Monday, 31 December 2012

Drawing Drawing Drawing

So, we're back on to pre-production now, with yet more drawing. Not my strongest suit, but so long as it helps me think about poses then its not too bad. I've been doing a few for each, but mostly been focussing on the attack animations for the player character, since they're the most fun.

Christmas has somewhat slowed my progress, but I've also started playing around in Unity, the results of which are looking promising (if a little freakish). I'll post that stuff here when its in a more developed state. But until then, drawings!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Death Cow

A brief interlude between now and finishing Major Project pre-production, part 2 of the specialist animation module. The first week of this module's been to do with scheduling and agile scrum development, and its had us refining the GDD for Echoes.

But now we've moved on to more practical aspects, and started scripting in Unity. We've also been using Playmaker, a visual scripting tool available on the asset store. I got on quite well with Playmaker, its essentially like working with pseudo-code. That said, when we actually dived into javascript I found I wasn't too thrown by it.

We decided the project would best slot into Echoes if we used it to make puzzles. Fortunately this also gave us a good scope for stuff to do in this module too. I used a mix of Playmaker and scripting, and came out with a few decent results.

The most complex was perhaps the psychic death cow. I scripted a small AI which wanders the environment till it sees you, then attacks. I'm mostly pleased because I got it not to walk into/through walls without using a node system. The lack of nodes does mean that it can't pathfind, just wander randomly till it gets lucky, but its workable as a relatively thick AI.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Majorly Projecting

Okay, so we're back on to Major Project Pre-production. I've been mostly working on thumbnails and rig setup for this, though progress has been slow, as I've not got a great deal done over reading week.

I've got lots of thumbs to do, with a centaur, a humanoid faerie character, a dragon/lizard, a little girl, and a giant crab monster.

Here's a few of the thumbs I've been doing today for an idea of what I'm up to.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Specialist Animation: Part 1 Complete!

This is my marking reel from Specialist Animation part 1. There are elements I like and elements I dislike, but overall I think it went fairly well, considering the three week time-frame. Having not had much experience animating in Maya, I found there were some idiosyncrasies that took some getting used to. Though overall I prefer the package to Max for rigging and animating (my artist colleagues disagreed with my software preference).

MotionBuilder was a tricky one. We had to learn and use the package in under a week, so I wasn't able to really get to grips with the program and learn all its ins and out. I found it quite difficult to work with, but I suspect that was more a fault of my inexperience than any failing on the software's part. That said, with just a little more time, I'm sure I could easily grasp using MotionBuilder a lot better.

Back to Project Development for a while now, till we start Specialist Animation 2 in 2-3 weeks time. I'll try and keep the blog updated with my progress in pre-production.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Feature Feature: HumanIK

Seeing as it's topical with regards to the MotionBuilder assignment, I'll continue the blog-a-thon. I found the basics of the HumanIK system, and thought I'd share for anyone interested.

HumanIK is basically a character setup that puts Inverse Kinematics across the whole body, a-la MotionBuilder control rigs. If you create one in Maya you get basically what you get in MotionBuilder, but with the added bonus of viewport selectable controls and the general Maya niceness for keyframe animation.

So to create a HumanIK rig in Maya, we have to make sure the plugin is loaded. If its not, you can activate it by going to Window > Settings/Preferences > Plug-In Manager. Then scroll down and check that mayaHIK.mll is set to Loaded. If its not there, probably best to check the Autodesk site for a download.

With that loaded, we can simply go to Skeleton > HumanIK... to load the HIK plug-in.

This will bring up a control box in place of your Channel Box. Basically we have the same thing here as in MotionBuilder, and it's pretty intuitive. Hitting either Create Skeleton or Create Control Rig will do the same thing with nothing in the scene, as it needs to make a skeleton to control to start with.

Hit Create Skeleton at the top, and one will pop up in your viewport. Then go to create, under the blue button, and hit Control Rig. This will build you some controls.

Voila! You can select controls via the panel, or in the viewport. Play around first, as HIK rigs work in interesting ways compared to our more regular animation rigs. The advantage here is easy importing to MotionBuilder, and the knowledge that the proportions are all exactly the same as the MotionBuilder rig.

