Monday, 10 January 2011

Final Evaluation

Today is the deadline for my Advanced Skills project, although I plan on continuing my research and rigging skills far after today.

I must admit when I started this term I was rather ill and this set me back a few weeks with regards to my rigging. I realise now that the initial rigging of the body that took me a while to do could have been done in a few days in I had been better. I hope that I have made up for this of late, although I could have done with exurting myself more at the beginning of term. Possibly confusion and changes with my final film impacted with knowing what I wanted to do for this term.

In overview, I have done the following this term:

Rigged the bones in a human model (without binding- this is my next aim), created blend shapes for two character heads, tested dynamic fire, created water tests using textures and dynamics, render tested my head model using the toon shader, and also carried on creating run cycles and expression tests for my animation.

I feel I have learned so much this term that I cannot list all of the shortcuts etc here. It ranges from the obvious blend shapes to even adding prefixes to names. I really want to push on with my rigging, and will push on further this term to learn how to make the bulges in the arms and painting weights on the body. However, I do want to use the next week or so to concentrate on some animation as I am rather missing it.

My aims from now on are:
  • finish learning how to rig the body completely
  • apply my facial rigging knowledge to animals or non human characters
  • create a walk cycle or test animation with my rigged character

I like rigging because it is a challenge and you need to solve lots of problems as you encounter them. For this reason I want to push myself further and next attempt either cloth or hair. I really hope by having some knowledge of these skills I can create better animation for my final film Snatched, and make myself a desirable candidate for a job as a character Animator upon completion of my degree.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Industry Research

After learning all these new skills I thought it would be interesting to see what jobs are in the Industry at the moment.

I first looked on the Skillset website for an overview of the different types of jobs:

Jobs in 3D Computer Animation
3D Computer Animation, or CGI, takes place in a variety of different contexts. Therefore it is important to remember that different companies will have different interpretations of what a job role entails.
Some jobs will exist in one studio but not in others. For example whilst a Storyboard Artist is a very key role within feature production, the same job rarely occurs within a Facility House as storyboards will be provided by the client.
UK Facility Houses tend to call all roles TDs (Technical Directors) rather than the title of the specific job. This means there are TDs in all specialities with varying levels of skills.
When considering a career in Computer Graphics it is a good idea to think about whether you see yourself more as a creative or a technical person. Many jobs will require both attributes but most favour one or the other. Some will be almost entirely creative but others are exclusively technical and may require knowledge of Maths or Physics.
DevelopmentThe Development stage broadly involves the conceiving and identifying of ideas and designing initial concepts. Pitching the product and securing funding and intellectual property rights are also important at this stage.
The Development stage very much requires a strong understanding of the target market and any commercial constraints, opportunities and competition it presents.
Jobs in Development:
Pre ProductionIn broad generalised terms, the Pre Production stage involves fleshing out the idea to make it ready for production, typically involving writing the script, drawing the storyboard, designing character turnarounds, designing layouts/backgrounds and creating an animatic. For post-production companies much of this work will be undertaken by the client.
Jobs in Pre-Production:
Production Designer
Layout TD (several levels)
Art Director
Layout Supervisor
Concept Artist * (often 2D)
Layout Artists (Rough and Final) *
Character Designer (often 2D)
Environments Designer
Storyboard Supervisor
Effects Designer
Storyboard Artist
Storyboard Assistant *
Head of Tools (R & D)
Pre-Vis Artists (3D) *
Tools Writer
R & D Artist/Look Dev Artist
ProductionIn CGI the production stage involves building, rigging and texturing models, animating characters, and setting up and lighting scenes. Rendering is also undertaken to output the animation sequences ready for compositing and editing.
Many of these activities can be undertaken either by manually manipulating objects on the computer screen or by using software-scripting languages to automate the process, and frequently involve combinations of both approaches.
In fact animators represent a fairly small proportion of the crew, many fewer than in 2D. It is significant that CG is often more sequence led than character led. Each animator can be asked to animate all the characters within a shot; whereas in 2D, a lead animator may handle a character throughout a project. This practice can vary from project to project.
Jobs in Production
Assistant Director
Effects (FX)Supervisor
Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisor
Effects (FX) Artist/FX Animator
Director of Photography
Effects (FX) TD (several levels)
CG Supervisor
Cloth Simulation FX Artist
Fur/Feathers FX Artist
Modelling Supervisor
Water FX Artist
Modelling TD
3D Tracker/Match Mover *
Shading/Texture Supervisor
Digital Painter
Shading TD
Matte Painter *
Shader Writer
Texture Artist/Texture Painter
Lighting Supervisor
Lighting TD / CG Lighter (several levels)
Rigging Supevisor
Rigging TD
Fixing TD
Character TD
Rendering Supervisor
Rendering TD
Shot TD (Facility Houses)
Render Wrangler *
Set Dressers
Runner *
Animation Director
Lead Animator (Supervising Animator)
Systems Administrator
IT Support *
Character Animator
Junior Animator
Production Secretary
Production Assistant
Post Production
Post Production involves collating assets e.g. filmed footage, digital animation sequences and special effects into the finished film. It includes editing, scoring the music, quality checking and outputting the final product into the required formats.
Some animation companies focus exclusively on post production and deliver special effects for film, TV and commercials.
Jobs in Post Production
Compositing Supervisor
Editing Assistant
Roto Artist *
Scanning TD
Scanner/Recorder *
Wire Remover*
* entry level with appropriate qualifications

