IxD and Assistive Technology

3D Modelling & Animation – Week 01

3D Modelling & Animation – Week 01

Thoughts

I should precede this post by mentioning that I really have mixed feelings about doing 3D modelling and animation as part of my course. At this point, i’m quite interested to see how my thoughts about the subject evolve over the semester and looking back on these early posts, what I will think.

In my mind at least, 3D is a tough business. There are a lot of young artists and designers out there that are falling all over themselves to get into the industry, making it competitive as hell. Combine that with some seriously complex knowledge required to be a contender and you have a recipe for zero social life. Take what we were introduced to this week when opening Maya for the first time…

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Ball. 4 ways

…it’s as though the interface has been designed by the same people who are responsible for the Starship Enterprise. Which is another reason that a passion for 3D eludes me at this point: it seems to have a distinct audience. Most of the amateur 3D animation I have been exposed to in the past has been, well, amateur. It takes a lot of work to get it to the level where it gains a life of its own and therefore an emotional response. And even if there has been a lot of work put in, that emotional response isn’t always guaranteed – take Final Fantasy for instance.

However, my glib critique of 3D isn’t totally justified. As with most of these technologies, as the hardware required to produce 3D becomes more and more accessible, the end product finds itself in more interesting places. Whilst not a new film, the combination of 3D and cell animation in Princess Mononoke (1997) is the kind of joining of technologies that really excites me (of course in part because it’s where I appropriated my DJ moniker from).

Work

Bouncing balls, bouncing balls, bouncing balls. It’s a staple of animation, apparently. Far be it from me to argue, so off I went to do some research and YouTube dished up a beauty. More bouncing balls than even my immense mind could handle…

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More seriously, there are some quality bouncing balls in that clip. So I whacked a loop of it in QuickTime and watched it over and over until my eyes started to bleed. Rather than simple, linear looped bouncing balls, I decided that emulating a ball thrown against a wall would be far more interesting. So, from there I quickly sketched a reference (keeping note of the important ‘squash’ and ‘stretch’ keyframes) before starting work in Maya…

bouncesketch
Bounce sketch

Taking things into Maya had an exciting added layer of complication, due to my wrist recently starting to play up. Yes, using a computer all day starts to take its toll on the fragile body. So, i’ve been trying to use my Wacom tablet as much as possible to decrease any risk of permanent RSI. Maya is one of those programs which if you find yourself accidentally mashing the keys in a fit of white-hot fury (which I have been known to do, once or twice in my time), you will find that your work has disappeared forever. Or, if you’re luckier, you’ll find it again, but your happy, bouncing ball has now turned into one of the soulless lead characters from Final Fantasy. Every key does something magical. So using this alien program with a graphics tablet I am still coming to terms with was… testing.

It’s probably for the best that I don’t yet know how to export movies from Maya, so you’re spared the jerky result of my bouncing ball for the week. However, I am finding the process quite interesting, and am looking forward to getting a better understanding of the physics of an object like this, so be prepared: a bouncing ball of awesome is in the works. In the meantime, take a look at a very static ball…

bouncemaya
So many possibilities for this ball

…clearly, it’s just begging to be bounced.

Inspiration

This has been doing the rounds on YouTube for a while, and whilst it’s not 3D modelling, it is fantastic animation and a downright beautifully executed concept. The idea of combining our 3D work with video capture is also something that appeals to me, so you’re likely to find some more videos along this line here in the future…

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