Friday, 18 March 2011

Rigging Mushrooms

On completion of the textures, it was time to start planning out my scenes and knowing exactly what needs to be done. There was a basic layout set up for the mushroom scene, which will later be spruced up with all the textured plants by one of our 'gardeners' Matt Luxton and hopefully will look really nice because I'll have the camera shots ready to hand over so the shots can have good composition and have some nice framing too.

The problem was with the bouncy mushrooms. It wasn't really thought about until the character rigs were ready and I needed to animate. In the tests I did just before Christmas, there were some basic rigged mushrooms, as nurbs curves:

And the problem was that they wouldn't move around at all, it just didn't happen:

That and there were some lovely new models that would replace the nurbs ones. Due to everyone getting along with their tasks and wanting to start animation as soon as, and work to get it done in time for render, I decided to have a dab hand at rigging mushrooms. I was given a basic setup to start with, so I knew where to put stuff according to the world space:

I took this and placed the newly modelled mushrooms according to how I would animate the characters jumping along the mushrooms with just the right gap between them; as they were a bit spacey in the above image, considering the plants were fairly big in relation to size of the character.

After setting up the mushrooms, I opened a fresh scene and put two mushrooms in and started my foray into rigging mushrooms. If you ever want to rig a mushroom here it is:

First you need to create some clusters, and place them where the areas to be affected, are. So make sure you're in the Animation control and go Create Deformers -> Cluster. Then place it at the top of the mushroom cap and do the same but place it at a low point of the mushroom cap.

After this we need to set up the affected areas, so when we move that cluster the mushroom also moves. We next select the area we want to be affected with vertices, and go a bit beyond that to give a nice dropoff, and then select the cluster. Then, Edit Deformers -> Paint Cluster Weights. You can now paint over the area you want to be affected, the images below show how I did it on my caps for the top, and the low point:

After painting our areas we can grab the cluster and see how the deformations are, if they're a bit off go to the Paint Cluster Weight tool and select the right cluster and edit till satisfied. (It helps massively to give them a name to know where stuff is in the outliner, or if you have more than a couple clusters in a scene to not get mixed up.)

Once satisfied with the results, we need some controls to easily pick and animate away. Create two NURB's circles and place them roughly in line with the clusters so there's a more accurate way of seeing how far you are moving the affected area up and down.

Important Step: Always freeze the transformations on the controlling element! An excellent habit to get into! So select the circle and in the channel box, highlight Translate, Rotate and Scale (or whatever changed) and Freeze them all. It provides you with a zero point to go back to, where you freeze it, it will become the origin so to speak. So when you start animating, you'll know the original shape/place of the object by zeroing the values.

The last step is to connect it all up, and I used a parent constraint to do this. So select what the parent will be, the Circle and then the child, the Cluster. Then Constrain -> Parent and go to the little box to set any restrictions or keep all the options open for the animator. If you wanted to restrict the movement, I locked the relevant items out in the channel box of the NURB's circle. (And hide them away if it was a definite that translate/rotate/scale wasn't needed as I did for scale on the final scene mushrooms)

This image below roughly shows the process of the Freezing and Parent Constraining:

Below are the quick tests I did after I'd finished rigging and weight painting them, to see how they bounced and squished in the test scene:

These last two videos are of the test I did with the creature, creating the bounce in the mushrooms in conjunction with character animation, mainly deciding on any other tweaks I could do to make the mushrooms look 'real' enough. After this I did go back and edit the weights on the more rounded mushroom (last jump one) to make the up and down more of smooth and make the polygon edge of the weighting less noticeable. With my textures, they should look pretty good.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


Over the past few weeks I've been helping anywhere I can with whatever I can. Animation hasn't started yet because of huge problems with the apprentice and hunter rigs, mostly with their weight painting and lack of facial controls so while that gets fixed I've been making my way through a pile of textures and after finishing them, there's now a lot less that has to be done or thought about for everyone else. So a little mission accomplished there, for now.

It's actually been rather nice to take a hold of doing something else, because I feel I'm getting way more achieved than just going over much testing and testing of the rigs for weeks on end, that aren't nearly ready for animation yet due to lack of facial control. Because of actively knocking more and more stuff off that huge to-do list, everything seems to be piecing itself together at a better rate and I've taken a big load of someone else's shoulders who'd have had more work to do. All good :) So when the rigs are fully ready, I can jump straight into animating and get going on that and working to get lots more knocked off that list. Awesome.

