When I realised I was not going to be able to achieve what I had hoped for in my final animation I needed to revisit my storyboard idea and think about a more simple movement. I decided to go with the reference video I had taken of my daughter climbing onto a rock.
I thought I had planned it all out much more simply but when I got started on it I realised I was out of time and there was no way I was going to be able to create the cameras and light like I though I was going to.
If there is one most important thing I have learned through this last semester it is the importance of time management, and setting achievable goals to create something on a much smaller scale but to do it well. I think the next couple of courses will still be challenging and probably frustrating at times, but I feel much better prepared now that I know what to expect.
I got five dread locks attached to the models head and merged the vertices after combining them with the head. I used shaders to give them some colour. First of all I tried applying a texture but like the model there is work that needs to be done sorting out the UV mapping. There is simply no time and while it is frustrating submitting substandard work I have come to understand that there is a point in these courses where I need to leave something and move on. That is a big deal for an artist, but in the context of learning such a massive new skill using totally unfamiliar software and a different way of looking at things it is ok. I need to be kinder on myself, give it my best shot and move on. There will be time later to revisit things and practise practise practise.
I went looking for reptile skin type texture for the model. I found one that was actually a leather texture, but when I applied it because the UVs need work it looked horrendous.
Then I found another better texture (see below). This one I think will look great but I do not have the time to work on the UVs. After all my course work is submitted I will learn how to do the uv mapping properly so I can see how she will look.
On the places where the uvs are fine the texture looks great. Like on her fingers and the eyes. I would like to apply proper shaders to her eye balls also so they look like eyes.
I am sorry that I do not have the time to do the UVs, I think the model will look great with this texture applied correctly. I did manage to create a UV map thanks to Dave, but then with no time left I still didn’t have enough time to get it into photoshop and apply the texture. A really good learning curve though and something I can practise in my own time.
I thought I would make use of the computer in G304 to create a pre viz video for the Rigging class, using the grease pencil. I got a trial version created ok and uploaded it thinking I would do some more with it after I had created a short animation test video. I was pretty sure that would take longer than I might think judging by other experiences with Maya.
I went back to my trusty tutorials just to quickly refresh on setting keyframes and timing. I’m pleased I did because David teaches how to quickly create a simple script to be able to select all the rigs controls at once on a key frame. he explains that this means all controls are captured at that moment in time so that you dont have weird stuff happen.
To create the script I opened the script editor and hit ‘clear history’ to empty the box. Then I selected the right wrist control and used control shift to select all of the other controllers on the rig. Once they were all selected they showed in the dialogue box, I highlighted all of them and used the middle mouse button to click and drag the selection up onto the shelf. Then I had a button I could click on a keyframe which would set a key on the position of every control at that time. Great.
I started on Frame 0 and used the script to set a key frame on everything. Then I started to pose the character, hitting S each time I moved or rotated a joint. It was looking good. I had about 5 or 6 poses created and played the animation. I thought I had a good cross section of the controls. I just wanted to do a couple more frames to show the hand / fingers movement, so started on that when I hit a problem. Maya froze! The cursor sat on the screen with a little square box around it and that was that.
Ok, don’t panic, you have incremental save on I told myself. You can just go back and work from that point. That would be no said maya. I could not access anything. I went into Task manager and it said Maya not responsive. No kidding. So I used the Task manager to quit the programme and thought no big deal, annoying but not the end of the world. I could pretty quickly create another one.
Off I went and started creating test 2. I got a little bit further on and Maya did the same thing. Its now 8.30 pm and I am getting worried now. Again I could not do a thing, not even close the programme or minimise the window, nothing. I Googled the Autodesk help desk on the trusty laptop and found that it is a known bug and there really is no cure. They were talking about finding Temp files if you were lucky and I did try but was getting nowhere. When it freezes everything there is no crash recovery file, just nothing. Nothing for it but to start on test 3. When this froze too and it was getting towards 9.45 I gave up. Totally disheartened.
I thought about it a lot on the drive home and during the night. Maya can be soooo frustrating but a lot of it comes down to finding work arounds and solutions which actually teaches a lot too. So tonight I will try again, I will try maybe only setting a couple of keyframes and creating a play blast for them before creating some more. Fingers crossed…..
Sooo…the next night the same thing happened. A classmate tried to help but nothing could be done. I switched computers and started over. This time I had no problems and an animation took shape. I took a few play-blasts as I went along just in case. Dave was here so he started the process of exporting the rendered files to After Effects. I got the files in After Effects but could not work out how to proceed as I have never used this programme before. I have the play-blast at least and left this project to finish my final animation.
Began with creating the controllers for both eyes and then placing them within a main controller. I used the control generator script for this.
Once the controls were made I constrained each eye to each control.
Then constrained both eye controls to the main controller and tested to make sure it was working.
Back to the control generator script to make the main control for the rig. There is a shape already made in the script.
Once it was all complete I tested the main control by translating the model to the left and made sure that all of the other controls moved with it as they should. Thankfully it worked.
The last part of the Animation methods lessons on rigging the Ninja involved creating a set driven key to toggle ‘smooth’ on and off the character.
At long last here he is. A fully rigged and functional Ninja character. Man have I had some challenges doing this, lots of re doing things and problem solving, but I actually enjoyed the rigging once I had earned enough to get along with it. The only issue I was left with is that the Ninja files include Mental Ray so his shoes, gloves and clothes don’t show up, but I plan to just select those faces and add a colour to them so it is not so distracting.
I found this tutorial easy to follow long with as the tutor takes his time to explain things fully while animating a simple hand and fingers. He describes IK joints as “an elegant way to animate vertebrate creatures” by setting degrees of freedom to make the finger movements natural and realistic.
