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Technically inclined animators

Posted on June 13, 2020 
Filed Under Animation | Leave a Comment

Yes animators can switch 3d software after a bit of training but there is no way an animator can be proficient in Maya, 3dsmax, AND Blender, when I would highly recommend to gain software specific knowledge, especially if you work in a small production or at a studio with no animation production experience.

Back in 2014, I joined Doodle Productions for the production of “Messy the Monster” season 01.

The company came from Architecture 3d visualisation so we had to use 3dsmax when most animators were Maya users. It didn’t take too long for the animators to get acquainted with 3dsmax as we used regular Euler based rigs and not 3dsmax’s proprietary “Character studio” (“biped”).

One issue we faced though, was the fact that we only had one rigger so it was close to impossible to get additional features and after all, there is no way a character TD can anticipate all the needs of the animators. Most of the time, I wouldn’t even bother and added the missing features myself.

In the following shot, the prop had absolutely no rig. I went ahead and added a bend deformer to make the motion of the trumpet look a bit more smooth, and a “lattice” deformer to visually convey the sound of the trumpet.

On that show, “Messy”, the main character, had two fluffy ears and a massive tail with no dynamics. At a quota of 6 to 8 seconds a day in 3dsmax, most animators gave up on animating those appendages which looked very jarring. Instead, the most technically inclined animators started using a script to simulate dynamics as we felt it was a good compromise to soften the stiff pose to pose look.

The script helped massively but like most simulations, the result needed some additional work to art direct the result and get the tail to resolve in Messy’s question mark trademark posing.

6 years later, I am still mesmerized by the tail animation and if you are curious enough and browse other animators showreels, you will quickly see the difference with shots where no simulation was used.

Don’t forget to read this article about David Gibson’s fantastic use of deformers on the first opus of Sony’s “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs”.

Thanks for reading.

Ton Roosendaal, Blender philosophy

Posted on June 7, 2020 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

Being my professional workhose since 2007, I have been naturally promoting Autodesk Maya on this blog, with some occasional foreays into Blender when enraged at the price of Maya’s license/subscriptions, then back to Maya when Autodesk introduced the free “Maya and Autodesk softwares for Displaced professionals” back in 2012. to support professionals during challenging times.

That scheme gradually disappeared without much noise and recently Autodesk introduced various options on top of the classic educational subscriptions.

Currently, you can get Maya LT, a 300 dollars a year cut down version of Maya that unfortunately doesn’t allow you to run most of the free animation rigs available on the market so for animators who want to focus on character performance this is a no-go. Python is not available either when everybody in the industry uses Python and scripts like AnimBot or any Phython scripts won’t run on it. Rendering is not possible, dynamics are not available, referencing is missing….

Then in some selected countries, you might have access to Maya Indy which is the full feature Maya, for “artists earning under $100,000/year in revenue.” This would perfectly cover hobbyist living in those 5 countries if only there wasn’t a catch! So what is the catch? The catch is, that this scheme is only valid for … one year .. then your subscriptions automatically gets renewed at 250 a month ;-)

With my inclination for education and support for struggling populations in the light of the murder of George Floyd, I just can’t continue predominantly posting articles related to Maya.

“Learning 3d at home is a way for modest populations and kids, to potentially gain access to employment and revenue streams”

Learning 3d at home is a way for modest populations and kids, to potentially gain access to employment and revenue streams, outside of expensive institutions and without incurring lifetime debts or adopting piracy habits.

Sorry, that’s a long winded introduction to finally explain that I will start covering Blender more and more on this blog ;-)

This first Blender post is a two years old video but a major one as Blender founder Ton Roosendaal, will cover the history of Blender, its philosophy, and its challenges with some interesting comparison with Autodesk and Zbrush.

I never dug too deep into Blender in the past as the interface and the Right Mouse Button (RMB) slection really annoyed me. Unlike some other software creators (TV Paint, Zbrush…), they realised that they shouldn’t force users to their philosophy and accept that some user interaction have now become standard, the left mouse click (LMB) for selection for example.

There are plenty of interesting bits in that video and 1 hour into it, Ton reckons there are just below 20/35k paying Maya customers and less that 20 developers working on it. This could explain why we get so many half baked features every releases and makes me wonder how many companies might be using pirate copies.

If you are in a hurry, Andrew Price was nice enough to include timecodes in the video description.


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