This quarter I was fortunate enough to get into a quadruped animation class. Not only is this a great opportunity to expand my 3D skills, but I will get a shot at animating animals and learning how they move. Our first couple assignments are looping walk cycles which can be a little annoying in Maya and require a lot of tweaking in the curve editor. We were given a cool cartoon fox rig and encouraged to study the crap out of our reference videos. Here is the result:
I was a little unsure of how to present this animation in video form, it is only 20 seconds long- not quite long enough to add a camera move, and all my attempts to lengthen the timeline seemed to ruin the legs or shoulders or some part of the rig’s animation. This is simply my lack of understanding of Maya, but for now this triple camera view approach seems to work alright.
In an attempt to make myself more marketable, I have created an alternative demo reel that showcases only my 3D work. I am currently taking a 3D quadruped class and hope to fill this reel up with some great work in the weeks to come!
This past week my 2D effects course has been experimenting with animating splashes and water. Our test was to lob a small rock into a pond and try to convincingly portray a primary and secondary splash along with ripples with the correct perspective.
I am overall satisfied with my first attempt. Unfortunately I think my rock and the primary (the first splash) splash are a little larger than they should be. My secondary splash could also benefit from more forward movement, it feels a little too vertical at the moment. It was challenging tracking the splashes in perspective, especially the parts that move toward and away from the camera. I am still not convinced I portrayed the water transitions from sheet to string to beads correctly, they happen very fast but perhaps my test could use a couple more drawings.
My next test will have fire, smoke and water so I am anxious to begin and improve on what I have learned with the past few tests.
One of our first big challenges in my 2D effects class was to create 4 seconds of smoke emitting from an incense stick. To prepare for our assignment we studied lots of reference, particularly from Disney films like Mulan. Smoke is interesting because successfully animating it is more about making it believable than realistic. Live action reference is important, but replicating it exactly how it appears in real life is not quite the answer, we were asked to simplify what we saw and create sort of an appealing caricature. On my project I struggled with keeping the speed slow and consistent. I keyed out my movement on 6’s then went back to in-between it on 2’s. In-betweening the smoke ended up being a huge time sink I had not anticipated, the frames barely changed from one to the next and I found myself more or less drawing the same image over and over until my hand cramped up and I had to take a break.
My final product was a decent first attempt, but I made the scale way too small which probably accounted for why it took me so long to complete. The smoke is so small it is almost hard to see all the little details without zooming in. I think the timing is pretty close, but in an effort to get my timing right I neglected to play with the shape of the smoke and expand it to create little poofs. This resulted in a majority of my smoke trail being pretty straightforward and simple.
I have already begun work on a new version which I hope will be bigger and better! For now, he is the first test:
I have always been interested in improving my skills in 2D effects. Smoke, water, fire… I have always wanted a better way of portraying them, they are very painstakingly intricate elements to animate that I haven’t quite gotten right on my own. This quarter I was very excited to finally take an effects class and officially tackle some of these challenges. Before we started any of the effects, our instructor brought us back to the basics and had us do a bouncing ball. Initially I dreaded the assignment, every animation class loves to start with the bouncing ball, it feels like I have done the assignment a million times already. After sitting down with the assignment and mapping out my perspective and planning how the shadows work, I remembered why this is a perfect starting point for any class. The bouncing ball is a perfect test of the 12 principles and there is always something to improve upon. It made me think back to what my professor in undergrad used to tell me about how animation is never finished, you just hit a deadline.
This past quarter has been very hectic. I have begun work on my graduate thesis, and after dozens of iterations and changes, I presented my topic and visual component for review. The presentation was very tense but my project was approved. My topic deals with informing traditional animation with German Expressionism and creating a nightmare sequence. I was able to keep some aspects of my original idea (the TV show pitch) and some of my original characters and settings made it into the current version of the project. (the wandering adventurer and his robot sidekick from this)
Here is some concept art and the current version of the storyboard, which is still very preliminary.
I have about a year to continue developing this project and I am excited to begin animation. I plan to continue concept work on both designs for characters/environments and story. My goal is to have tied down designs and an updated animatic by the end of summer so that I can begin rough animation by the fall. I want to extend the nightmare sequence itself and use German Expressionist art as an inspiration to really push the visuals. My design skills aren’t the strongest, and this is an opportunity to strengthen my skills and create a film that is visually striking.
Animating to sound is very interesting… In Maya, the procedure is a little different than what I am used to in Flash. After importing a very particular file type and convincing Maya to show the waveform on the timeline, you are able to scrub through the timeline slowly and place simple open or closed mouth shapes to sync to the dialog. Simply pressing play is not always reliable as the Maya playback will sometimes desynchronize from the audio, but scrubbing manually is always accurate. After making this “muppet” pass you are able to go back and make more detailed mouth shapes that fit the letters, or more specifically the sounds. Once the mouth is in decent shape you are able to go back and move the body and create gestures and poses emphasizing various words and syllables. The process was different enough from what I was used to, yet very fun and satisfying. The audio clip I used was a brief bit of dialog from Futurama, here is what I ended up with: