KNB321 – Advanced Concepts in Computer Animation 2 Assessment 1 - Production Blog - Paul Stanton-Cook N9657037

My main current role for projects “The Little Knight” / “The Goldilocks Zone” is rigging.

I was originally assigned only to rig The Dark Knight, from “The Little Knight”, as well as the rigging of the vehicles in “The Goldilocks Zone”. However, I ended up rigging both characters The Dark Knight and The Little Knight, as well as the lances and doing some fix ups with the free horse rig.

Rigging is not a task that I enjoy, however it is a very sort after skillset within the industry, which I can add to my arsenal. For the main bodies of the characters I used the free online rigging Mixamo, and then imported the skinned characters into Maya. On the 22nd of August Mixamo recently went through an entire company streamline and removed a lot of features. They still offer a free online character rigging process, however there is no way to now import rigged characters into 3D modelling programs, such as Maya, using the scripts. The only way now to import rigged characters using Mixamo is if you have locally saved a downloaded version of the importing scripts for 3d applications.

After using Mixamo to rig the basic body functions, I had to add secondary elements such as armour for the knights and horses. This process was pretty straight forward and due to the excessive use of constraints for “The Little Knight” production, the director pointed to this video, which was very handy in setting parent constraints for the props (ie lances and armour components)

Here is a playblast showing the rigged lances

TIP - If you wish to enable looped playback on YouTube videos when playing right click the play button and select (Loop)

The first main issue I encountered was a very interesting texturing issue with the horses. The problem was that because the skin modifier had been applied before transferring the updated UVs and textures, Maya was seeing the UVs as a deformable object. So, in other words, Maya was animating the UVs, so when moving the horse root controller, the textures became stationary.

Here is a playblast of the problem.

It was a tedious issue to problem solve because the skinning of the horse was very complex. It consisted of over 200+ joints in the weight maps, as well as geometry objects acting as influences, so the horse could be squashed and stretched to be a fat or skinny horse. In the end to solve the problem of stationary textures, I ended up having to remove a lot of influences from the weight maps, exporting them as images, duplicating the horse mesh, deleting the history on the duplicate, rebinding the new mesh and then applying the exported weight maps.

Another issue that occurred with the original Little Knight rigged character from last semester (not done by myself), was that the model was too high poly to be used for animation. The mesh, with no subdivisions, consisted of over 115k polygons, compared to The Dark Knight being around 20k polygons. To fix up the model, it meant having to completely unbind the rig. Due to the number of polygons that had to be removed, the mesh also lost its UV data. So basically, I had to redo the rigging for the character from scratch.

Little Knight updated mesh and UVs

The last step I am currently finalising for both The Little Knight and the Dark Knight is to polish the weight paintings for the eyes. Here are some screen shots of the facial expressions for both characters. They are almost there but just need some final polishing. Due to the character having a unique facial appearance and not a proper facial structure, it was very difficult to find specific references or tutorials on this type of facial rigging, even though there are thousands of tutorials available over the internet.

Dark Knight expression tests
Little Knight facial expression tests

To finish up the rigging for the Little Knight production, I have rendered out a couple callisthenics tests showing off their movements as well as creating some custom lighting rigs for the renders.

The Dark Knight still has some minor weight painting issues especially with the strap around the chest. This will be easily fixed with polished weight maps.

Once most kinks had been sorted with the rigging in The Little Knight, I then moved onto the role in the project to sort and prepare the master scene file. This scene could then be used by the animators. Every asset was then added in as a reference, so that if any changes were made they would automatically be updated in the master scene. There have been many major and minor changes, too many to list, but due to having the master reference scene no major breaking issues occurred. Each week on Monday, we have had a production meeting for “The Little Knight”. At the end of each meeting, all the updates were zipped and uploaded to the shared OneDrive. Every time the file was updated, members of the project that were working on animation would simply just have to download the ZIP file and replace the older files. These updates could be simple changes like cleaning up the layers/outliner or adding textures.

Another role I have taken is some of the FX and simulation of the environment, for example, adding in cloth dynamics to the flags, as well as adding in animated grass. The grass element will be added if the render times do not blow out of proportion. At this stage using Mayas xGen to generate fields of grass are not portable between computers, unless the cache files have been exported correctly. This is something I am going to spend time on when working on my next role in setting up the master environment into its render layers. Once the lighting has been finalised I can then begin setting up the render layers in the master scene and focus on optimising the scene to see how long each layer is going to take to render.

Currently, the master environment has just been setup using reference lighting rigs. This is because Arnold requires at least one light to render out an image, instead of just a black screen.

Here are some simulation and lighting tests that I have done

Looped flag simulation

Daytime environment lighting tests
Environment grass test
Environment with grass - Render Time : 4 min (Single Frame)

“The Goldilocks Zone” is another production I am currently involved with. My task was the rigging of the vehicles. I modelled, textured and rigged both the main spaceship and the exploration pod. The rigging for the main spaceship was not that difficult, as it was just the hangar door which was done with set driven keys and using a cube to control moving along the Y-axis. For the exploration pod I had already rigged the vehicle last semester using 3ds Max. I couldn’t transfer the rigging components when sending the model to Maya so I had to redo it. I ended up creating a control rig with splines and using set driven keys to control each component.

Here is a video of the rigging I had done in 3Ds Max and following is the version I did in Maya.

Along with setting up rendering for “The Little Knight”, I have also been doing some experiment testing on Arnold renders on the vehicles I have done for the production.

Here is a little video of the rig demo for the exploration pod. This was rendered using Maya Hardware 2.0

I was also assigned to do the blocking/animation of the shots that included the vehicles in space. Here are the playblasts from my assigned shots.

Shot #1

Shot #2

Shot #8

Shot #23

Finally, here are the links to the most current blocking/rough animation edits

"The Goldilocks Zone"
"The Little Knight
Created By
Paul Stanton-Cook


Created with images by sultanaj95 - "mountain grass dandelion"

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