Evidently I want a job in the Production of 3D animation, I know this is where I am strongest, I do enjoy making concept art to help with my work however Post Production compositing does not interest me, mostly because I do not have the eye for colour.

I really want to get into the games industry in my career, so I started looking on Gamasutra for job openings. However, I found that all of the animation jobs did not mention rigging, which is interesting as the two are so closely linked. When I searched for 'Rigging' the results that came up were for Technical Artists:

I then looked on the Lucasfilm website as this is my dream company, and where I hope to work after a few years in the Industry.

It seems that in bigger companies like this it is not necessary to have all the skills for rigging and animating, as they will have different people for the jobs. I know I want to be an Animator, but I do enjoy rigging and think it will help my animation, so it may be better for me to aim to start at a smaller company where they made need the extra skills and I will be a more desirable candidate. This is because I do not want to really become a Technical Artist and disregard my animation because that is my passion. I would really prefer to be an Animator and continue with my rigging skill set in my spare time.

I know I am not ready for the Industry with my rigging anyway because I have only just started to learn it, but I feel if I do not rest now and continue to practice on different models throughout the rest of my final year I will be ready by the time I leave University.

Expression Tests

As a final part of advancing my skills this term, I thought I would do a couple of quick tests to check how well my Blend Shape models work.

I found this image on Google to use as reference:

I think they work rather well for my first attempts at Facial Rigging. I did realise by doing them that I have improved my skills somewhat as I did not complete many eyebrow movements in the Melvin rig, although I do need to add to the nose movements of the second rig.

More Water Tests

I have been looking into effects work as well this term, and I wanted to do a few more tests with water.

I also found this water dynamic tutorial on using Softbodies to make the wave movement:



I do like the movement of this water, I think if I toned down the turbulence then perhaps it could be used. My only reservation is that there is not much detail on the surface and this may get lost in the style of film we are using for Snatched.

This could probably be rectified quite easily, but as I am party colour blind I am not the best person for the job. Perhaps a texture could be applied to the water to make it look more cartoony?

In this next instance, I used a cloud texture in order to create a more cartoony look, as I think this is more suitable to the look of our film and realistic water will not be needed. This will also render faster than using dynamics for example.

In order to make the water look like it is moving, I simply animated the texture. You can see the results below:


I tried adding a light to see how this would look. It is only a simple point light, but it would be interesting to see how different lights make the water look and changing the Opacity and reflection of the Blinn shader.

Playing around a little more:

I like the movement of the dynamics but the style of the texture test, so I decided to combine the two. I used the Softbody and turbulence in order to make the plane move, but then added the Cloud texture and played around with the colours (as I say I am not the best at this).

It may also be possible to make one of the colours black and use the Luma key in After Effects like I did with my render tests to hint at the water in the scene rather than having a block of colour like in these tests, but I will feed back to my Director before I do so. Combining this with my particle water test may also create some interesting results and add more depth to the environment.

Creating Hand Controls

My main aim for today is to complete the rigging of the hands.

I have been learning about joint orientation because it is important when creating Set driven keys for the hands. The joints are rotated in order to create curls on the fingers.

Here you can see the joint orientation of the hand

I had to change them so that the X was pointing in line with the Middle finger and the Y was pointing towards the Pinky little finger. This is true except the Thumb, which has a different orientation to the other fingers as it acts differently and curves at a different angle to the others.

Once the orientations were done, it was a case of mirroring the rig across the Y axis in order to create the right hand rig quickly. I then added the prefixes to the right and left hands to differentiate the two.