Below I have laid out most of the textures I've been doing and stuffed a couple in the same shot because as they are just variations of a similar type, they didn't deserve their own spotlight since they're pretty much the same kinda thing. They're done by near enough an order of start to finish, however they've all been screen grabbed since finishing this section first so extras such as with the first image, a few variations were done later:

After creating these textures, I wanted to see how well they worked in harmony with other, before starting on the mushrooms and the rest of the trees. This is a basic lighting test I made using a quickly thrown in environment light; I did this to make sure that all the textures I created stayed within the same colour palette. However, when I did lighting last year I knew that lighting can make or break a film, and it can also be played to an advantage to hide a lot of stuff, but since we are on massive time constraints there won't be time for a huge amount of testing time. That and it's far easier to keep everything within the same palette anyway, so I'll just go with the latter. So after some amount of scrutiny I made a few tweaks on the tallish sticky-with-a-bulb-on-the-top-plant (after and creating more variations for the palmy plant, I think it all looks rather coherent:

After working away on the low lying plants and trees of the jungle, next on the texturing agenda was the mushrooms. My favourites to texture along with the bulb plants, no idea why these appealed to me but at the time, painting these just came to me and I decided I loved mushrooms! It was nice to get given 4 different mushrooms to texture, 1 was without the circular (red-blood-cell-looking-things-on-the-sides) 2 mushrooms the same, but one had 2 small mushrooms poking out and the other didn't. The last one is not there because the tiff really didn't like the Maya view port at the time, but that one has a huuuge top and I'll point it out in a later post if it gets snapped.

After I'd finished plodding along with what I could for the jungly plants, it was onto the next mission: the camp scene, before heading back to animation as the rigs were nearing completion of fixing before I started the next few textures. Luckily though I managed to learn a lot about the texturing process and becoming quicker at knocking a texture map out. Now I find it a kind of second nature flitting around in photoshop, getting the right painterly feel. These were done in about a day and a bit with a polishing up:

The stove I started with first as I knew it would be kinda tricky to get the brassy/rusty feel to it which I think I managed to achieve. Looking back however I would approach painting the UV map differently, but that is the learning process for you. The frying pan somehow managed to be a bit of a mind boggler for me, just because I was probably tired, but they (for some reason) took me ages to get right. (Even if it is black and you don't see it that much.)

I've learnt so much more about photoshop in doing these textures, mainly with the use of brushes, grabbing two presets, combining them and changing the settings to get a good base brush coat. But mostly it's the use of colour and picking the right colour that I've learnt most about. At the start of doing these textures I would pick plenty of image reference to use and mix together these colours and create plenty of different tones and shades, that I would then use to paint the final texture. The more I got used to picking the colour off images, I would instinctively pick the right kind of hues to go with what I'm thinking about of that certain plant or object, so when it reached the mushroom texture from the colour changing thing (I don't remember the name) but in the colour I wanted. And this is the main reason I started relatively slowly in completing textures to begin with because of the process I had to undergo with learning colour and picking the right ones; and what I have learnt has been massively helpful and will undoubtedly prove invaluable to know when I come to create concept work and more textures.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Animations Testing

To start, I'm going to post an updated video of the creature walk because in the last video you can't really get the jist of what's happening in a second, I can't anyway, so I'm posting a much better version and as a bonus one with controls and the other without:

After getting better videos for my creature walk, I can now delve into Jeffrey Chide. Before breaking up for the Christmas holiday I expressed an interest in animating for Craig and his film Jeffrey Chide as I wanted as much work to do as possible and push myself as hard as I can. That and his film would be extra, extra hard for him to complete without a pair of animator's hands ready to help him out. Jeffrey is a very sad little guy, who only wants to get noticed. But every time he tries people just ignore him as as a result he slowly becomes flatter and flatter. And that's Jeffrey.

So back into full swing of the new term Craig came in to give me the rigs for the characters so I can test them out. Here are some of the walk tests I've been doing with the characters 2D Jeffrey and Rod, a general extra in the film. My little job was to test them out for their flexibility and to report back any problematic issues in the rigs. Now I'm no rigging expert but I've been around enough to know the kind of hierarchy system and ways it kind of works, and these seem a bit messed up and all over the place. The rigs work, but the outliner isn't exactly laid out nicely so that if there is something substantial wrong I can't easily see the stuff because it's all jumbled up. The other big issue I noticed was the bad or lack of weight painting to 2D Jeffrey in particular which you'll notice in Jeffrey's legs and them not bending correctly. Another weighting issue was on Jeffrey's back where if you rotate his arm too much, geometry spazzes out on his back.

The first two walk tests are Jeffrey and the next two are the Rod tests:

In terms of animation they still need to be pushed a lot further, but for quick tests of the rigs to see what they can do and how much needs to be done to make them better, they will do for now. Things for me to keep in mind, is overlap and more secondary animation like the hands on 2D Jeffrey floating down and being carried back up. On Rod there needs to be better foot movement, which when the rigs are fixed a bit more, it will provide me with this freedom. Next time I approach the walks I'll keep all this in mind and add in a bit more squish to them when they tilt to the left and right as well as twisting them round more to the left and right so there is a greater sense of weight as it all feels quite light at the minute.

Testing stages, over and out for now.