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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.
So now at this point you should have animated the entire dialog line. So what we're going to do in this lesson is we're going to take the dialog and then we're going to add some acting on top of it. Now I have also animated the last half of this dialog, and let's go ahead and just take a look at what I have done. (Character: I've sworn off pancakes. I'm having French toast instead.) Now this computer doesn't play exactly real-time, so let me scrub through this a frame at a time just so you can kind of see what I've done. (Character: I'm having French toast instead.) Now your animation may be similar, it may be a little bit different, but the most important thing is that it looks good to the eye.
Dialogue animation, there is some science. There is some art to it, so there is room for interpretation, but regardless, the next step for this is to actually bring the character to life. All we've animated is his mouth. We haven't animated the entire character. We need to animate the body, the head, the eyes, and so on. So the first thing I want to do is get an idea as to what I want to do acting-wise for this character. One of the things I like to do is I like to move the character's head to the beat of the dialog. Now I think we can also add a little bit of acting to this to make the whole scene read better.
So let's go ahead and play this, and let's play it with the intention of understanding how the character is going to move. (Character: I've sworn off pancakes. I'm having French toast instead.) One of the big concepts in this is that he's sworn off pancakes. That's a negative connotation. That means he is shaking his head. And actually, I think that would help to sell this little bit of dialog is to have him kind of shake his head no as he says the word 'sworn off'. Let's go ahead and animate his head. So I'm going to select the head control here, and I'm going to set a keyframe.
Now we need to understand where exactly he is going to shake his head. (Character: I've sworn off.) So sworn off, somewhere around 10 to 20 is he is saying-- (Character: sworn off.) Okay, so we want to start him moving somewhere in this range. I'm going to go ahead and keep him centered until about frame 6, and then at frame 10, I'm going to rotate his head over a little bit. And then when you rotate the head, a lot of times it's best, for a more natural pose, just to kind of tilt it a little bit like that.
So that gets his head ready to swing the other direction, which is where he is going to say the word, or he is basically mimicking the word 'no'. (Character: I've sworn off.) So what we have here is a classic head-turn. So in the middle of this, between 10 and 20, what do we do in the middle of a head-turn? We dip the chin.
This will, again, add a little bit more realism. (Character: I've sworn off.) And then we also need to kind of return him to center. So what I'm going to do is go a little few frames out, say around frame 30 or so, and let's go ahead and just center him a little bit. (Character: I've sworn off.) So here at frame 6, I'm actually going to lift his chin just a little bit. (Character: I've sworn off pancakes.) And then somewhere around frame--right towards the end of this, I'm going to just go ahead and move the head just a little bit, just to give him a little bit of life.
Again, this is almost like a blink or something where you just keep--it's almost like a moving hold, actually. (Character: I've sworn off pancakes.) Now one of the things is that as the character turns his head, typically what happens is that the character will blink. So let's go ahead and add in a blink. So this kind of starts somewhere around frame 6. This is where he starts to turn his head into the head-turn. So at this point, I want to make sure that I get an open-eye keyframe.
So I'm going to select the upper and lower lids here and hit S to set a keyframe. I'm also going to go back to frame 1 and set a keyframe for that. As the character moves into this head-shake, he is going to blink. So a blink is about 6 frames. So I'm going to go ahead and go 6 frames in, so frame 6+6 is 12, drop his lids here, bring his lower lids up. (Character: I've sworn off.) Now one of the things is, I would like to actually keep his eyes closed through most of this.
This will actually add a little bit of emphasis. So what I can do is just select again both lids and just hit a keyframe again, so I'm keyframing this at somewhere around 12 and 18. And then again, 6 frames to open, so at frame 24, I want to make sure they're open. Well, I know I already have a keyframe with the eyes open here at frame 6, so I'm just going to copy and paste that. So copy and paste that to frame 24. So now we've got-- (Character: I've sworn off pancakes.) which is really good.
Okay, so this works really well. Then the thing I like to do is once I start with the blink, I like to just kind of toss in a few other blinks just to keep the character alive. Now one of the places I typically like to toss in a blink is where there is a break in dialog. This will keep the character alive. So we have a nice little break here, somewhere around frame 42 to frame 50, so we can put in another blink there. The easiest way to do this is to just start copying keyframes. So I've got a keyframe here at frame 24 with the eyes open, so let's go ahead and paste that.
I've got another one here at frame 12 with the eyes closed, so I can copy that. Let's go to frame 48, paste that. Okay, so six down. And then we can open them up again, so I can copy the one at 42, and let's open them up a little bit more quickly, so I've got at 48. Let's do open in 4 and do that at 52. So now I have a complete blink here, so let's take a look at this. (Character: I've sworn off pancakes. I'm having French toast instead.) Okay, so I want to add one more blink here, and I think the best place to put a blink is right before the word 'instead'. I am having French toast instead.
So that's actually kind of an emphasis, so I think I'm going to need a blink there. So let me go ahead and select all these, copy them, so I'm actually selecting all of the frames for that blink, and then I'm going to copy, go to about frame 80 and paste. Actually I think I want to move those over just a little bit. I want his eyes to close on the word instead.
So let's go ahead right around here. (Character: I'm having French toast instead.) So that works pretty good, but now we still need to finish up the head. We need to animate a little bit more of the head. Now one of things when you animate the head is, a lot of times when the mouth is open, the head will tilt back to open the throat. So one of the things you can do to give a little bit more of a realistic head motion is tilt the head back a little bit as the character opens his mouth, so let's go through and do some of that.
So one of things I do like to do is to make sure that I just kind of work with the head a little bit. And sometimes when I open the mouth, or when I tilt the head back, I want to make sure I tilt it forward beforehand to make sure that we have a little bit more room to tilt it back. So when it goes 'I'm', you want to kind of tilt that head back a little bit so that he has more room. It's almost like he is singing. You can see if I do it really extreme, he has this kind of tilted-back motion here.
But we don't want to tilt back that much, just enough to give a hint that it's doing this. In fact, I can probably move this a little bit more. (Character: I'm having French.) I think we do that for French. Toast is the next one. And so we've got the eyes closed on 'instead', and so I want to make that a little bit more of a broader motion. I'm going to tilt that back a little bit and then just return him to kind of a neutral position by the end of this. So this is just the head.
(Character: I've sworn off pancakes. I'm having French toast instead.) (Character: I've sworn off pancakes. I'm having French toast instead.) Okay, so this is just the head and the eyes. Now we still need to animate the body a little bit, so let's go ahead and do that in the next lesson. So let's go ahead and review what we've done here. We've animated the head to indicate the word 'no', when he says, "sworn off." We've also animated the head to open up the throat a little bit as he says the large vowels.
Now, typically when a character says the large vowels the head will bob up just slightly. Now I'm exaggerating this a little bit, but you can be more subtle if you're doing it for a more realistic character. So keep these little tidbits in mind as you animate your characters.
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