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Old 05-12-2008, 10:54 AM   #1
Peligroso
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Default First project: Animated short movie (getting started)

Hello,

I'm currently doing my first 3D course at the university, and I have to be done with a short animated movie (aiming for 1-2 minutes) by mid-January. I'm aware it might not be optimal to start out with a project where you have to animate a short movie, but I don't really have a choice

The plot is a bit odd but will be about this scary hamster who'll escape from a scary-looking mental asylum (which will only be seen from distance). He'll sneak about the stone wall outside the mental asylum and out into the woods where he'll find a random riot shield which he will use as a snowboard to escape faster. Randomly he'll also try a rail trick in the woods and after a cool and nice start he falls over at the end of the trick and will look up and see the "camera man" (well, just the camera really) for the first time and take a knife out and kill him. Bloodsplatter on camera lens. Maybe not the greatest story of all time, but hey

Anyway, I have to be done with models + textures by this Sunday midnight (although I am allowed to add more later) and will start the animation part of the course on Monday. I have quite a few objects left to create and texture, but my biggest problem (and what feels most important to have done by Sunday) is that my main character isn't turning out as I'd like him to.

I'm attaching a sketch that I made by hand as well as a render of how he looks right now. I'm also attaching a WIP render of the mental asylum and some other pictures that will be used as reference for some of my questions

Character sketch:
http://img131.imageshack.us/img131/6083/frontmj7.jpg

Character render:
http://img389.imageshack.us/img389/5214/render1qk8.jpg

Character head issue:
http://img218.imageshack.us/img218/8085/render2zy4.jpg

Character wireframe:
http://img218.imageshack.us/img218/4...reframecr2.jpg

Mental asylum WIP overview:
http://img50.imageshack.us/img50/4112/wip3gm8.jpg

A few questions:

1. First obvious point is that the fur looks like shit around his eyes, nose and mouth giving my character a scary look (childs' play vibes). I'm not really sure what to do here. The nose also really doesn't look good and I have no idea how to sort the fur out nicely around his nose and mouth. Should I change the length of the hair around them or how is that usually done? It feels like maya isn't responding well to fine/precise touches like removing the fur from the lips or similar. Also, any other things I should think about when making the mouth and such? As you can see in the wireframe picture, the mouth might not be constructed in an optimal way.

2. I'd also like to be able to actually change the shape of the eyes during the movie, and with my current model (with separate eyes) that wouldn't be good because of the fur. Would it work well to add some details to the model around the eyes and then remove some faces and simply merge the vertexes or is there a better way?

3. I'd like to be able to do some kickass lighting in this scene for my screenshots on Sunday. I've been looking into HDRI based lighting and I have quite a lot of HDRI pictures on my hard drive, but I'm not really sure what would suit this movie. It's winter and night time and outside setting. Any advices on how to get really cool light fixed?

4. I've run into many issues with my fur during this and you can see one of the remaining issues on top of the head in picture 2. I can't seem to remove the baldness up there. Any suggestions? Now, I might end up making a hat for him for this project (as in the sketch), but I'd still like to know how to resolve it.

5. Currently, you can almost not even see his feet, but they're very tiny feet because I couldn't figure out how to make them as they are in my sketch.

6. This is going to be a hard one to explain. For the mental asylum, I didn't use the optimal way to model the houses, and each block of houses is basically one object (extruded a lot). Now, I UV mapped these and snapshotted and textured each whole block of houses in the same file in photoshop. Using this method, I've brought in textures which I have then resized, placed and rotated to my likings. Now, I wonder how would one easily add a bump map or specular map for instance to a specific wall? Would I have to create a file with the same layout and resize and rotate the bump/specular maps exactly the same way as I did with the texture, or is there an easier way?

Any advices or comments are also highly appreciated. I'll do my best to keep you all updated with WIP screens as well as the finalized movie when it's done.
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Old 06-12-2008, 10:21 AM   #2
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Well, looks like it was a bad idea to write an essay with the plot and stuff and not to post any non-linked images. Really guys, I only have until tomorrow and I would really appreciate some help and feedback

I have a new render of the character now:



This brings another question to add to my first post though. This render took me 1½ hour on a pretty good computer (quad core 3 ghz, 8gb ram). I'm not really sure what changed because yesterday the same amount of fur and such took me about 15 minutes. Any ideas what may have caused a that big increase?

I have added some claws using merge vertexes, changed specular color for the fur (does that increase rendering time?) and done a bit of lighting tweaking, but nothing that dramatic that it should take that much longer, I'd think. Maybe it's the render settings, can someone recommend good settings that might be suitable for this kind of project (which I will have to animate) in that case?

