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Watch as author George Maestri employs the basic principles of animation to bring to life simple 3D characters in Maya. Starting with an overview of the character rig, this course provides guidelines for arranging stock characters into strong poses and explains how to generate locomotion between poses in a modular fashion. The course includes step-by-step instructions on animating realistic gestures, walks, runs, facial expressions, and dialogue, and culminates with an animated scene built entirely from scratch.
Prerequisite courses: Maya 2011 Essential Training.
Up until this point, we've been animating mostly the body of the character. Let's go ahead and look at some facial animation. We're going to start with one of the simplest tasks you can do in facial animation, and that's the blink. Now, blinks shouldn't be dismissed; they actually can give a lot of information about the character. The rate that the character blinks will determine his mood. A blink can also draw the audience's attention to the eyes. So if you have a change in eye direction or something like that, a blink can signal to the audience, hey, look at the eyes because something is going to change.
Blinks also let the audience know that the character is alive. If a character stands in a scene for a long period of time without a blink, it'll appear like a doll, and it won't appear like it's alive. So blinks have a lot of different uses. So let's go ahead and just do some very simple blinks. I have my full character up here. The actual scene is called Head CU, and it's basically just a close-up shot of the head. So all of the facial controls are here in this little box here. So the controls that we're going to be concerning ourselves here are the eyelids, and you can see here we have upper and lower lids.
So let's take a look at how these work before we actually animate them. So we can bring these down, and we can actually only bring these down about three quarters of the way, and that's fine because we actually have lower lids which can complete that lower part of the blink. So in order to completely close his eyes for a blink, we do have to work with both lids on this character. Now, other characters may be different, but this particular character is built this way. So one of the things you want to make sure is that you don't overextend the lower lids.
There is a point where they start to poke through the upper lids. So go ahead and play with that and get used to it, and let's go ahead and move on to the actual blink. Now the most important thing with a blink is the timing of the blink. So let's go ahead and do just a standard stock timing, and that's usually about a quarter second down and a quarter second up. So at 24 frames per second, which is how we're animating, it's six down, six up. So let's go ahead and select the upper and lower lids.
So I'm going to select both of these, all four lids, and we're going to go ahead and set a keyframe at 1. So I'm just going to hit S to set a keyframe. And then let's go ahead and start the blink at frame 10. This will give us a little bit of run=in time, so that when the blink starts, we'll have a sense of who the character is. So let's go ahead and hit S again to set another set of keyframes. So, now we have the eyes open at 10. So let's go six frames, in to frame 16, and we'll go ahead and close the eyes.
So I'm going to select the upper lids, bring them down, somewhere around there, and then take the lower lids, and then just match them, so that they're pretty much closed. So now we have the eyes closing, very simple. Now if we want to open those again, all we have to do is basically select all of these, so I'm going to select the upper and the lower lids, and I can basically just copy this keyframe. So I can right-click here, Copy, go over to frame 22, which is again, another six frames in, and just paste those keyframes.
So again, we're just pasting the open-eye pose or the keyframes that define the open eye. So now we have our blink. So let's go ahead and take a look at how it plays. Okay, it looks pretty good. So again, this is just a standard blink. Now if we want, we can slow this down or speed it up to give a different mood to the character, so let's go ahead and slow it down. I'm going to select these keyframes, these last two keyframes, so from frame 16 to frame 22.
So I'm Shift+Selecting on the timeline, and let's go ahead and move those back, say four frames, to frame 20. Then you'll select the one at frame 26 and move those another four, to frame 30. So now we've got a 10-frame blink. So this is actually going to be a very slow blink. Let's see how this plays. So you can see that this plays a little bit differently than the other blink, and this one is kind of more slow. It's more like a blink of realization, like he's suddenly coming up with an idea or something like that.
As easily as we can slow it down, we can also speed it up. So let's select our upper and lower lids again, and let's go ahead and move those keyframes around one more time. Now, another timing I like to do is called fast open. Basically, it means you close a lid as at a fairly standard rate and then you pop them open a lot more quickly. So I'm going to select the keyframe in the middle, the one at 20, and let's just move it back to 16. So again, we'll have six down, and let's make the up a lot faster.
So instead of at 16, let's put it to 19, so six down and three up. So it's going to open twice as fast as it closes, and this will definitely give a different feel to the blink. So, you can see it gives a much brighter feel. He opens his eyes a lot more quickly. So the whole point of this is that the timing of the blink is important. It conveys a little bit about the character mood. It also conveys a little bit about who the character is.
So a more alert character will blink faster; a slow, lumbering character may blink slower. So I'm going to go ahead and put this blink back to normal. I'm going to go ahead and select this keyframe at 19 and move it to frame 22. And let's go ahead and do a little bit more with this. So with this blink here, it's basically just the character is pretty much rock solid; there's really not much else going on. And again, this makes the character look more alive, but it doesn't make them look completely alive.
So one of the things I like to do is when the character blinks, I also like to add a little bit of head motion just to, again, give you the sense that the character is alive. So what I'm going to do is select this head control, and again, we're just going to mimic that motion with the head. So I'm going to set a keyframe at frame 1. The start of the blink is at 10, so let's go ahead and set a keyframe there. He blinks at 16, so I'm going to rotate this, and I'm just going to dip his chin just a little bit.
So now, as he blinks, his head comes down. Now you can do this in extreme, or you can do it just subtly. I'm going to do a little bit more subtly. And then we just need to return him it to normal. So again, I'm going to right-click, copy the keyframe at 10, and paste it at 22. So now in addition to the blink, I've got a little bit more head motion. So let's see how this plays. And again, just adding in a little bit of head motion really gives a much more realistic sense of how the character is playing.
So we can go back to frame 16, and we can dip this a little bit more to give a little bit more of an effect. So let's go ahead and make this a little bit more extreme. In fact, we can even tilt the head so he is not exactly on axis, and let's see how this works. As you can see, you can make this either subtle or extreme, and you can play around with it. So those were the basics of blinks. Now remember, just close the eyes, and the most important thing with the blink is timing.
And if you want to add a little bit more realism, just a little bit of head motion along with the blink will help to sell the motion.
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