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Technical Paper:
Frank The Fish


Wit Animation created a TV commercial for the BBC staring a 3D animated fish named Frank. PEN Productions was contracted to create Franks animation rig to have multiple ways of controlling it. The first layer of control is a flexible spline based animation system for key framing that allowed for animation to be performed on the rig with either positions, rotations or both and also stretched to allows just about any pose to be achieved. The second layer of control is an automated swim feature with animatable speed, offset and multipliers.

Commercial: 8meg MOV

Rigging Demo: 27meg MOV


Franks geometry is quite simple but the motions that were needed might have not been. For this reason a fairly complex rig was created that would allow the animators at Wit to shape Frank in any way they needed.


The bones were modeled to the volume of the character in case the mesh was slow on the systems that were being used, in the end this just wasn't needed.


The bones are controlled by five spline setups that drive the bones rotation, stretch and twisting.

The point helpers are broken down by colour so they are easier to identify their purpose in the rig. Blue helpers for instance are for controlling up vectors for the bones twisting action.


Here you can see the bones with the modeling turned off. The volume of the bones was generated using an edit mesh modifier so that it could be turned off while working on the rig or if the animators wanted to see the bones without the volume.

Auto Swim Controls:

The auto swim feature has many controls that allow the animators to fine tune the way Frank swam.

In the Global Multiplier rollout controls for animating the speed and amount of swim Frank would achieve.

The body and fins were then broken down into separate controls that would multiply the effect locally. Just about any type of swim can be achieved by setting the values. Any given setup could then be saved using the PEN Attribute Holder.