Hi blender community and beyond!
So this is my first blog post for the project and finally I have something to show! In the previous post you have seen the original first minute which took up a lot of my time in the second production week.
Last week before Blender Conference I was experimenting with action animation, basically to get into the groove of what will be needed. Luckily I got enough done to show it at the conference, and now here!
I gave myself this task just to test out the pipeline I’ll have for final shots. You can Download The Progress Files to see iterative stages of the animation (if you don’t have a 2.5 build, head to GraphicAll.org to grab one), the step number of the blend file (and video below for those without 2.5) corresponds to the numbers below, which are a run down of the process:
- 1) First I plan. Since there was no actual shot storyboarded for this I was able to be quite creative in what I was to animate. I knew I wanted a staff weapon for the main character, and a poor henchman being taken out in a creative and almost hilariously brutal fashion. I know that the final film will have a more dramatic atmosphere, and also the animation style I’m going to use here may be way too much for the final film, but its much easier to tone things down than up. As fun ideas come to mind I write them down in a text file very fast with basically no grammar, just for my reference (sorry can’t find that file).
- 2) Next I’ve loaded up two dummy characters to be main and henchman, and have begun with some of the initial poses. You’ll notice that the main dummy has no legs!? This is an interesting method I picked up from Shawn Kelly, Lead Animator at ILM who has a great e-book and blog. Here is a post on the subject. In my case I just took the leg bones, made them FK and scaled them right down, if you zoom in enough to see tiny legs =)
- 3) I continue adding basic poses, I’ve got them all down now except for the final slam. I have left the character sliding during running parts, my plan is to use a separate run cycle and blend it in with the NLA editor.
- 4) I’m happy with the body basically now, so I add the legs in.
- 5) Working in video game animation for so long before this project I had to really force myself to start animating to camera a bit more, I experiment and begin adding runcycles into the NLA. I find out that the NLA in Blender 2.5 is still quite in need of testing. After many frustrated hours of NLA blending not working well and losing data when saving, I decide to use multiple cameras and hide as much running as possible ;). Animation is all smoke and mirrors! For finals we will have each shot its own file most likely which allows much more control of editing, but since I started this test all in the same file I just went with it.
- 6) The final file (press alt+p in the text editor to activate a camera switching script as demonstrated in the video). Just went through and added polish so it looks nice from each particular camera angle. The right leg of the henchman has some bug where I can’t add keys or edit the curves, luckily the camera hides it! Check out the right foot as he is hit with the stick at the end ;). You’ll notice in the file that the weapon has a few versions, this is a work around until we have our better rigs but works nicely for quick tests. I have one staff parented to her hand control, and over one frame I size it to zero (still haven’t gotten the hang of layer switching yet in 2.5), and size another from zero to one, which is not parented to anything, and easily I can animate this new staff as if she just let go of it. I switch back and forth as needed using the same technique.
Cool 2.5 stuff: Now we can use quaternion or euler rotation types for any bones, and what makes it so cool? You can animate *between* them! So to get the nice flipping at the end, I’ve actually gone from quaternion (no gimbal lock which causes weird rotations sometimes), to euler (rotate 360+ degrees, easier to visualize curves in graph editor) using an animated curve.
There were a lot of problems and unforseen challenges during this test, and most of these will be fixed by the time we animate final shots, but there will constantly be challenges that will appear. This exercise shows that there is always a way to keep moving and end up with a result, just takes a little bit of compromise and illusion =)
More blog posts on each of the team members conference demonstrations to come!