3D Modeling & Animation

Project Description

This is the short 3D animated film for the animation class. Our animation title, "Heroes' Brawl" is a mix between 3D animation and film which tells the story about four friends trying out a new game and trying out the characters in the game. 

Roles and Responsibilities

I was responsible for modeling, texturing and rigging for my own character, which is a tomato bird. In addition, I modeled and textured our virtual world using displacement maps and UV textures. I also set up world lightnings and staging for our characters in the environment. I assist in the animation process in terms of key framing and movement poses. I then rendered all the scenes for our whole project. I was also in charge of shooting and directing all the scenes for our real life footage.

About

10 weeks long school project in a team of 4

Tools Used

Maya 2018

Adobe Premiere Pro

Canon T7i 

Zoom H4N 

Characters/ Environment Concept

The concept art for the characters resembles simple, cartoon characters. We took inspirations from games like Nintendo, Plants vs Zombies and some other indie games. We feel that the aesthetic of games like Mario and World of Warcraft would greatly suit our characters, with bright colors and cartoon looks.

Concept art by Michelle Shen

I was responsible for the modeling and rigging of the characters. I started to model the body with basic polygon primitive. I then extruded the wings for my model so that it
would be easier for me to rig the model later. For the legs, I used the extrusion methods with insertion of edge loops to make the borders smoother. As for the beak, I had to model it separately as it is sharp and curvy. The reason for that is it was easier for me to then attach the beak's vertices to the main mesh so that they became one overall mesh.

After modeling, I used the Lambert material to color my model. Instead of using UV map to generate photo-realistic appearance, we intentionally went for low poly cartoon look and therefore, I used the bright red color from the Lambert material. I then rigged the character by putting skeletons into the mesh and painted the skin weights. There were some problems when I was painting the weights and was unable to produce the result that I wanted. But this was solved after using the component editor to assign each joint to the nearest skin. This result in a fully rigged character without any deformed skin which made it easier for the animator to use.

Wireframe and rigged view of my model

As for our virtual environment, we took inspirations from games like Mario and World of Warcraft which we thought would greatly suit our characters, with bright colors and cartoon looks. I then created an environment which resembles like the Zelda world. 

Zelda world art by Nintendo

For the environment, I used the simple planar surface and then used the sculpt tool to lift the surface. I applied the stamp tool using a displacement map for the terrain. I then put in directional light to stimulate the sun for the environment. The trees and bushes were assets which I acquired from a website. I also put a skydome light to illuminate the environment. 

Modeling of the environment

Animation

I assisted in animating my character when we put all our characters in to the world. I applied some animation principles to my character which would give it a more personality to my character. I used the Squash and Stretch, Secondary Action, Anticipating and Exaggeration principles. For secondary actions, as soon as the bird flies up, his leg moves which gives the scene a more life, supporting the main action. When the bird is flapping its wing to fly down, I applied the exaggerated effects to move his wings and feet by placing the keyframes in short intervals.

Animating my model through keyframing

Problems and Solutions

When presenting our draft prototype, we had our characters rotating on a platform. From the feedback that we got, these characters movement lacks personality. So, we decided to come up with our own “signature” moves for the characters. In order to implement this, we tried to do research on existing animation and short cartoons and got inspired by these character movements. This way, our lead animator knows clearly what we wanted for the animation.

Before and after putting character animation

Another issue I faced while putting the scene together was the interactions between different characters and the world. As the models were created by different members, the scales of each characters and the rigging were different from one another. So, when we put these characters together in one virtual world, there was an issue of the characters not interacting properly among themselves and with the environment. Character models were unintentionally moving in different components while trying to animate or interact with another model. I finally fixed this issue by going in to each individual file to lock, hide, and clean up the meshes and even re-rig some parts so that there is correct skin binding and unintended movements.

Reflection

Ever since I was young, I became interested in cartoons and animations. By taking this course, I am even more inspired to become a 3D artist as I really love how our final project turned out. Not only I was able to learn every aspect of 3D animation production pipeline, I also had to utilize all my skills to produce this beautiful piece. 

Most importantly, I found out that I really enjoyed rendering photorealistic scenes. We had to create a photorealistic scene as an assignment and after that assignment, I got so engaged into rendering and was inspired to become an environmental 3D artist. Although this is my first project with Maya, I am positive that I will be learning more about modeling and rendering and hope to create more animations in the future.

Final Video

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