Archive for May, 2010

Read any good books lately? I have!

Monday, May 24th, 2010

I haven’t been updating this blog as often as I should have, and I wanted to post a little to talk about what I’ve been working on the past few months.

I’ve recently completed my work contract with Maia Magnus Entertainment where I was brought in to work on a number of character rigs. I’ve done some rigging before for my own projects, but I’ve learned a lot in just a few short months and now feel like rigging is my strongest aspects. I’ve learned some MEL scripting as well, as well as customized Maya to speed up my workflow. I’d like to go into more details on the rigs but unfortunately I’m bound by NDA.

My work with Lich King Entertainment is still ongoing. I’ve spent most of my time studying texturing, using procedural nodes in Maya as a base to generate color, spec, and bump maps. I’ve recently incorporated ZBrush into the workflow, sculping the models in order to generate normal maps. I’ve also found ways to merge the normal maps out of ZBrush with pre-existing bump maps.

As for independent work, I’ve actually shifted gears a little bit and am reading up on character animation. I took a few classes at UGA and SCAD, but I was never formally trained in the ‘basics’ of character animation; I picked things up as I went along in my studies. I think I can churn out some pretty decent animation, but I know there are ways I can improve my workflow. With that in mind I’ve finally gone and read through The Animator’s Survival Kit, which I’m embarrassed to admit only reading now as I’ve had it on my bookshelf for the past five years (with it being recommended in my very first animation class back during my sophomore year in college). If you’re an aspiring animator, stop what you’re doing and order a copy of this book. It talks you through the basic concepts of animation and gives you case examples of every kind of walk cycle or character motion you can imagine. It’s geared a little more towards 2D animation than 3D, but the lessons transfer over between mediums very well.

I’m also taking a closer look at Acting for Animators. I took an acting class at UGA and while there’s a lot of overlap, this book is a pretty quick read and has some very valuable information as towards how to really ‘sell’ your characters’ behavior.

Maya is an amazing program and I know there are so many tools under the hood that I don’t know the first thing about that would help better develop my character animation skills. With that in mind I’ve recently ordered How to Cheat in Maya 2010: Tools and Techniques for the Maya Animator. I ordered this as a companion (or maybe foil?) to the Animator’s Survival Kit because as the name implies, this book is geared towards Maya users. I’m hoping I can combine the lessons in the two books to develop some new character animation pieces for my portfolio.

While we’re talking about learning resources, here are some books or tutorials I’ve studied that’ve really helped with my rigging work:

-The Art of Rigging Vol. 1 – The companion files and scripts that accompany the book alone are worth the very affordable $10 price tag. The information in this book is just a little antiquated, but it’ll guide you through how to put together some very powerful rigs and it goes into a good amount of detail about the MEL scripting that drives everything.

-Stop Staring: Facial Modeling and Animation Done Right – This book is specifically about setting up face rigs. They guide you through modeling a face and plotting out the geometry so that it’ll deform smoothly, as well as describes one-by-one the kind of blend shapes you’ll need to make a versatile rig. Like Art of Rigging, the companion scripts to this alone are worth the cost of the book— it includes a whole shelf of tools for things like setting up your blend shapes, building a UI for your face rig, and incorporating fix or half shapes is a snap. Highly recommended.

-Digital Tutors – It looks like they’ve gone subscription-only, but the tutorials on Digital Tutors have been a very valuable resource. I especially recommend their ‘Cartoon Character Rigging in Maya’ tutorial set; it doesn’t cover everything you’ll need to make an efficient rig, but combine this with the lessons in the Art of Rigging and Stop Staring and you’ll know everything you need to make a good rig.

That’s about all for now. Once I get my animation book in I’m thinking about redoing the animation in the Parkview Music Tech commercial, so I’ll post dailies as that comes along. Thanks for reading!

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