Producing an Animation (part 1)

I must admit that today had seriously tried my patience, in terms of what I’m doing right and wrong. We continued to learn about the animation workflow, moving into production if we had finished our previous steps (which I thought I had). Before we began working on out idents, we had a small introduction to animation passes and animation blocking.

When animating, animators will work through their animation in passes with a particular focus. They will go over their animation a multitude of times in order to get the perfect animation, timing, look, etc. The first pass will always be what’s called animation blocking; all of the key poses of the characters and scene will be blocked out (this can sometimes be called a pop through, because the animation is no longer splined but rather pops through the key poses). This animation blocking can be achieved very easily in Maya by changing some settings in the graph editor.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of my own stepped graph, since I didn’t get past the issues I was having with my rig. I sadly also don’t have a playblast, for the same reason.

What I was attempting to do today was finish rigging up my squid with deformers so I could animate him moving across the screen. Having done this recently, I didn’t have too much trouble with that step – each leg got its own bend deformer and I needed a little help from Matt to adjust the squash deformer. The body would squash away from the legs, which are separate meshes, but he showed me how to position it and play with the low/high bounds so it would work nicely.


As seen on the left, I had to rework the hierarchy after adding in the new bends. I also named them, so it was a little easier to tell which bend went with which arm.

The NURBS circle is positioned on the ground and the parent of all items to make moving the model a lot easier. I will have to look into how to add handles at a later date, so re-positioning the deformers can be made easier, too, but at this point in time I have… bigger squid to fry.


The NURBS circle was easily made and modified from the curves/surface circle shape; with some extra vertices added, it was made into a star-like shape instead.


The squid rig itself looks fine (to me) and feels like it shouldn’t be giving me any issues. I kept the movements simple (so I thought) and didn’t want to add too much bend and sway in the legs, since the propulsion in my scene was going to be small.

Every step from this point on has caused a headache. I cleared out my history and froze my transformations, which Maya didn’t really like 99% of the time:


I persevered despite this and got to making my character rig, which wouldn’t let me add keyframes after adjusting the squash or the bends in the legs. I deleted it and tired again another two times until I asked Matt to come over. He suggested it wasn’t wise to include the legs and body in the character set, instead only having the bends and squash as part of the set. I thought this would fix it, so I did it gladly, but it still won’t accept keyframes at all.

Having come home and tried again after being told to try shutting May down and starting again, it doesn’t set any keyframes at all now. I thought that strange and decided to go in and delete all the character sets from earlier in the day, delete non-deformer history, and attempt to make a fourth character set.

Much to my chagrin, it still doesn’t work. Also to my annoyance, I don’t actually know where I went wrong, since for a little while the squash deformer changes were being set, even though the other changes to the rig were not. It was something, but now I feel set back by a week. I’m not too sure where to start trouble-shooting, so I think instead I’m going to have to revert back to my save from before today’s work, try rigging and setting the hierarchy again, then see if I can get it working with a fresh save.

I wish I could say I’m enjoying the process of animating my own rig so far, but I can’t say today has been a pleasant experience. I’m going to see if I can track down Matt for a little time of Friday, if only for guidance on where I may have gone wrong throughout today’s class. Overall, I feel like I need some time and dedication to getting this right, because it irks me to think I may have to give up on my idea and use one of the models Matt has on offer. This would mean I’d have to start everything from scratch, including coming up with a new idea. I want to try and fix this first by the next class before I have to resort to that.


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