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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.
At this point we have about half the animation done. We've animated the body and the head of the character resisting that motion of the platform. So let's see where we are at. You can see that as the platform moves forward, he kind of bends into it and then as it moves backwards he looks over his shoulder, very simple. But you can also notice that the arms are still swinging like pendulums. They are very limp. They have absolutely no motor control. So let's go ahead and add the control of the character.
Now before we do anything we need to pause and consider what the acting point is at this part of the story. So at this part of the story, I think the character simply wants to balance himself. So as this moves forward, he's going to put his all arms out to the side a little bit, almost like a tightrope walker who's trying to keep his balance. So this will be our first pose and then as he moves back, we can use the arms to accentuate that looking over the shoulder. So let's go ahead through the first half of this.
We are going to working with the left arm, so I am going to select the left shoulder, zoom in a little bit here, and then Shift+Select the left elbow and the left wrist. I want to make sure that I have a keyframe for all of those at Frame 1, so we are going to start keyframing. So as we start rotating these joints, the keyframes will naturally come up. So as he moves forward like this, again, this arm is back like a pendulum. We wanted out like he's trying to keep his balance.
So let's just go ahead and pose that in. I am going to start with the shoulder and just work my way down the arms. I am going to go ahead and move his shoulder out from the body and then I'm going to bend the elbow a little bit. Now this is actually pretty important, because when the elbow is stiff that means that the only force acting upon it is the force of drag. When he bends it, that's the indication to the audience that he is under control, okay. So that gives a really good symbol that the character is controlling his arm.
And then we can also play with the wrist a little bit. We can actually maybe rotate it around to get a nice little kind of arc there. So now we've got a much stronger pose. So let's go ahead and take a look at that. So that first part of it, it looks like he is under control. Now contrast this to the other arm which we haven't dealt with yet and you can see that at that point this arm still looks pretty limp. So let's go ahead and affect this. I am going to go ahead and select my shoulder, my elbow, and my wrist on the right arm.
S to set a key and let's go forward to Frame 8 and we will go ahead and pose him again. So I'm going to rotate that shoulder out and then bend this elbow a little bit and then maybe even bend this wrist a little bit. So again, I am getting kind of a sense that he is catching his balance. So you can kind of see that in this pose a little bit. So again, I'm just trying to get a good solid pose. Now I am not going to worry so much about the hands or the fingers at this point.
Let's just go ahead and just work with the main joints of the arm. So now at this point he is getting a good sense of balance. Things aren't working because we never keyframe the elbow and the rest of the arms throughout the rest of the animation. So we need to kind of do that. So I am going to go ahead and select the shoulder. And you can see what's happening here is that that arm is wanting to go kind of back to its normal position, but I don't really want that. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and just select both shoulders and we are just going to keyframe them forward from this point forward, so I am going to select both shoulders and then there's keyframes from 20 on.
So I am going to delete everything, but frame 48, which is my loop point, and I want to make sure I keep that. So I am going to go ahead and delete those keyframes. So now he comes out and then I can determine at Frame 25, which is where he starts moving back, where those joints are going to be. So first thing I want to do is just kind of rotate it down. He is going to relax just a little bit, so I am going to rotate that left shoulder down, maybe a little bit forward, and then also relax that elbow just a bit.
Same on the other side. Let's go ahead and just relax that a little bit and bring that down and relax that elbow just a hair as well as this wrist. There we go. So now he's kind of going wow! And then he is kind of relaxing just a little bit and then we get this backwards motion. So right there as he is looking over his shoulder we have a really good opportunity for a strong pose. So I'm going to move that arm out and back. He is looking over his shoulder.
Kind of like that. And then do the same on the right shoulder, just kind of move it out a little bit. You know, again, he is looking over his shoulder. And also his spine is turning, so this arm is going to want to stay a little bit in front of him, okay. So now he's doing this and it should actually give him much stronger pose. Yeah, so, now that looks like he's really looking over shoulder. The shoulders and the arms really help with that animation.
So now here at Frame 48 we need to kind of unwind that, so we can cycle it. So what I want to do is just go ahead and hold that arm motion in a little bit longer, so maybe until about Frame 40, and then kind of relax it just a little bit, move that down and again relax that elbow just a bit, and then I want to cycle it. So I want to copy the keyframes from Frame 1 to Frame 48.
So to do that I need to select all the arms, so this actually is one reason why I might want to create a button on my timeline, just to select the arms. Not too hard to select them at this point, so I am not going to go ahead and do that, and then just do paste, so now we are back at the arms. So now we have a reasonably good cycle. Let's go ahead and play what we have. So we can tweak this a little bit more, but as you can see, we have added the character into this equation.
When we started, he was just being pushed around like a rag doll. Now his motor control is resisting those forces and it gives him a little bit of a sense of character. Let's go ahead and play this one more time. So you can see that he's got motion that he is creating. That really is the key to character animation. What sort of motion is the character creating, in other words, what sort of animation does the character create?
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