Studio 1 Development Blog 14

Animation, animation and more animation today.

So for our final assignment as part of studio 1 we have been focusing on animation, particularly body mechanics. To help facilitate this the project did not require us to create a character to be animated. We were supplied with Norman (a pre-set-up character model and rig for Maya) and an obstacle course for Norman to manoeuvre through.

Along with Norman and the obstacle course we were also given a long list of characters with an iconic movement style and some technical specifications for rendering out our footage at the end. The technical specifications were that the rendered footage must be 1280 x 720 resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio and H.264 compression. When rendering my animation I did it by rendering each frame to a 1280 x 720 PNG image. I then took the image sequence into Adobe Premier Pro and exported it to Adobe Media Encoder for the final compression to H.264.

I rendered the footage in this way so that I would keep the original, uncompressed image sequence for later use to avoid re-compressing a video file. I thought it might have better use in a showreel to have several formats of it rather than just rendering direct from Maya to an AVI file.

I chose to make Norman move like he was from Assassin’s Creed (as per the list of characters we could choose from). The movement style is very similar to parkour and free-running.

My methodology, AKA my workflow/ animation pipeline consists of several phases. Phase 1 is planning, I got a side view printout of the obstacle course and drew on the way I wanted my character to tackle each obstacle and how I wanted him to move through the course. Phase 2 is the blocking pass, during which I pose Norman at each obstacle in as few poses as possible to ensure it can be seen how he will tackle each obstacle.

Next up is the 2nd pass on the animation. I go through and add the rest of the key poses and extreme poses. Phase 4 is the polishing pass, this is where a lot of the finesse comes into it. It is during this pass that you add all of the breakdown poses and inbetweens to show exactly how you want the character to move every step of the way.

There are many benefits to animating in this fashion. First you get to map out everything that you want to do without fully committing to it early. It gives you the flexibility to change it early if necessary without too much drama. Second it lets you fine tune your work every step of the way and make adjustments on the fly. Thirdly, and possibly most importantly it gives you some very clearly defined points in which you can show your animation to others for feedback during the development process.

Getting feedback on your work while you are making it and at a point in which the changes suggested can be implemented without too much fuss is an important part of the design process and successfully working with others and accepting their critiques is the most efficient way to better your work. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, creating the best work you possibly can.

Throughout the development process I made good use of feedback at every step of the way. After the first blocking pass of animating I did we had a feedback session. The results of which reshaped my animation in a few sections. The key points of the feedback I received were to re-think the “leap of faith” I had towards the end of the obstacle course. They way I had it originally made it seem like his trajectory was all wrong. Too much anticipation and build up for too small a jump. In the end I took someone’s suggestion to have him step of the ledge rather than jump. The result was much nicer than my original vision but did not remove the feel that I was going for with the action. The other feedback I received at that point was to pay more attention to the stairs at the end, to keep it to just the balls of his feet on the step, it would look more natural that way. Which I dutifully took on-board.

While I was adding breakdowns and polishing my animation one of my class mates noted that it seemed very “go-go-go” like there is no time to just breathe. He (Simon) then suggested maybe adding a slide/skid in after a jump to help slow down the sequence and just give my character a bit of time to think. I added it in and it looked much better with the addition in. It slowed it down a little which helped to solve some of my timing issues.

Combining the approach to my workflow and applying feedback in an iterative fashion really helped to push my vision and application to the limits of my skills.

Going to have to cut it short there. I was going to try to cover more however we are already at like 850 words so I am going to stop it here and let you pick up on the next one when you are ready.

Till next time.


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