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.
An important, early decision you must make is whether or not to
use skeletons in the construction of your character. The choice
you make will affect how the character will be animated. Skeletons
allow you to use inverse kinematics. For more on this, read the
relevant parts in Maya.
To learn about the tools for building and animating characters in Maya.
Read the man pages in Maya regarding:
- Maya: Tutorial: Animation
- Maya: Animation
What to do
- 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:
- Sketches of the character in a neutral pose (front,
back, side, and/or 3/4 views as appropriate), in various
typical poses, and in a few extreme poses.
- A written description of the personality of the character.
- Sketches of the construction of the character
indicating how pieces are grouped, what pieces and
groups are named in Maya's Outliner/Hypergraph windows, and the articulation
parameters and constraints that control the model.
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
- 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
- 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.
Cliche example: sitting sad
Another example: scoring soccer goal
- background context: Character just realized that she
forgot all about and thus completely missed Friday
night's showing of Citizen Kane.
- visual cues: initial
shock and dismay, followed by profound sadness --
drooping shoulders, arched spine, elbows bent to help
support heavy head, etc.
- background context: Character is kicking ball for the
final score in the championship game.
- visual cues: prepared to kick, intense concentration,
maybe anxiety, followed by kick, followed by relief,
What we're looking for
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Bring your model sheet to class on Wednesday. Bring the final,
annotated model sheet to the critique on Monday. Before the
critique, create a group directory in the critique/character
directory and place there the following:
- README file with who-did-what information.
- Rendered images showing neutral, natural, and extreme
poses. Images should be in .tif format.
- A flipbook animation of an expressive action or reaction.
- Any other interesting or informative animations or images
you want to turn in. Please explain what they are in the README
In summary, you should handin the files listed below to Blackboard
To handin a file (click thru the following menu options):
Communication > Group Pages > Project 4: Char. Model FINAL > File Exchange > Add File
Please include all 3 files in one .zip file. Remember, you will be marked down if you do not follow the case and name
conventions listed here-no extra underbars or caps please! Also ensure that this zip contains a folder with your group name (zip
the entire folder, please). Please also ensure you only hand in what is listed here-extra folders/files complicates creating the
Your .README files will be displayed in .html. If you want to add .html tags to make these display in a nicer format, feel
free to do so.
Any links you include in your .README must be enclosed in anchor tags.