Once you've animated a sequence, you can simply use the Send to MotionBuilder option in the File menu to switch it across. If you prefer you can export it manually, but the Send To feature tends to be the easiest way for me. 

Hope this helps someone :) 

Emotion Builder

This third week we're working on adapting and cleaning up mocap data in MotionBuilder. Its pretty fun, and the package is quite nice. Intensive though, so my laptop currently hates me a little. We have to edit a few pre-recorded motion clips, blend them together, and then add some of our own keyframe in for good measure. All in all a pretty fun bit of work, but with less than 72 hours to deadline, we're a bit pushed for time.

No renders for this week to show yet, so I'll just put the project reel up at the end with everything in it. In the meantime, here's some pre-prod GIFs.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Feature Feature: Buffer Curves

I thought I'd start blogging any useful little tools I find, just in case any of my colleagues dropping in find them useful. 3D software tends to be so ridiculously vast that the little handy tools can get lost in the mix. Anyway, here's a feature on a feature. So, Buffer Curves!

Cool little feature I found whilst poking around the graph editor: Buffer Curves. These are like alternate versions of your curve you can use to make changes, if you want to experiment without losing your original data.

To see them, you have to go to View > Show Buffer Curves. Like so: 

You probably won't see anything for now, but if you start to move keyframes or adjust tangents, you'll see a dark grey curve in the shape of the original. The nice thing about this is it lets you strip out or add keys to your new one, without messing up the old, which is great for experimenting with different overall curve shapes.

To switch between them, just go to Curves > Swap Buffer Curve, and it will invert which is the active curve and which is the buffer. 

Handy stuff. 

EDIT: Forgot to mention, the buffer curve won't show unless you have the curve selected, to stop them cluttering up your Graph Editor.

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Week two of spec anim is over. Ostensibly. I'm still yet to finish my piece but with another decent slog I can get it all done in time for deadline. This week consisted of rigging a pair of legs, and animating them. The scene basically consists of walk - react to something - different walk.

A fun setup but a restricted time frame so I'll see what I can chuck out in a week for it. Here's a quick look at my little leggy guy, I've dubbed him Sklegs for now, so we'll see how he gets on in the land of CG soon.

Specialist Animation: Part 1

So we've begun a project called Specialist Animation. The title probably gave that away but there you go. Basically we're working in Maya, to get a handle around it, and the way it works, as we've primarily used 3DS Max in the past. Luckily for me, I used Maya over summer for rigging, so I'm already pretty familiar with the program.

Animation however, I'm pretty far from familiar with at the minute. It's been a while since I animated, seeing as my focus has been on learning rigging recently. Nevertheless, its great fun, even if it is back to basics.

We start with some bouncing balls, which I'm sure everyone's seen before, but the second part of the first week is to put two balls round an obstacle course. I've put a shot of one of them below. It still needs some tweaking but I'm not too far off calling it done now, the final video will be in my reel at the end of this first three weeks of the project.

If it's not immediately obvious, it goes off the thing and down the other thing and then up round the whatsit and through the stuff and then back round and into the thing again. Simple.

Major Project: Get set...

So back at Uni now, and we're diving straight into Major Project. Lots to do, and a lot of working out to do in the initial stages. Here's what I'm thinking will be my four sections of Major Project.

1: Rigging.
    I'll be rigging two models for major project, over the course of four weeks. The first is a Fae styled humanoid, modelled by Dean Paupe (who you can catch over at Dean's Development). And the second is a Dragon, modelled by Ruth Beresford (at Finding Teapots)

2: Creature Animation
   Next up is animating some creatures for our collaborative game project. I've got a number of different animations, for various creatures to do, so should be good fun.

3: Human Body Mechanics Animation
   I'll also be animating some humanoids for the projects. This will be more realistic and straightforward, but there'll be room for exaggeration to fit in our Fairie style.

4: Dual Character Acted Scenario
   Lastly I have a personal project. I decided a dual character scenario would be best, seeing as I've not done one yet. I've not yet chosen a sound clip, but I've got a few ideas in mind.

Here's a few peeks at the beginnings of pre-production for major project.

Summer Rigging

Long time no update, but time to kick the blog back into gear for my final year at uni. Some of my avid readers (heh) will notice I've changed the name slightly, to a little more techy-riggy title. Hopefully to reflect my growing focus on rigging. Rigging and animating? I know, pretty serious business, but that's me. Jack-of-all-trades, master of some. Hopefully. Maybe.

