Animation and Rendering

Animation
After rigging came animation. Rob and I divided the animations so we both had to work on three animations of 24 fps. We created these animations following the storyboard and montage.

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The monster was easy to animate thanks to the rig. I never really liked animation before, but working with your own model and with a smooth rig was really fun. I don’t mind animating that much anymore and I’ve gotten better at it.

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The most important parts of the body were controlled with FK and IK handles.
The other small things like the toes and fingers were controlled directly with the joints.
Animating was quite easy and the rig worked really well, but the jaw was a different thing. the jaw didn’t have his own joint and was fixed to the head for small movements i had to select the faces and animate it by hand. for the screaming scene Rob created the needed joints to animate it properly.

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After the animations were done we were going on to Rendering and Lighting.
The lighting and Rendering went pretty well, the lighting was almost perfect from the beginning. we just used the Arnold skydome light with a picture of our forest and a 3 point lighting setup on the monster.
We had to put of the shadows on the front light and put a green image plane behind the monster to put it in our video.

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We rendered the animation to a tif format and used the render sequence to render all the frames after each other. It took some time to figure all the settings out and the first few renders were way to light because we accidentally put the gamma setting up.

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I’m very happy how this turned out and it was a great experience. I’ve learned allot and feel motivated create more animations and renders.

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Animating the monster

Together with Paul, we animated the monster in Maya. We divided the several scenes. Afterwards we decided the positions of the monster and had to estimate how long each animation should be according to the recording footages we have.

We used the standard of 24 frames/sec as a measurement to set the speed.

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After pitching the playblasts with our teammates, we got to the rendering.

Rendering

We used the Arnold rendering system that is integrated in Maya 2017.

To get a realistic result, we needed to keep in mind:

  • Light direction
  • Angle
  • Texture

For this, we used an image plane of the footage as a reference. Lighting was done in a 3 point lighting setup with an additional Arnold light dome that contained a picture of the footage. This light dome creates a realistic reflection on the surface of the animated monster.

For the rendering we removed the background and placed a solid green to key out in After Effects in a later stage.

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Rigging the character

Making the skeleton
For the rigging I used tutorials from youtube and a course of Lynda.com. I’ve rigged twice in my life but never with a fully constructed model.
First thing to do was creating a skeleton using the joint tool.

I quickly ran into problems at the hands. I wanted to rotate the fingers on the Y axis but the joints were pointing the wrong way. i followed multiple steps shown on forums and youtube but i could never change the rotation axis of the joints.
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Creating the IK and FK handles
I created 2 seperate joints for the left leg and created a IK handle on one and a FK handle on the other. I followed the Lynda course to create a IK/FK switching system but i ran into the same problems ass i did with the hands. I could not change the rotation axis of the joints and the 3 joints i had created had different rotaions.
In the end i created the IK and FK handles right onto the deformation joints.
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Weighing down the vertices
After creating the rig i had to weigh down vertices using the Paint Skin Weights Tool. This tool will let you anchor vertices to a selected joint.
this would let you controll how much parts would move when animating the creature.
I weighed down the backscale to the pelvis so it wouldn’t bent while animating the legs and i weighed down the head to the headjoint so everything would move with it and not stretch.

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Sources
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah-Jk7d30ks&t=938s
https://www.lynda.com/Maya-tutorials/Rigging-Cartoon-Character-Maya/191956-2.html

Finished 3D model

Creating the legs
The last step of the 3D model was creating the legs, reworking the shoulders and putting everything together. i’ve started with the legs, creating them very much like i created the hands.

The feet were easy to create and I am quite pleased by how they got together. forming the leg and the hip was the hardest part, to make it look plump but not fat was quite a trick.

 

Miroring the model
After the legs i put everything in position, i remodelled the shoulders making the create more broad and intimidating and adjusting the spikes. i added some scales on the knees and finnaly i mirrored the whole model over.