As you can see, there are now both hands with joints:

It was then time to create the controller and Set Driven Keys for the hand.

In order to create the Set Driven Keys, I added different attributes to the hand Control. These were: pinkyCurl. indexCurl, middleCurl, thumbCurl, ringCurl and pinkyCup. All of these had minimum values of 0 and max of 10, whereas the thumbRotX, thumbRotZ and fingerSpread has minimum of -10 and maximum of 10. All had default rest positions of 0.

It was then a case of using Set Driven key to rotate the fingers into their maximum and minimum positions so that they could be keyed ane be able to be animated easily.

Finally the hand was controlled by using the Command editor and linking the hand to the wrist, so it was able to twist and move.

Showing that theSet Driven keys work:

What I have learned just from the hands:

  • Joint Orientation
  • Set Driven Key

Hand Rigging

Following on with the Melvin rig, I have started to add the joints to the left hand. I found this pretty easy and it did not take long to do.

Making sure the joints were inside the mesh:

How the hand is looking so far:

Joint Orientation

This was a quick test to see the difference when setting Joint Orientations. This is important for the hands so that they can bend in a certain way and have Set Driven keys applied to them.

As you can see the Orientations are different when using Auto Join Orient in the second 's'. I did not realise how important this was to rigging a character, but it helps control joint transformations as well as having an effect on the clusters when skinning the character.

Rigging the Body... Problem Solved?!

As you may remember from earlier in my blog, I was having major problems with the skeleton coming out of Melvin's body when I point constrained the clusters in his back to the curves to control him. To be honest I gave up pretty easily to concentrate on my blend shapes, but having done so to a reasonable level I thought I would approach it again with a fresher (not as annoyed)mind.

I started the chapter on creating the clusters again incase this was the problem and followed through the tutorial. Ths same thing happened again with the skeleton coming out of Melvin's body.

Again I played around for ages and found that when they had been constrained some of the clusters had translated when they needed to be at 0. It was really that simple! Grrrr.

Here you can see the local control working so that his hips rotate.

However, I also want him to be able to twist easily without over rotating, so I set up an extra attribute in order to do so:

It is probably not very clear from the image, but this shows the twist working:

And here is the rig as it stands, with leg, arm and body controls:

After doing this I really want to learn how to set up the hand joints to finish the body completely. I have decided not to focus on weights in the body until I have downloaded Maya 2011 so I can use the newer Paint Weights tool, which I will hopefully have and be able to test tomorrow.

Friday, 7 January 2011

More Rigging Tutorials

This video is a bit all over the place, but it is interesting to see a four legged creature being rigged.

Another overview of a rig video:

Thursday, 6 January 2011


My aim for this project was to learn Rigging, focusing on Blend Shapes whilst also continuing with my animation.

Where I have succeeded:

I have really enjoyed learning new skills and pushing my knowledge of Maya even further, whether this is by doing the complex rigging to learning new shortcuts. I believe I have particularly succeeded in creating working Blendshapes for a head model, which I was then able to animate with.

I never knew anything about painting weights in Maya, and although I still find it difficult to achieve the results I want sometimes, I am happy to be able to do so. I received a Wacom tablet in December and this has sped up the time it takes really effectively. I also believe I am quicker as I know relatively what I am doing and which vertices I need for clusters etcetera.

I also think my animation has improved from last year, as during the summer I learned how to use the graph editor more effectively and ‘step’ the animation in key poses before following straight through. My run cycles show evidence of this as I took longer to do so than just rushing straight in.

Where I have not succeeded:

The main area I did not really succeed was with the body rigging, as I decided to focus on the facial rigging and be able to develop this to a good standard.

This is one of my main aims for the next week or so is to try and see where I went wrong with the back clusters or to find a different tutorial to follow. If there is one thing I have learned from this process it is that one tutorial is never enough. For example, with the facial animation I used the Autodesk tutorial to create the blend shapes using painting clusters, but then at times I needed to use Curves as a Wire Tool to be able to manipulate the mouth further. This I had learned from initially practicing on Melvin from the old Learning Maya 5 book.

I think it will be the same with the body rigging, if I can follow through another tutorial, preferably one that rigs all at once, I should be able to combine it with my previous knowledge and create some great results.


I am happy with what I have learned this term, especially with my facial rigging. I feel confident to use this in the future for my final year film, as well as for other groups if they require it.

