Throughout the project, I ran into a few problems while animating. One of which was that Maya kept crashing for the smallest thing, like trying to rotate the jaw control. The odd thing was it wasn’t a standard crash where Maya tells you it’s a fatal error. It was more similar to the graphics card running out of memory and the whole UI would freeze up. So I updated the graphics card drivers and still got the same problem, after searching through several forums I found on on the Autodesk help forum that other people were having the same issues while trying to manipulate the rig. It seemed that the problem was the real-time renderer that Maya uses to render the viewport. By going to preferences- display- then right to the bottom of the dialogue box, there was a small drop down with the renderer options in it. Maya used OpenGL by default and by changing that to DirectX11, then restarting Maya it solved the problem. For a time. As the rigs got more complex throughout the animation process it became more apparent that more had to be done to speed up the scenes. Natasha found that turning off “consolidate world” option in the Viewport 2.0 options prevented any further crashes. Whereas I found that working in unsmoothed with the shading option of the viewport turned to “Flat Shade All” made the scene’s much more manageable. Once these hurdles were overcome it was much easier to animate and I found that I could actually scrub in the timeline and watch my animations back at near real time. This helped speed up my workflow immensely.
I found that when playblasting Maya exports the movie file as .avi as standard. I found this to be problematic for a few reasons;
- the files took up a lot of memory
- they were so large windows media player struggled to play them smoothly
- when exporting bigger sequences out of the camera sequencer they came out incredibly glitchy.
what the fuck is going on there?
To overcome this I found that when the computer had quick time involved you could export the playblasts as H.264 .mov files that were much smaller and gave a much better playback while still having good quality.
Another technique was just isolating everything except what I was working on. For example, when animating the Rookie’s hand I would hide everything that wasn’t relevant.
Stepping out the shot
floaty spliney mess
Adjusting things from mikes feedback, mainly Puca’s hands and adding the hair and moving holds.
Here you see my workflow from blocking through splining and lipsync to final polish. Then it in the final render with compositing. (credit to Natasha)
For these shots, I had to animate geometry to convincingly break apart on an impact. After looking at several videos of explosions I realised the guts of the action happen in one frame whereas the rest is just the debris settling again. to do this I would animate every piece to rise and fall at the same time paying attention to how they spin in mid-air. then once they’re all moving as one I went back in and staggered the arcs making the smaller pieces stay airborne for longer.
for this shot originally Paul had a separate piece of unrigged geometry to be the fist coming through the roof. He wanted the hand to give the finger as it went down and I wasn’t able to bring in a duplicate rig without breaking the scene so I was able to scale the big nazi’s hand and have it breaking through the roof with an inbetween to make the action less abrupt. then animating the finger was simple enough.
A really useful habit I incorporated into my workflow was using a mirror, especially for lipsync, I kept a little mirror by my desk which saved me taking gross close up video recordings of my mouth and enabled me to see what shapes I needed to make on the fly. This combined with the awareness of my body during the action (actors toolkit) and my knowledge of body mechanics through experience (climbing) really helped speed up my workflow.
Plugins and Scripts
The most useful thing I’ve found this year, hands down has been Animbot. It came from Paul attending a talk by a professional animator at dingle who told everyone to download A tools. A plug-in for animation in Maya. When I went to download it the creator had announced a new toolset with way more features called Animbot
The toolset is amazing, It puts most complex actions on sliders which allow you to have maximum control with minimum effort. Here are the features I used most;
The first game changer was the Smart key which you can map to the hotkey “S” what it does is only key onto channels that already have animation or onto any channels you have selected in the channel box. It preserves the tangent type on whatever curve you’re keying as well.
I ended up customising my Hotkeys to help my workflow assigning the “nudge key” function to my left and right arrow keys.
I also set the “reset pose” function to the down arrow key. this proved incredibly useful when retiming animations
with the “nudge Key” function you can choose exactly how many frames the key gets nudged as well which makes large-scale, precise retimes so much simpler than having to “shift select” the keys in the time slider and drag them manually.
while retiming Scene 5 I used this feature where you can select every animation curve in the scene with the push of the button. Trying this manually crashed the scene but with this, it was much lighter on the system.
I was able to select all the keys in the graph editor set my nudge value to 6 frames and just push the right arrow key once and bingo, that’s it done.
selection sets were another feature that I used heavily. It allowed me to have all the lip, eye, jaw and brow controls handy at the touch of a button. Also, they could be colour coded for each character. then you can filter which ones you’re seeing by colour
Probably the most time-saving tool for lipsync that I found was the “Blend to frame” feature which allowed me to set the blend frame to an awkward mouth shape like L or V and then using selection sets grab all the lip, jaw, tongue and then I’m able to just slide the whole face into the shape and if needs be, do minor tweaks.
Another feature that works with every slider is the overshoot which lets you exaggerate whatever value you’re changing past 100% which proved incredibly useful for expression changes and just general exaggeration.
For overlap, there’s a timing offset slider that preserves your keys where they are and just shunts their value along so you can keep your neat key poses and tweak in the overlap without cluttering up your time slider.
Also, all the effects are stackable. the gif above shows my exact workflow when applying the head shake on the fat cop and big Nazi in the rookie.
all in all, I could not recommend this toolset enough. It really saved me days worth of work throughout the course of the project.
Andrew’s rigs were a joy to work with and any problems could be easily brought up and he would have it fixed practically the next day.
I was really pushing the smears to get the snappy cartoony effect with Nami’s movements and some of the stills are ridiculous. For example when Nami was firing back up the mouth of the monster
You see that that’s fairly boring. So I twisted and broke Nami’s rig in order to sell the speed and acceleration.
In isolation, they’re pure nightmare fuel but in motion, they add the snap I needed to sell the shot.
another example is Nami in scene 3 when she says “maybe it’s seen Tato” she’s jumping into shot quickly, without the frames it’s not very snappy
so I added these frames
Weird, but this is the result
Another example of smears is when she spins her staff in the last action sequence. To do this I used the same technique I used for this test months ago;
I keyed out the geometry and subbed it in for pre-made smear frames.
There is also a subtle squash and stretch on Nami’s head as she jumps and lands.
This whole sequence was where I really pushed the boat out in terms of Nami’s exaggeration. this shot especially
It’s stepped aye, but the poses aren’t overly interesting. So I added these and micromanaged every key to ensure that they flowed nicely into each other.
These gave the animation that snappy, rubbery feel that I wanted and really helped sell how hard Nami’s throwing that spell down there.
While making the staff I needed to make these long curled fingers holding the crescent moon in place so in order to do this quickly I used Bezier curves and extruded the geometry along them. Then I used soft select to tweak them to fit. For tweaking the shape it was another simple case of using soft select to drag and pull the shape into the new silhouette.