In this interest, I rigged a character over summer, applying some more advanced rigging techniques in Maya. It was also an opportunity to use Maya for the first time, and I must say I like it a great deal, for rigging at least. The model here was provided by Ruth Beresford, who modelled it as a summer project.


I wanted the rig to be as flexible as possible, and unbreakable, to save me from complaints from pesky animators. This involved learning to do stretchy bones in Hypershade, which turned out to be a lot of fun. Overall, I enjoyed Maya and rigging, and I'm looking forward to doing more at uni.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Update on the fight scene

Here's it mostly blocked. Many thanks to Ruth Beresford for the awesome environment to animate in :)

And yeah, I know the lightings bad, I rushed a quick render to put up, it will look much better when I decide its as finished as its getting.

Mucking about

So I've been messing around in Max animating. I've just uploaded one shot here, a I'm not finished the block yet, and I've not rendered the shots together. Hopefully you get the idea though. Silly over the top figthing :) No plans on length or how polished it ends up because I'm mostly just playing around with it.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

All done

Well, that was quite a year. Lots of stuff done and learned. The end results were mixed, I have to say, but I think I've gained a lot of valuable knowledge and insight. I now need lots of animation practise over summer :)

Here's my showreel anyway.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Week 11: FMX!

I didn't do much this week admittedly, seeing as I've been away in Germany at FMX. The conference was awesome, with some great speakers and talks. Highlights for me were the Blue Sky animation talk, and Dr. Stuart Sumida's talk on animating reptiles. We also came away with a plan to use Unity for next year's project.

Busy week ahead then, as I have a lot of catching up to do.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Week 10: Animating like crazy

Very short on time now. Especially as I'm going to the FMX conference next week, which should be great, but leaves me with little time to work. I need to get some really solid animation time in. I've been making good headway in my animations, with the walks all getting there and most of the mime pieces coming on their way.

I'm very wary of the fact that I still have to do the AnimTree, and get it running, for the ogre. This is possibly one of the more complex problems I'll have to face, seeing as its a complicated bit of UDK work, so I'm unsure how long it will take.

But overall, I think I should hit the deadline ok, maybe with some hit to the amount of work I can hand in due to the FMX trip. Here's one of the anims I'm working on now:


Friday, 27 April 2012

Week 9: In the Game

Between bits of animation refinement, I've been in a scripting and UDK frenzy this week trying to get it working in the engine. It is all in and running now, and we're starting to get bits like placeholder weapons, but unfortunately there's some aspects that I just haven't been able to make work.

The team script I can't seem to get to work, largely due to my scripting inexperience. This means the Ogres and humans intermix on the teams, rather than forming distinct teams. Whilst this is a shame, I don't want to be too bogged down in scripting, so its something we'll have to leave for now. 

But the game is running, and we've got our characters running around in here fighting and shooting and generally working, which is very satisfying to see.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Easter Update!

Over easter the amount of work I've been able to get done has been somewhat lessened, working from home is a little more difficult to do with consistency. Mainly, I've been working into my animations, and setting up UDK stuff. All the characters are now in, and they're working in game, with PhysAssets and the necessary scripts to run them.

I've still got a considerable bit of script left to do, and seeing how long its taken me, I've decided I definitely need to re-think my marking scheme. I've done three weeks work on rigging, and will have on UDK by the end of the project,  as the complications on each have held me back a lot, time wise (though I can't complain as its taught me a great deal of useful information).

With regards to animation, it is coming along, a little slower than I'd like, and not nearly as high quality as I'd like, but I'm hoping as I animate more continuously I'll get my eye in a little more. There's a lot of little incremental changes and bits so I wont post all the videos, I'll just leave a quick screengrab of what I'm working on at the moment; the taunt animation.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Week 8: Baby steps

Back to animating this week, and it's been a tough one. I've been trying to make headways on my body mechanic cycles, starting with the crouch move forwards. After some attempts and a conversation with a tutor, I've found the crouch move to be very challenging with the rig we have, as well as not fitting the character well. With that in mind, I've decided to switch to doing walk cycles. These have the advantage of being slightly simpler, whilst also giving me the opportunity to add a great deal of character and uniqueness.