What I have learned:
Rigging – Skeleton
IK/FK switches
Constraints for the feet
Using Clusters
Rigging- Facial
Edit Membership tool
Painting Clusters Weights in the face
Using Wire Tool for mouth expressions
Creating Blend Shapes for the eyelids, eyebrows and mouth
Rigging the Eyes using a Locator Aim orient

There are many little bits to add to this such as how to label prefixes easily and the Connections editor, but these are the main points.

Add to this Dynamics playing with Fire and Water, which I am still trying to fix the problems with, and I feel I have had a successful term.


Carry on with the body rigging – hopefully this will be complete by the 10th of January for this project hand in
Keep Practicing! I want to facial rig a more cartoon style animal next rather than a realistic human head.

Dynamics: Flowing Water

After concentrating on facial blendshapes for a while, I wanted to do something a bit different so went back to Dynamics, where I found this running water tutorial:

Firstly the emitter was placedjust below the shower head:

But the particles were omni n went off in all directions:

They were then set to directional so that the particles fell as so:

In order to make them look more realistic, I added Gravity to effect the particles so they fell in more of an arc rather than in a straight line.

However, the particles still went through the bath, so I selected the particles and the bath and made it so that they collide.

The videos show the effects of the collision, and I have been having a bit of trouble with getting the particles to behave themselves.

I tried changing some of the settings and deleting the second set of particles that appeared, but the first set still goes through the bath a little bit. I do not think this would matter in an environment with a floor for example if this was in a bathroom there would be a plane underneath that would hide it going through. I may do a bit more testing on this tomorrow or over the weekend to see if I can improve it.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Animation Tests

snatched animation tests from Hayley Allen on Vimeo.

These were animation tests for our film Snatched.

Some of the story has changed though, so I don't think I need the character to fall over, and I think I should practice more on the wheels and running to show real power and thought behind the run, make it looks like he really wants the food he is chasing.

Untitled from Hayley Allen on Vimeo.

Also I missed this one out of the video, this was to show a more subtle side with more thought than action. The beginning of our film needs this in order to set the scene and provide a juxtaposition to the chaos that will happen afterwards.

Render Tests 003

These show the test when rendered, although for the first one Maya had randomly changed the camera from camera01 to Front view and vice versa, so I had to render it out again to get the movement.

I then simply googled scroll textures and added this to the background:

In After Effects, the head layer was dragged onto the background but it still shows the black as so:

To change this I used the Luma Key effect on the head layer and keyed out the black. This is a rough cut that I did very quickly but you can see the aim of how it would look when finessed.

Here is the finished video:

Snatched Render Test from Hayley Allen on Vimeo.

I have learned an awful lot during this whole process, from the rigging of the head and the blend shapes to the texturing, how the camera moves would look etc.

I do think this style could be really effective and make our film stand out from the rest.

I then used the video of the flame test I tried earlier in the term.

It doesn't look as effective, but I think this is partly because I need to just have the flame without the frey cylinders I put it on, as this would have the Toon Shader applied to it anyway, and also because it takes up far too much of the screen. It will only have a small amount of screen space in our final film not take up the majority of it like here.

Render Tests 002

Testing the toon shader in Maya, I had to keep rendering it to see what the finished result would be, as you can see here it did not show up in the normal viewport:

These images show a few tests, simply by changing the influence of the red and black. I wanted to find a balance where the details of the face can be seen but it is not too over complex and the style is lost.

The black will be edged out in After Effects, so the red could not be too small that it cannot be seen but not too much that it over takes the face as in the last picture. If we are going to render in a similar style then we must be aware of this, and also make it unique for each individual model, as it will be different for each one.
The one thing I must test next is how this will look when two characters are in the same scene and whether they will be opaque or you will be able to see the other character's lines. This also may take into consideration different colours for each character to make them stand out and not merge.

Sparta Lip Sync - 002 and 003

The top image shows the eyebrows and eyelids added, while the bottom shows the animation with a camera turn around, which I am going to use to test my render.

Rendering Tests

Our story is about a Mongolian man that has his food stolen by a Marmot and a chase ensues. We have been struggling to find a style for the film, when David our team leader made this concept piece:

I suggested we use this as our style to make it look like work from a scroll, a proper traditional Mongolian story that comes to life. It was makes it look a bit different and not the average animated piece.

My concept:

3D cart I modelled for the film with this toon style:

Also using the Rare rig I got from my work placement:

I think this could look really effective, and I am going to try and test my lip sync animation to see what it looks like moving and with a camera.