Project 4 : Character Modeling
Date Assigned: July 11th
Model Sheet Due: July 13th in class
Project Due: July 18th, 11:59am

Reading: Chapter 10 and 11
John Lasseter's SIGGRAPH '87 paper: Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation

In this assignment you will move beyond the still image and into the world of animated characters. As a group you will design, build and start animating a character. As you start thinking about your character and how it should move, use the eye for detail that you have been developing to study motion of things, people, animals in the real world.

Once again, new groups have been created. Unlike the past few projects, this project does not build on models from previous assignments. It does, however, build on your experience in creating and shading models.

Getting started

To learn about the tools for building and animating characters in Maya. Read the man pages in Maya regarding:

What to do

  1. As a group, think up an articulated character, i.e., one that is built from a collection of rigid pieces. Design and plan carefully. Some characters built now may very well figure in the final animation. To help organize and record your plans, make a model sheet for your character. This document should include the following:

    While creating this document may seem like a lot of extra work, it will definitely pay off later as people who were uninvolved in the modeling of the character attempt to animate it. It will also facilitate communication within your group as you do the modeling. The model sheet is not an optional part of this assignment. Hand in a copy in class on Wednesday.

  2. Build the character. Pose it in the various sketched poses of the model sheet. Make a note of the parameter settings used to achieve each pose, and add that information to your model sheet. This will come in handy next week when you will animate the character.

  3. Block out a simple action, that shows your character in a particular mood or reacting to a particular situation. To do this, create a keyframe pose for the beginning and the end of the action, and possibly one for the middle if needed. Render the resulting animation, letting Alias interpolate the motion its own way for now. This default motion will be a standin for the real animation, which is next week's project. For now, focus on conveying your character's personality through the key poses. Make up the story that leads up to the action. If we have time in the critique we will look at each action twice: first without hearing the story context and then again after.

What we're looking for

  1. The key here is coming up with a character that is interesting and expressive despite having entirely rigid pieces. Be creative! Think carefully about how the character moves and what the best way is to control it: what's the "root", is it controlled by forward or inverse kinematics, etc. All this information should be included in the model sheet.

  2. Here, the purpose is to implement the design of your character. The model should be built and shaded with the appropriate degree of detail: that is, as much as is necessary to make the character look good. If you can use model pieces built for a previous project, that's fine. Be prepared, however, to return to the drawing board if the model does not animate easily or well.

  3. Put yourself in your character's shoes. Act it out. This is all about body language. Your goal is to convey personality and emotion through the shapes of the key poses themselves. But don't worry about fine-tuning the actual motion. That's next week's project.

Turn in