Last edited by Peligroso : 06-12-2008 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 06-12-2008, 10:54 AM   #3
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As far as I know, you can paint up maps to influence the length, baldness etc, check the help for painting fur attributes or something. Get every thing grouped neatly and go make blendshapes so you can animate his eyes. I don't think HDRI is the answer in this situation, as it would require FG all the pains that go along with that, using cooler colors, I think you should do some thumbnail shots for the sake of color studies instead of feeling your way around in the dark (no pun intended ). I really wouldn't worry too much about render settings as these are tests, so keep them low. Are you using FG, are AA settings high? Stuff like that, even the settings on lights can increase render times so don't putz around with anything you don't need at the moment.

As a side note, the model doesn't look very much like the concept, I think the model should have a flatter and wider nose. The mouth wasn't modeled well for deformation, as its kinda just cut into the geo instead of following any kinda muscle flow so you will most likely run into issues animating it. Ahh enough rambling from me, good luck on the project.
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Old 06-12-2008, 11:03 AM   #4
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Thanks a lot for your comments.

I totally agree with you about the mouth and particularly the nose which I wasn't at all happy with, so I actually remade those earlier today. They're on the render posted above but unfortunately covered by the fur... don't really know how to adjust the fur to make it look good around those objects.


Anyway, here's a new wireframe shot, and I'm at least much happier with the nose now:
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Old 06-12-2008, 11:48 AM   #5
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sorry, can't help with the fur issue

eyes issue:
if you haven't made holes for the eyes in the head then you can't do much to have his eyes changing shape unless you animate the eyes itself. i dont know how well that will go down with fur though

feet issue:
you can't just extrude them out more?

texture issue:
you have the UV snap shot so you can just paint onto it like you would with the colour map.


as for your wireframe.... it looks like you have way too many non-functional edges.
painting weights is going to be a bigger pain that it needs to be when you rig it.
also, are you going to give him a bandana?
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Old 06-12-2008, 12:01 PM   #6
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Thanks for your comments

About the eyes, the biggest problem would be the fur one I believe. Currently, the eyes are separate objects and there's no geometry for them in the character mesh. I guess I should probably try to take some time to add the eyes to the body geometry. Unfortunately I have quite a few objects I need to finish until tomorrow so I might have to revisit that later.

Regarding the feet, I actually changed them as well earlier today. Still kind of not showing up in the render because of the amount of fur though.

I agree, it feels like I do have too many edge loops that aren't really of much use. As it's the first object I ever made I went with a smooth very early in the process which might not have been the best idea - unfortunately I don't have time to remodel it until tomorrow though, but I'll definitely consider cleaning it up later on. I have plans on maybe reusing this character in the future.

I'd like to give him a bandana. Unfortunately, I'm not really sure how I'd do it as I've never used cloth. I don't think it will be there by the deadline tomorrow, but I'd definitely like to add it.
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Old 06-12-2008, 12:23 PM   #7
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i'm not convinced you need cloth.

i doubt the head is going to deform the same way the arms and body would, so you can just model the bandana as a static object parented to the head.

as for the extra edge loops, just select every second edge or something, hold shift, right click and hit 'delete edge'. provided you didn't delete any crucial edges (namely those on the UV seams) you should be fine.
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Old 06-12-2008, 06:06 PM   #8
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i think you have shot yourself in the foot by using fur. usually its applied in composititng. I'm not sure if you know how to use shake or not, but if you dont and you just render out the fur and model from maya it will take a loooong time for a 1-2 min animation.

If it was me i would ditch the fur and work on the model more. A bald hamster could be very scary too

I know its late in the day for this, but its just a thought. It would save you so much bother towards the end of the project.

As for the fur issue, i think GecT was on the money when she said paint fur attributes.
could you show us the UV layout, because you need good UVs for fur.
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Old 06-12-2008, 07:19 PM   #9
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Hehe, thanks. I've also considered removing the fur but for now I'd like to keep it as long as possible. I think it looks pretty cute now apart from the head which still looks a little scary.

Here's my UV layout. Basically body, tail, arms and ears. The other pieces belong to the "fingers"/claws, I'm not really sure what happened with their UV's.

I'm not sure if these are good UV maps, actually they're probably not. Just don't really know how to solve it in a different way than doing cylindrical mapping for the different parts.
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Old 06-12-2008, 10:56 PM   #10
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How long do you have?
My advice:
-refine the story, you need some sort of pay off at the end, but this one doesnt make sense at all. Get the story right and everything else will follow.
-storyboard lots
-Refine character, i dont really read the character as being a hamster, I suggest since this is your first bit of animation having the character as literally a ball with a tail and eyes. It can be surprisingly expressive and alot easier than animating a quadraped.
-Ditch the fur , it really isnt working. For this kind of anthropized story, somthing stylised really works, forget bump maps and hdri, these things are geared for photorealism, pick apart a color pallete and use the toon shaders to hand pick your color range.

