept art for the 3D team to use during the modelling stage.
3D Character Animation Charlotte Tilbury Colour Concept Art
Examples of how we explored different colour options and the celestial look.
3D Character Concept Art Charlotte Tilbury Colour 3D Animated Character
Here you can see the final concept art for the lunar rabbit.

3D sculpting & modelling.

Now the team were tasked with translating the 2D concept art into 3D models. The early sculpts looked fantastic but were too bunny-like and cute or resembled a hare. After working with the client to decipher what was and wasn’t working, we struck the perfect balance and our 3D rabbit model was ready to be rigged and animated.One aspect of 3D modelling that is crucial is good topology. What is topology, I hear you say. Topology is the way the model’s mesh is created and if this isn’t done correctly it can cause huge issues later on in production. You can see in one of the examples below how we created nice, clean topology for the lunar rabbit character.
3D Rabbit Model Charlotte Tilbury Animation
In the close-up of the 3D model you can see details like the human-like eyelashes
3D Rabbit Model Sculpt Animation
Here you can see the full body of the 3D model and its proportions.
3D Rabbit Model Sculpt Topology
An example of the clean topology. This is crucial when it comes to rigging and animation.

Style frames.

Usually you would create style frames at the very start but we needed to wait for a 3D model of the rabbit before beginning this part of the process. Also, we had the beautiful concept art to show the client so they could visualise how the rabbit would look. For the style frames, the client wanted an artistic look to the rabbit, so it felt like it had been painted or drawn by hand. This stage also gave us an opportunity to test out key scenes and ensure the character was clear, even when seen at such a small scale.

Charlotte Tilbury Style Frames Character Animation
Using the 3D model, we were able to create style frames to present to the client.
Style Frames Charlotte Tilbury 3D Character Animation
It was important to see how the lunar rabbit would look against the live-action footage.

Rigging & animation.

This is one of our favourite aspects of production as we get to see the character brought to life. Our rigger created a fantastic rig that allowed complete freedom of movement and the facial rig worked perfectly too. Once it was rigged we then had to track the camera and model so the rabbit could be seamlessly incorporated into each shot. Then, it was time to animate our little celestial rabbit. The temptation is to go straight into animating the character to a high standard but blocking is one of the most crucial aspects of character animation. The character animator “blocks” in the key poses and establishes the timing. This means you get an early indication of any issues and it allows the client to provide feedback early on. Then, once the blocking stage has been signed off, the animator goes in and “polishes” all the movement. All the animation was created in Maya and alembic files were exported to Cinema 4D for texturing and rendering. We were over the moon with the final results and so was the client.

Texturing & rendering.

Now we took the animated rabbit and textured it to match the look of the concept art. This meticulous process required us to render multiple “passes” that could later be composited to create the required style. We used Redshift as our render engine due to its incredible flexibility and speed. Then, it was a case of sending the shots to the render farm.


Once we got all the shots back from the render farm, we took the separate passes and combined them to match the concept art and style frames in our compositor of choice, After Effects. We added a series of different effects including particle simulations to truly bring the celestial bunny to life. You can see below a breakdown of the compositing process. We then exported each shot with an alpha channel so the production team at Charlotte Tilbury could composite them onto the live action.

The final video.

It took a lot of work to create just over 20 seconds worth of animation but the client was delighted with the final results and so were we. We hope you’ve enjoyed seeing our process for this project and we plan to post more blogs like this in the future that show you how some of our projects are created. You can see the final video here

Do you have a character animation project you’d like to work with us on? We are a 3D animation studio based in London and Exeter. Our team can utilise our expertise and bring your characters to life. 

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