Here’s my June entry for the 11 Second Club, using the CG Cookie rig with some custom added texturing. I did a bit better with this one, 77th out of 190, I’m pretty happy with that. As usual though, I’d have liked more time on this to smooth a few problems out and give their faces a bit more expression. I’m still trying to figure out a good workflow with Blender as far as character animation goes. I’ve read various methods from different animators, so I’m just trying to settle on one that I’m comfortable with and is the most efficient. It’s very easy to get lost in keyframes for all the body parts early on so you need to use your time wisely.
This time round I worked up a rough 2D version in DigiCel’s Flipbook first. This helped when I started the blocking phase in Blender, and also helped me to iron out a few parts where I wasn’t sure how the body was going to move and what timing it would take, it was a very big help in the breakdown phase too.
My May entry for the 11 second club. I actually managed to enter this one, but only placed about 120th out of about 240 entries. Tried to concentrate on the lip sync on this one and keep it simple. A bit more time would have been nice to polish it up more.
Blender 2.66 with a slightly modified Cookie rig.
Here’s a beautifully made 3d short about a ballerina who learns that she must be content with her life in a clocktower since she plays such an important role in the life of her village. Made a few years ago by Californian Cara Antonelli, for her senior thesis animation at the Ringling School of Art and Design. Cara is now a conceptual illustrator and 3d artist, and is currently working on Madagascar 3. You can check out more of her work over on her blog at Carakhan.com.
Great characterisation, nicely rendered, and brilliantly funny, and although it’s 3 years old now, it’s still one of my favourite 3d shorts. It was 4 years in production, and you can check out some behind the scenes podcasts and even get a special edition DVD over at the Pigeon Impossible website. Definitely worth a look if you’re interested in how a short is put together.
I came out to the back garden yesterday and found this lovable guy playing on the patio!
Another test for Blender using the camera tracking feature. I’m still practicing with this quite a bit, and trying to check out its capabilities since I still get quite excited by the results. Considering this was footage just shoot on my iPhone 4s it turned out pretty good. Blender currently only has camera presets for the top end cameras, so finding sensor sizes and focal lengths for the iPhone on the net can be tricky. However, I found a post over in Blenderartists where Malcando has been collecting settings which seems to have worked perfectly.
I took the opportunity to test out my iRover rig too. It was a productive experience since I’ve discovered a few things that need sorted out before I use him again, particularly his feet. They need some tweaking since they don’t seem to rotate around the z axis without twisting. I had also previously added IK/FK switches too, but I don’t think he’s going to need any FK control for his feet. I may simplify the rig and remove the FK controls. I also need to add in some custom control bones to make the rig easier to pose. And I still have to work on his textures, particularly his eyes, which I intend to have as a digital style display.
This is the first relatively successful track I’ve managed to create with the new motion tracking features in Blender 2.62. I wasn’t really concentrating on the animation too much, I just gave the little dragon guy a bit of life to see how well he would sit among some live footage. I’m still trying to get the hang of it, I haven’t done much 3d motion tracking in the past (plenty of 2d though). This footage I just shot on my iPhone at my desk, so the compression and motion blur on clip isn’t overly conducive to tracking but with a bit of fiddling and tweaking by hand I eventually got a decent timeline. I had downloaded various clips from the internet, if you do a search for ‘free tracking clips’ you’ll find a few places to download them from, but I was having trying to find sensor sizes and focal length for these particular clips. I then decided to shoot some footage with my phone since I already knew these details and finally got this result. It’s far from perfect but it’s a good start with a Blender feature which I can see fast becoming a powerful tool in my arsenal of vfx tools.
This is Sally, she will be the other star of the iRover short, in other words iRover’s owner. I built her head over the past couple of weeks and her body was adapted from the Pepper model I built a while back. I was never happy with Pepper’s head, the topology was very messy and didn’t animate very well. Here’s my initial sketch of her, I did play around with her proportions quite a bit.
So I did a bit of searching and found a few good professional workthroughs on youtube that helped me sort the head topology out. So a quick thank you to Angela Guenette of Ponder Studios for her ‘Sintel’ making of videos:
And also a thank you to Glen Southern over on 3D World’s youtube channel for his 14 episode topology workthrough. Be warned his whole tutorial is around 2 hours long.
After studying these videos for a bit, I started building Sally’s head and got a better feel for the flow of the curves, it’s looks and feels a lot better now, and I’m 100% confidence that it will animate a lot better.
I recently bought a copy of ‘Stop Staring – Facial Modeling and Animation Done Right’ by Jason Osipa. For anyone wanting to perfect their character animation and acting, this book is a must. A couple of things though, firstly, the book is mostly geared towards using Maya. However a lot of the basic principles can be translated to many other software packages with a bit of tweaking, which brings me to the second point. In my opinion you would need to have a good intermediate knowledge of your chosen 3d program to be able to work with the book if your not using Maya. All that aside, there is an amazing amount to be gleaned from the book, from lipsync, the main principles of mouth shapes or ‘visemes’ and how to control them, all the way through to the correct topology when building a head. Well worth the money.
So I’ve been trying to translate the principles of using one bone in the armature to control Shape keys with IPO drivers in Blender to get some basic lipsync working on a rig. I haven’t gone into any of the eye controls or expressions yet, but that will just be an extension of what I’ve created here. I’ve only used three shape keys here, the X location of the bone controls the narrowness of the mouth and the Z location controls the openness. Just a basic setup to make sure I know how it all works before I take it onto a proper rig.
This weeks 3d short is a simple and beautifully animated film from the Ringling College of Art & Design, called ‘Heavenly Appeals’, made by David Libse.
‘After many millennia of being tortured in Hell, Raymond K. Hessle has finally earned a chance to appeal his sentence of Eternal Damnation. Upon arriving at the “appeals” gate of Heaven he is greeted by the angel who will preside over his case. As Raymond waits at the edge of paradise, he will finally have a chance to prove just how worthy he is.’
It’s a simple story, with a simple setting. The characters are perfectly designed for their roles, but the biggest strength is the character acting. The angels expression just after he stamps the appeal is priceless, and just watch his face at the end when he realises what is happening to him.
Here’s the first of a continuing series called ‘Sunday Shorts’ where I’m going to highlight some of my favourite 3d shorts, in a bid to inspire both myself and anyone else who loves creating character animation.
First up is the popular and very well received ‘Big Buck Bunny’. Big Buck Bunny was the second short produced by The Blender Foundation in 2008, and has won two awards, the MovieSquad Audience Award and the HAFF Audience Award.
Big Buck Bunny was a follow-up to the ‘Elephants Dream’, the Blender Foundation’s first short which was intended to show off and develop the capabilities of the free, open source 3d package Blender. Whereas Elephants Dream was more abstract and dark, it was felt that on the second project the key words should be ‘funny and furry’. The main purpose of the project was to show that Blender could handle ‘Pixar’ style character animation and rendering, while also making the story and comedy paramount.
It was cleverly funded by presale orders of the DVD and from various sponsors and subsidy funds.
You can read more about Big Buck Bunny at www.bigbuckbunny.org.
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