I wish you luck, the first one is allways the hardest
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Old 06-12-2008, 11:44 PM   #11
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Originally posted by LauriePriest
How long do you have?
Modelling - until midnight today. Animation - until middle of January.
Originally posted by LauriePriest
My advice:
-refine the story, you need some sort of pay off at the end, but this one doesnt make sense at all. Get the story right and everything else will follow.
-storyboard lots
Agree, the end is a bit weak. This is a character that I've been drawing in many situations over the past years. Basically, he's a maniac and got a bad temper and often kills things. I have done a storyboard but yeah, I do agree the end isn't great. Originally I wanted some sort of squirrel or something that would mock him, but there has been no time to model that squirrel. If I end up having spare time (unlikely) over the animation course I'd like to revisit that idea though.
Originally posted by LauriePriest

-Refine character, i dont really read the character as being a hamster, I suggest since this is your first bit of animation having the character as literally a ball with a tail and eyes. It can be surprisingly expressive and alot easier than animating a quadraped.
Well, "hamster" is pretty much just what I call it. It's not supposed to look like one - see the sketch. It's not a quadraped, he has legs and hands.
Originally posted by LauriePriest

-Ditch the fur , it really isnt working. For this kind of anthropized story, somthing stylised really works, forget bump maps and hdri, these things are geared for photorealism, pick apart a color pallete and use the toon shaders to hand pick your color range.
Hmm, I'm not sure. I think the fur looks pretty nice overall, I just really need to sort the face out, but apart from that I'm actually pretty happy with it. Might try to make it a little shorter though, and I might also end up doing him without fur if my render times keeps being this bad when rendering the movie.
Originally posted by LauriePriest

I wish you luck, the first one is allways the hardest
Thanks, I'll certainly need it. Thanks for your comments
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Old 07-12-2008, 02:47 AM   #12
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lol honestly... ditch the fur... i really think you need to work on the design some... for example it doesnt really read as a maniac to me.

Read up on classical short story structures, like for example a standard structure for someone escaping or trying to get out of somwhere:
-they try and get out
-they think they have
-they end up back where they started

Empathy is so so so important, if people dont have someone or somthing to empathise with they just wont care. Make us feel sorry for him.

I know you dont have long but its really worth spending atleat 50-60 % of the time on the planning, also be aware that good animators do around 2 and a half seconds a day.. and this is your first film, make it shorter if its within the brief, if its not then do really really stylised animation. Look at things like south park or family guy, it isnt full body animation, you are going to make your life really really hard with all the action your planning in this.
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Old 07-12-2008, 05:11 AM   #13
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Originally posted by LauriePriest
lol honestly... ditch the fur... i really think you need to work on the design some... for example it doesnt really read as a maniac to me.
Doesn't really need to be read as maniac. The guy in the sketch also doesn't look all that maniac. I will definitely consider removing the fur, but I like the challenge of making it look good first

Originally posted by LauriePriest
Empathy is so so so important, if people dont have someone or somthing to empathise with they just wont care. Make us feel sorry for him.
Agree, it's important to bond with him somehow. I need to figure something out but as I only have one hour left until first deadline I can't really change the story a lot :/

Originally posted by LauriePriest
I know you dont have long but its really worth spending atleat 50-60 % of the time on the planning, also be aware that good animators do around 2 and a half seconds a day.. and this is your first film, make it shorter if its within the brief, if its not then do really really stylised animation. Look at things like south park or family guy, it isnt full body animation, you are going to make your life really really hard with all the action your planning in this.
Yeah, I know. Unfortunately, we have had very limited time for the first part of the project and the same goes for the animation part (which is also over christmas). The reason to why there's so much action is because my teacher is expecting something like 3-5 minutes in this short period of time which isn't possible unless _nothing_ happens. I prefer doing 1-2 minutes with some action instead, but I am aware it's quite a challenge. I should also add that I doubt I'll be happy with the result, but I might end up refining it after course ends.
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Old 07-12-2008, 06:45 AM   #14
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Then your course leader is foolish, if they had any concept of the timeframes involved this wouldnt be expected of you. You can do fantastic stories with very little animation. You just have to really think outside the box (pardon the expression) look at shorts like jo jo and the stars. You have to push a strong appealing style in a strong simple narrative (dont do action, seriously not going to happen in your time frame).

I recommend you have words with your tutition staff about this project, its completely unrealistic considering your level of expertise.
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Old 07-12-2008, 07:17 AM   #15
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Originally posted by LauriePriest
I recommend you have words with your tutition staff about this project, its completely unrealistic considering your level of expertise.
These were exactly my thoughts when I read the initial post, but decided not to say anything since I didn't know who screwed up, in this case it doesn't seem to be the student. Indeed, heavy expectations for someone doing their very first 3D course (and a non-group project at that geez).
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