Friday, 27 November 2009

Evaluation of Charcter Design Brief

Evaluation of Character Design - Unit 205

Now closing on the deadline just hours away i am going to write a summary of the events and problems i had faced. I can honestly say that this unit and not knowing what's what is like an emotional roller coaster. One moment you're thinking "yes yes i've done it!" and then you spot something thats gone wrong, like me somehow losing my RP Solver option in the drop box of IK handles, even with restarting maya it didn't re appear, so with a little help from google i ended up coming across some mel script which enters the option back into the drop box. WHilst doing this i learnt that you can enter different solvers into maya such as a Multi-Chain solver, which solves for multiple IK handles at the same time - used for rigs with complex motions when animating like a scorpion/spiders legs or tentacles.

Modeling and rigging were my main focus' as opposed to animating this term because at the beginning of this project i had absolutely no idea how to do these things to a decent standard, so i thought this was the best way to learn. I may not have come out with perfection but i thought that with the Idents i'd sort of done that type of brief in my 6th form, but i remember trying to decide whether to go for chop shop or character animation because i had so much reference material back at home in lincolnshire as i practically had two or three chop shops in my back garden! and there's always farm machinery just left there rusting. I could just visualize the possibilities for that. The thing which swayed me for character design was that as far as i know we are covering an environment project next term so i would be able to develop my texturing and modeling skills further there.

I had not really understood modeling last year but it was definitely helpful to have touched on it as i could understand more of what was going on. Through my project creating both the characters i begun with creating Pocahontas in nurbs using the EP curve tool, lattices and revolve to get a more organic feel. I was really impressed with what i was doing but she really should be in polygons so by converting her i was able to control the amount of polys she would take on. If i'd converted her whole body at once then there'd have been too many on the hands and feet, so made the conversion by selecting different faces. Though i had to delete faces that were inside the mesh under the arms and by snapping verts to other verts to clean this up didn't look so good. what i really liked about this model was the eyes, using the book i created two nurbs spheres, one with a different start and end sweep (which is my eye lid) when i using the set driver key to control the blinking i think this is really nice movement for a blink, even with a lip for the eye line. I actually ended up exporting Pocahontas' eyes as a maya binary file which i was then able to import the eyes as a scene into my Cornelius scene as a separate layer.

By that time of the project i thought to be cracking on with the Cornelius model. I created Cornelius using polys because after my last experience of using nurbs and then converting was a bit time consuming and fiddly. I think the reason i played in nurbs first was because i was intimidated by the polys and the book Maya Character Rigging went through the whole process of researching your character to modeling using nurbs ( with the option to convert to polys). The more time i spent on this character the better he looked in my opinion. I wasn't restricted by sticking exactly to my reference drawings as they were only a guide line, and looking to other photos i'd realized that i hadnt drawn him originally with enough umph. For example, his shoulders needed to be broadened, his head brought more into the body as gorillas dont have much of a neck, his arms to be brought more into the shoulders as opposed to stuck on the end of the frame. As i developed him i got more of a feel for what i wanted, and as no artist is never really happy with their outcomes (always see something to improve) i could finesse him for a long time and not get bored.

I had so much fun creating both characters, maybe Pocahontas was a stepping stone to moving onto using polys in modeling. When other people have commented on my gorilla model i've noticed everyone seems to like the bum, i am personally rather fond of the model as a whole, i think for a first timer this is something am proud of producing, until the next time i create a model as i hope it will be better yet.

Rigging was possibly the most difficult hurdle i experienced in this project as it was not very easy to grasp what was going on, but after mistakes and having to re rig the arms i think i have the basic understanding of what's what. Placement of the joints is crucial for where the verts will be influenced to, so if i placed a joint too close to the elbow this would have a negative response when the mesh is bound to the skin, and would maybe involve more weight painting. However i placed my joints in the centre of the mesh from the beginning so i haven't experienced anything too horrific. Also when placing joints it helps to add a little bend so that when it comes to setting the preferred angle the rig will know which way to turn.
When setting up attributes i felt i picked it up really well when using the set driven key following the book, i even used that knowledge to make my own attribute for the nose wiggle.
IK FK, well, i dropped the FK from the rig setup as i was following the book and i didn't have enough time for errors as i had heard other students who did this didn't have success. I would have liked to have tried if i had enough time as i don't understand fully why i'd want to use FK, something about allowing the character to move fluently.

Overall the rigging was difficult and stressful, i didn't want to stray from the book because i didn't know enough to take lessons from different tutorials. So heavily rely on this book wasn't the best thing but i got through it with help from tutors and other students on the book. I think it may have been easier if i had rigged the girl because of her being modeled in the T pose. For the gorilla i found him difficult as altering a Bi-Pedal rig tutorial to a quadruped when i wasn't sure it'd work. So as i had problems with the way Cornelius' arms were rigged i went on and changed the arms rig from book to re rig them as legs. This would work because i don't intend for him to be humanized.
Another dilemma was i had to parent following by what i guessed went where which was becuase the book skips these parts.

I think that my texturing is nothing special, i didn't focus too much but i did some exploration into bump mapping with the thumb prints, and i would like to go back and spend some time remapping so that i can put a nice looking gorilla onto my showreel as i will have the time. I decided to use the uv map instead of the 3D paint tool because you have more control in the UV editor.

Am i happy with my over all out come?
Definitely. I can see how imperative it is to have good drawing skills, i would have liked to have developed my characters into more conceptual pieces and done more of the research at the beginning as opposed to 'crossing the bridge when i get there' but i liked the freedom to stray from my ideas and just have fun being creative. I think i should try rigging again, i think that if you don't understand it and just ignore the difficulty that wont help me progress, and if i wanted to be an animator i need to be able to talk to the riggers in their technical language. I also think it's important to know and have a understanding of the process involved. What I'm most pleased with is i get the feel that my gorilla is elegant, and i wanted him to look like a grandpa, even without me modeling the glasses i get that feeling from the brows and head shape. innocent looking perhaps. The one thing that makes me sad was that i am so close to him being able to animate and it would have been great if he was ready for the deadline.

What would i do differently next time?
Make a time schedule and stick to it. I made a rough guide but i had no clue how long modeling or rigging would take me, now i am aware of my capabilities i will be able to manage my time better in future work. Also to be more clear of what i want and stick to it, it might've been better to work in groups for this project as we were taking time from our own work to help others along, visa versa.

Do i feel i've gained a lot through the process of this unit?
Endless amount of learning through trial and error, yes i have gained a lot. I feel that i work and learn faster when i am working towards a brief, i can't seem to motivate my self to learn out side of college, but this is going to have to change, maybe volunteer my skills out to work for freelance projects. Best way to learn on the job i say.

A though when working in the class room was that it was good that every one helped each other if they could, but the negative side being when you learn for yourself or from others you might be picking up bad habits in the workflow. I guess everyone has their own ways that work for them though.

Final Note
I have not been bored at the slightest working on this project and i feel i've learnt so much which i can develop on in my own time, already thinking and sourcing bits for the next term so bring on the next unit!!

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