I revisited the photographs I took in Rotorua for creating the environment for my character. I thought maybe I could use one of the overall scene shots to form the background in my Maya scene. I also started watching the cool tutorial from Ross Draws that Klaasz put up in the Lesson Plan folder for CGI502 “Tutorials”:
In this tutorial the guy mocks up his environment storyboard using a tablet. importing images from an asset folder he has created from nature images sourced from all over the internet. He talks about the importance of conveying all the information the viewer needs in one second, i.e don’t over do it. They just need to know where the characters have come from, where they are going and what will happen next. He begins with thumbnail sketches to decide what is going to be in the scene, what the scale is going to be and then what is in the foreground, middle ground and back ground. Then he works on each of these elements separately.
Unfortunately I did not get time to come back to this in this semester. It is full of great advice though and I really want to have a go so will revisit in my own time after the course ends.
So all had been going so well with constraining the controllers and grouping them etc, up until it came time to work on the head groups. Here things went pear shaped completely and I ended up deleting constraints and having to re orient the joints, again. I do not know why but each time I use the Orient joint script it all works perfectly. But when I come back to the rig say the next day or whatever and I go to do something, somehow things have changed. That seemed ridiculous, I clear history and freeze transformations and follow the tutorial to the letter. In sheer frustration I deleted all of the controls / groups/constraints bar the legs, hip and root controls and started over. As I went about re doing everything I took note of what was happening ever time I performed a function and I discovered something. The poor old faithful laptop needs time to process what I am asking it to do, its five years old and working with a huge amount of memory sapping functions! So I made sure to wait a couple of seconds after each constraint or orient or whatever and man what a difference. Once I had made that discovery re making things and constraining things went really smoothly. It wasn’t long really before I was ready to move back to grouping all of the groups.
I started with the left hand and and followed the tutorial again, better this time. I didn’t have any more problems with orientation really, only the middle finger and I was able to remove the constraints and re do the controllers pretty smoothly. before long I had it all grouped and added to the wrist control. Great.
Once I had the left side all grouped and constrained and working properly I connected the chest stomach and root control groups together. Nothing went pear shaped, no bones broke and went off on their own adventures. Phew.
Testing the root control and everything looks good. Next step was to constrain and group the right side before turning our attention to the feet. We began by creating the control for the ball of the left foot using the Rig Controller Script and when it was done we duplicated it and snapped it to the right foot.
We repeated the process to make the toe controls and tested to see that the orient constraints were working properly. Yes. The toe control allows the character to go upon its tip toes, and the ball one lets it lift the heel.
Unbelievably after days of work and problems I was at the skinning point for my rig. I selected the ninja mesh, then shift selected the root joint and went to the Bind Skin tool option box to check the settings. I re set the tool then made sure I had ‘Bind to Hierarchy’ checked on and the Method ‘closest distance’. For the Max influences and Drop Off rate David suggests we start off with a low number like 2 and 2 and see what it does. Then adjust after that.
I moved the Ninja down at the root control and looked at what was happening in the thighs and knees. I went back a couple of steps and tried the numbers at 2 and 5 and that looked better. Then we went around the model checking all of the movements at each joint to locate areas where the deformation would need fixing.
The area around the knee and top of the thigh definitely, as well as the elbow and head etc. Once that was done we went back to the beginning and parented the eyeballs to the head joint to at least get the moving with the head. They will need constraining at the end.
Following the tutorial we began with the left leg only, the idea being that once that is complete we will mirror the weights to the right side. This is a time consuming process painting and smoothing weights in increments, but it makes such a difference to the end result.
I thought I might have a go at modelling some dreadlocks for Kuirau’s head, using a cylinder shape to begin with, extruding and shaping it against my original Kuirau reference. The idea being to create a few main ones and then duplicate them and attach them to the head after assigning colour to them.
I quickly modelled a low poly cylinder and scaled and rotated in vertex mode to create the first ‘dread’
Once the first one was done I duplicated it, flipped it and moved it to the other side where I reshaped it against the reference image again.
Staying with the left side I quickly duplicated and reshaped the third dread.
I grouped all of the dreads together and assigned a colour to them. Then I positioned them over the head to see how they were looking. I think they will be cool. I need to look more into effects for hair down the track, so that it moves correctly when the character does, but for this exercise they will just sit on the character who I will not be animating as I simply do not have time.
I bought myself another low poly foot from Turbosquid to kit bash onto my character’s leg. It had more or less the right amount of polygons to stitch together and had good looking toes I thought I could do something with to model Kuirau’s design. Right from the start I had problems though. It began with importing the foot obj into Maya, the foot came into Maya in 3 seperate pieces which seemed bizarre. I deleted it and started again. Same thing. So I selected all of the parts and did a Combine function. At least I now had one foot. I got the foot attached to the leg without too many problems and merged all of the vertices after combining the foot and the model.
There was some strange looking areas on the foot though so I went in for a closer look and here I discovered that all of the vertices were seperate still, and they were pulled out of place, it was a jumbled mess and the more I looked the more I found. I was working on this in class, and Klaasz couldn’t make sense of it either. I didn’t take screenshots at the time as i was really frustrated and trying to sort it out. In the end after talking with Klass I decided to give up on the idea of having nice modelled feet and went back to my Animation Methods guy to create plain little ‘boot’ type feet. Another day of frustration and lost time.
Once the boot was complete I felt a lot happier, I did learn a lot about processes as I went along. One of things I noted once I had time to calm down was that I actually knew more than I thought I did about the different things to try and the different tools to use. So it was not a total waste of time trying the kit bashing idea. I used the modelled foot because I am very conscious of how time consuming modelling is and I really wanted to model the characters toes like I had designed them. Another time though, after more practise.