Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Stone Age" - Finished the animation, sound next

Today I finally got around cleaning up some of the annoyances and completing my animation. The next logical step was to set the scene up for rendering.

The light set up is fairly simple: 1 ambient+ 2 point + 1 areal light.

I have to admit that I had a lot of fun with this. Not only because it's my baby. It was the struggle itself that kept me motivated to work on it. I had to struggle with things that were new to me in maya. What I learned by doing that is certainly something that comes with an incredible amount of freedom to create. It would be a lie to say that I never hated Maya. Heck, everyone in my class seems to be hating it at first. I hated it's graph editor.I hated the way the keyframes are displayed. It was so different from flash and toonboom. So different than 2d animation. But you know what, after using those tools long enough to understand them, they all started to make sense. I love everything that I initially hated. It's so nifty and useful.Every little feature. It's no chance that Maya is King in 3d animation and effects!

The challenge to do it in a month and a half seemed close to impossible to the people around me. Half of them were telling me- oh no, you are never gonna make it- after they initially saw it's animatic.

Not only did I make it,I also helped others make theirs. While making it, I worked on my 2d animation to get it polished. While making it, I learned to use other features of maya that weren't used in it, I also gave myself a fair amount of sleep and leisure time. I built EVERYTHING that you will see in it from scratch.It was built by the book, but it also has it's own unique features and quirks. I even managed to go off track and experiment with things. Thats when I made a couple of shots that just had to go, because they don't work well for the story.

This is a playblast of one of them:

It's a very raw version of what I had in mind, but it was all made to test those snapping controls that will be important in future animations.

And this is the very first character sketch of the cave man and the mammoth. All scribly drafts of basic ideas in my messy notebook. Looking back at those, it seems that I made a considerable ammount of changes to my character designs. Not sure if it was just for the fun of it, or because they seem to work better in 3d with the changes. I still feel that I managed to stick to that original idea very well.

Today I went to the university lab, logged in 4 computers and started rendering it. According to my maths rendering should have taken 4:30 hours on one computer and one hour on 4. It proved right. Thankfully I kept the polycount very low. Actually I could have smoothed my characters at least once, but I just hate the smooth tool. Subdividing is a bad practice in my book.

So, my whole scene- absolutely everything in it: all the characters, trees,rocks and so on is 19 400 polygons. One frame took roughly 4 -7 seconds to render on 480x640 (production quality,low res).

Now that it's all rendered in IFF files, what I will do tomorrow is put them in a video format and add some basic sound. You might hear me in the final piece, since I can't find anyone willing to do the caveman's voice xD..

After all that is done, it will be a glorious minute and a half, which could have been 3 minutes if I kept all the shots.Hopefully this or next week you'll see :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

creating some snap switches and extra controls

The animation is almost complete now, I would like to take the time to note some of the new controls that I have created while keying things.

Maya has a whole bunch of nice constrains that can be switched on and off. This opens a wide range of neat time savers for the animators.

In my case, I created some snapping controls, so I wouldn't have to keyframe things, while they are moved or snapped by other things. In one shot, just to experiment with that, I made my cave guy hit himself on the nose, after a pesky fli decides to take a nap there. The nose acted as an on and off magnet for both the fli and the dude's right hand:

Other such switches are present on cave man's spear and the grass that the mammoth eats. I am showing this ,because the shot with the fli might be taken out of the final animation. It still was a nice fun experiment for me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stone age - animation progress

Before doing any animation on this, I keyed an animatic camera and a proxy of my character moving around, so I get my timing,positioning and scale right.

Why not directly animate the global control of your character move and do it on a proxy instead? Well, duh- have you tried keying a character that constantly moves?

The second thing I did was writing a rough draft of all the movement of my characters - when do those cycles start and end...

Aand after doing that, I came up with even more jokes and funny little moments that you wouldn't see in my early animatic, making this even a bigger task than it already is.

I have to say that I really am loving maya's keyframing ability and all the little controls that the system will let me create for my characters.

I have gotten roughly 40% of the animation done (in the first week). It's faster/easier than I originally thought it would be. I found some annoyances in my character sets- mostly the skinning and the lack of squash and stretch, which wouldnt let me do some of the things that I would like to do to my characters.I also had to create some extra props and controls for them as well...fix a constrain mistake I made on the spear xD..
I am learning a lot right now, while having fun.

It's interesting what one man can do in a bit more than a month. Animatic and a story, 2 animatable characters- with textures and everything, backgrounds,props with their controls and almost half of the animation is done. And I am only learning Maya. Imagine after I get some more experience.This is my first 3d animation after all.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

scene-composition and resolving bugs in Maya for linux

Today I finished up the background And composed it together with all the elements that I have modeled from scratch. Everything that was made out of nurbs surfaces was converted to polygons and cleaned up and combined where needed. With fingers crossed I imported everything to one scene file and began ordering the elements of the island:

Now, while I am not completely happy with this, (the shape of the island is still a bit square-like) , for the animation short- this should work alright. Since there is not much time to work on the way it looks like at this point, I am focusing on starting animation work tomorrow and getting that done in 2 weeks.

Here are some shots I made,just to have some fun with the thing:

I know lights suck, but I will leave that part for after I make the animation. Of course , if there is time, I will improve everything that I dont feel happy with (maybe some more work on the skinning and the backgrounds/textures)...

On a side note, I had some screen cursor locking problems on Maya 2010 for linux. The nasty bug would lock my screen and would force me to get out of X to a terminal to kill maya. Fortunately, google granted me the support I needed to resolve it with some copy and pasting. Here is a log file of the fixes I applied:

hope this helps other geeks out there