I'm allowing myself a slightly extended period on the walk forwards, as it should inform the other walks enough to speed them up considerably.


Friday, 23 March 2012

Week 7: UDK Setting Up

Matt and I both seem to find the Ogre rig to an acceptable enough standard to animate with, and honestly I'm cautious of putting much extra time into rigging at this stage. I do need to get the character into UDK though, so this week I've been mainly doing that. Its taken longer than I anticipated, but he has mirror tables and is set up with materials and he's fully working with all the animations. I've also made a start on a PhysAsset, which is a necessity both for ragdoll and for hit detection.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Week 6: Finally Animating

So I'm starting to animate now, at last. I'm concerned about time restrictions and depending how long I anticipate spending in UDK I may have to drop my personal project animating the deer and simply work take UDK and rigging as separate sections.

So far this week I've been working on a melee weapon hit and a death. The death animation is very roughshod, but the melee animation is starting to come along. I like having a club as a weapon, as it implies a good hefty amount of weight, which is good practice for animation.


Saturday, 10 March 2012

Week 5: Ogres and Animators

Having now recieved the Ogre model, I made it my top priority to get it rigged fully and skinned, in order to give the animation team, myself included, the maximum time to suggest changes and get to grips with the rig. I managed to get the rig created, and have skinned the character to it. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the result, though it seems a bit slow. We've disabled the constraints in an effort to speed it up a bit (they also struggle to calculate the skin when the animation plays through inside max).

Just a matter of animating now, as rigging has taken too long. Hopefully its not left me too behind, as I still have a lot of UDK work to do to get the characters in a working state for the game.

First is the rig I created, including the underlying layer the animation will be baked on to, and the physics bones that will be animated in UDK.

And this is what the animators will see when animating the character. I tried to keep it as simple as possible to make animation easier.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Week 4: Character 1 in!

Okay, so I've managed to get the first character rigged and put into UDK. The second one is on the way, rig-wise, but it needs to be skinned properly and imported. The Ogre model is almost ready, so with any luck we can get that skinned and do the final import soon.

Hopefully I'll be able to be through with the rigging side of the project soon, as the time its taking is going to cut into my other three projects quite badly if it takes a great deal longer.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Week 3: A break from rigging (for more rigging)

Now the rig is up and running, I'm going to set it aside for a while. As I'm waiting for our artist, Dean Paupe, to finish modelling the character, I may still need to tweak bone positions. Rigging to a turnaround is not a precise art to say the least.

So I'm moving on to rigging the advanced tech characters. Initially we'd hoped these would just go in with the rigs they have but that's just not going to happen now, after my experience with the Ogre rig. Fortunately, these characters don't need to be animated by us, so the rigs can be basic and single layer.

I've played with one of them a little, and so far got this:

Again, this is going to be fun...

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Week 2: Reading Week Update

Bit of a slow week as its reading week so I've been home seeing my family. I have managed to get the base rig working in UDK, after an absolute nightmare. Every single bone orientation has to be perfectly set up to match the UDK one for the Ogre to take the animations properly, otherwise the bones just move off into a random place.

I got it done in the end though, here's the skeleton, picking up to animation from UT3. Doesn't look like much, but that was pretty brutal stuff.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Week 1: Major Project is a go!

Major Project start! This will be a bit of a trial and error space for a little while, as my first task is to rig our Ogre character for use in UDK. Having not rigged for UDK before, I'm sure there will be some traps and pitfalls I'll fall into and have to drag myself out of.

The rig will be complicated by the fact that we need to have our Ogre pick up the animations from UT3, as well as our own animations going in. This means the rig needs to be simple to apply the animations already there (especially as the Ogre's proportions are massively different to the UT3 characters), but we need enough control to be able to animate it well.

After some research, my plan is to make a 3 layer rig. On the bottom, I'll have a base rig, which the model will be skinned to and UDK will recognise. This will be constrained, with position and orientation constraints, to an animation rig, which we'll be animating. This means I can add IK/FK switches, twists and controls without worrying about breaking the underlying rig. On top of this I'll add a layer of control shapes. The Ogre is a fat character, and its going to be difficult if not impossible to animate him without seeing the skin, so our animators wont want to be messing around seeing the skeleton.