Play Ball

After finally figuring out a little more about rendering, I put together videos of my quadruped animation work. The reference for this test was a cat playing with a tennis ball:

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The Cat and the Counter

Several months ago I tried my hand at animating some quadruped characters. It was fun searching for video reference to study and attempting to recreate the actions with a 3D character. The latest quadruped scene I animated was of a cat attempting to leap from a counter to a table. I ran in to some issues with staging and how best to show that there is a gap between the character and his destination, my solution was to scatter boxes around the scene as a sort of reference point for scale. I finally received advice on how to render properly in Maya and was able to put together a finished video:

Desert Nightmare Concept Time

I have started full production mode on my graduate thesis, a film about deserts, nightmares and German Expressionism. By spring, I hope to have completed the backgrounds and a majority of the rough animation particularly on the nightmare sequence. The backgrounds have been a lot more time consuming than I initially anticipated, but are hugely important as this is where most of the expressionism and cool design elements come in to play. Here are a couple background and character tests I have been working on:

I did run into some problems exporting concepts as GIFs, as they all end up playing at 30fps instead of 24, and some of the colors don’t export quite right… but the gist of it is still there. Rough animation is on the way, I have a couple quick segments completed already and hope to post more tests soon!

More Plant Pranksters

In the original story for “Midnight Mischief” the root characters wake up and prank a whole bunch of sleeping animals in the forest before being caught at sunrise. The story was then cut down into two short clips about individual pranks. The second Midnight Mischief short is what would have been the final prank that “goes too far.” The menacing tone of the root character lighting a match and lowering his welder’s mask to burn the family of birds is swapped for a more harmless scene of the two root characters trying to impress each other. After seeing the birds nest the root characters each take a turn messing with the sleeping birds. When one of the roots attempts to light the nest on fire, he is met with a shower of bird poo… Here is the final:

This short feels more like a complete story than the first. I am not completely happy with the backgrounds (I always have trouble with backgrounds) but enjoyed putting the piece together. I hope to eventually make another short with these characters getting in to trouble, but for now I will be focusing on other projects.

Midnight Mischief

A friend shared a really cool story idea with me about ginseng roots that come to life at night and play tricks on the sleeping animals in the forest. I was encouraged to make an animated piece about it, and found an opportunity to do so recently. Initially I wanted to make a short film detailing the adventures of three root characters during one night of mischief, they would prank a bunch of animals in silly ways, and end up getting caught as they go to sleep during sunrise when the other animals realize what they had done. The idea was cut down to two characters in a more “web series” format, with one quick prank per short.

 

Here are some initial concepts for what the character should look like along with the thumbnails I used to plan the story. The scene would open with a background shot of the sun setting over the treeline of the forest, the camera would pan down the tree line to where the plant guys are sleeping in the soil. After waking up they would run across the street into the dark forest and begin a montage of animal pranks including spraying silly string on a deer’s antlers, throwing hummingbirds at a board like darts, spraying graffiti over a skunk’s home, and passing chewing gum down a line and putting it in a venus fly trap. The final prank would be the escalation that goes too far, the scene would show a family of sleeping birds, then cut to one of the root characters lighting a match and lowering a welder’s mask in a menacing way as if he is about to burn the birds. One of the other root characters would place his hand on his shoulder, or arm and shake his head in an effort to say “hey man this is too far..” The joke didn’t read as well as I wanted it too and the overall tone seemed to violent or evil so it was eventually changed quite a bit in the final version. The end of the short would have been the characters, still in the tree, noticing the sun rise and back tracking to their sleeping spot. This would be followed by the sleeping animals waking up seeing the aftermath of all the mischief and the plant characters being arrested by a bear in a policeman’s costume. Below is a rough animatic of the first short.

The first short feels more like a test and slightly incomplete without the context of the rest of the story. The silly string deer prank was one of the first I thought of and I knew I had to include it somehow. Here is the final:

Gallop Cycle

I had a lot of fun studying a reference video of a cheetah sprinting in slow motion and translating the poses to an animated character. I started by taking a clip from the cheetah footage and making a loop-able segment, then I drew over the key poses and important frames in Flash. I started with the hips and the chest and animated the up and down motion to the same timing as the reference. I then went back and posed the contact, lift up, and passing poses for all the feet separately. The rig is the “Nico” rig, which was a lot of fun to work with, and I will probably end up using it again in a future acting test.

I did run into some major issues near the completion of the cycle where the front-right foot seemed to collapse in on itself. It seemed as though a joint or “bone” was somehow deleted from the rig, and even effected previous saves of my file. I was able to copy and paste frames from the controls on to a fresh rig to somewhat solve the problem. (which is what you see in the video)

For now these short tests are making me feel more confident in my 3D skills and with Maya, I hope to have some more cool stuff to share soon!

The Fox Trot

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.