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The finished model
I’m really happy with what I’ve created, it’s probably my best work till now.
I learned allot and found the joy of working with a good and original reference.

3D advancements

Lately the monster really has been taking shape.
I’ve created claws, the under-jaw and am now working on the legs.
Here i will summarize my work method.

The claws.
For the claws i started out with a basic square and started modeling fingers to attach to the block.
as the hand took a basic shape i started using deformers to bend it into shape.

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The arms
Shaping the arms was next.
This wasn’t hard to do, i just added more topology and started twisting and turning to recreate muscle tissue. here i also used deformers to bend it into the right shape and position.
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The jaw
I already created the top half of the head, all that was left was a nice strong jaw with teeth.
I started out with the quad-draw tool and made a basic shape.
The rest came pretty naturally.

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Adjusting the body
I already created a body but it was modeled after the old sketches, i tweaked some parts and made the humps on his back sharper than before.

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To do
I still need to do a few things before the model is finished and can go into texturing and rigging.
I’ busy with the legs and i want to redo the shoulders of the monster.
The shoulders don’t match the sketches and are too small, the monster needs a little bit more volume to properly intimidate his foes.

After the legs and shoulders are done it’s a matter of combining everything and adjusting here and there.

The first 3D model

Starting from the sketch

I’ve just received a draft for our monster and i was very excited to work on it.
The monster is build on the drawing of a stone like creature designed by Rob.

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Robs monster design

I’ve just started on the monster and there needs to be allot more done but it’s a start.

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I’m working on the head right now, shaping the top half some more and then creating the under jaw. after that i will work out the limbs. but first thing is to discuss the progress.

Green screen Lighting Research

Green screen

We chose a very visual commercial and to remake this we will need to use allot of green screen. Green screen can be tricky and if you don’t do it right it will look sloppy and you can spot it from miles away.
The basis for a good green screen effect is a good lighting, and how to work with it. This is why i did some research about working with a green screen.

Things to pay attention to

  • Try to make your green screen as flat as possible, wrinkles create shadows that make it harder to work with.
  • Watch out for movement, make sure all the movements of the actor are in front of the green screen. 1 body part out of the screen will ruin your shoot.
  • Shadows, make sure your actor is far away from the green screen not leaving any shadows on the surface.
  • Reflections, watch out for reflective props and jewelry, anything that reflects or sparkles can be difficult to key.

 

Lighting

The most important thing when working on a green screen is to have it evenly lit. If the lighting on the screen is even it will look more realistic, you can easily do this with 2 fill lights with soft-boxes around them. you can use the zebra function on your camera to check if the lighting is even.
You want to have the zebra pop in everywhere at the same time, if it pops in early on a spot you know that that spot is brighter than the rest.

Film your actor a few meters in front of your green screen and background lighting. If your actor is too close the light might  bounce of the screen en give a green glow on your subject, this is called spill.

Next step is to create a lighting for your subject. A 3 point lighting will really make your subject pop out. The backlight is very important, it will help you separate your subject from the green screen.
Make sure your key light and fill light are at a good angle so they won’t mess with the background.

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A three point lighting

A app that can help you figure out if your green screen is ready to be used is Greenscreener. this app will show different levels of light, making it easy to spot mistakes in your lighting.

Maya Rendering

We will probably render in Maya and export our renders towards After Effects.
I’ve looked around and tried some simple rendering techniques and found out Mental Ray can create a lighting based on an image.
The results are quite nice and it might be what we are looking for.

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Mental Ray image lighting test

Mental Ray creates a sphere based on the image to create a realistic lighting. With the right textures and a good bump map it creates a nice render that could blend in with the scenery.
I have no doubt that this could work for background assets like trees and rocks, but will it work on the animated monster?

Sources:
Green screen basics:

Tips for green screen:
http://tubularinsights.com/7-tips-set-up-professional-green-screen/
Getting the best green screen chromo key setup:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2E601B-ktg