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.