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THE OFFICIAL COMMUNITY FOR DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY

Maya

Creating Asymmetry with 3D Models and Animation

When you create a 3D animated character there are several things to keep in mind. 3D modeling and animation is a process that requires you to constantly evaluate what you’re creating. That’s why it’s helpful to group the thousands of visual choices you have available to you according to basic, fundamental principles. One of the most important of these principles is the idea of asymmetry.


In the context of design (particularly in 3D modeling and animation), asymmetry is vitally important in establishing both believability and interest.

Finding Balance
Why is asymmetry so important in 3D creation? Asymmetry helps establish believability. Just take a look at the world around you. For the most part, unless it’s a car, machine or other man-made device, it’s naturally asymmetrical. Asymmetry also helps establish interest because of variations in the object. Take a look at the example below…


The image on the left side is asymmetric, while the image on the right side is symmetric. As you can see, my face isn’t as interesting to look at when it’s the same on both sides.

How does this translate into 3D modeling and animation?  How do we achieve asymmetry in 3D creation program like Maya? Actually, there are some easy ways to accomplish this:

Mirror Model
One common approach to modeling characters is to work on one half and then mirror the geometry to the other side.  This is a smart way to work, as it resembles the rough symmetry of most characters and simultaneously cuts the work in half.  However, this leaves us with a completely symmetrical model when we want something more believable.  It looks manufactured. Avoid this by simply altering certain elements of the object on one side of the model. Do this by scaling or sculpting or using lattice deformers.


Altering little details (like eyebrows or the corner of a mouth) can help make a character asymmetrical.

Animation Asymmetry
Modifying a 3D model can easily add asymmetry, but how do we incorporate asymmetry into animation? One is posing your model with asymmetry. Take a look at the two poses below:


Of these two poses, the model on the right is more dynamic and more believable.

Finally, during the animation process, motion curves representing opposite sides of the body can be offset to provide a sort of temporal asymmetry. This creates a pleasant overlap and flexibility to a character action, and it’s an important step in creating a believable sense of weight.

In summary, asymmetry is a vital step in creating believable characters. When you use asymmetry, you demonstrate to the viewer your thoughtfulness as a animator, modeler and designer.

Geoff Beatty teaches 3D modeling and animation using Maya for Digital Media Academy. He was previously profiled on DMAC. Geoff is one of only a handful of Autodesk-Certified Instructors in Maya, the leading 3D animation software program.

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posted by Geoff Beatty in Maya,News Blog and have No Comments

Making 3D Characters, Far-Off Worlds and Dazzling Special Effects with Maya

The word comes from Sanskrit language and refers to the Hindu concept that means illusion. Maya is a perfect name for a piece of software that literally creates digital magic. In fact, Maya is the industry standard for creating anything in a computer-generated 3D world.


Game developer Bungie used Maya to create the cinematics for Halo 3.

Making Movie Magic With Maya
Maya is used to render to photorealistic features like clothing and textures and 3D characters for hit video games like Halo. It’s also used to create stunning special effects and it even breathes life into animated blockbusters like Kung Fu Panda.  For anyone who wants to design video games, make computer-animated features or create special effects, learning how to use Maya is an absolute must.

In 2004, Sony Pictures Imageworks faced a serious technical challenge on its upcoming superhero sequel, Spider-Man 2. Sony needed a computer graphics technology that could realistically simulate cloth textures over animated characters. Alias worked to ramp up Maya and created just such an effect.


For Spider-Man 2, filmmakers needed a tool that would simulate cloth fabric over an animated character. Developers pioneered a simulator option in Maya exactly for that purpose.

Historical Effects
Maya was developed by Alias Software, back in 1998, and since then Maya has received multiple upgrades. For example, a fluid effects simulator (that supports cloud and fire effects) was added to Maya 4.5. Over the years, Maya’s makers have added more effects and additional options to the program, including options to generate fur and hair.

The “nParticle” simulator can enhance effects that involve smoke, liquids and dust (or anything made up fine-particulate material). Recent additions, like a nifty “Camera Sequencer” from 2009 (that enables smoother layout of animated footage that contains multiple camera angles) and 2010’s “MatchMover” (that helps marry CGI elements with regular footage) has made the program even more flexible.


From dinosaurs to dark storm clouds, you can create anything in Maya.

The Only Software You Need & Where To Learn It
When it comes to 3D video game, computer-animated feature films or any kind of digital production, Maya meets every need: modeling, lighting, animation and rendering. It’s no wonder that Maya is the world’s leading 3D creation tool. Learn Maya Texturing and Lighting this summer from an industry expert on the campus of one of America’s most prestigious universities, Harvard, during the week of Aug 8–12.

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posted by Phill Powell in Maya,News Blog and have No Comments

Animation: Putting Imagination into Motion

This is the first in a series of profiles on DMA courses and instructors. Our first profile focuses on the art of animation. Digital Media Academy offers a wide range of courses in animation. From beginning cartooning to 3D animation with Maya, DMA offers professional instruction in digital arts and brings students face to face with today’s most vibrant art form, digital media. 

Course: Animation

Instructor: Geoffrey Beatty

Education: University of the Arts; Philadelphia, PA (Major: Animation)

Professional Portrait: A freelance animator and designer of world-class expertise, Geoffrey Beatty began his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s cutting-edge Media Lab, developing animation for MIT research projects into AI and robotics. Founder and coordinator of the Animation program at Philadelphia University (where he still teaches), Geoffrey has also lent his talents to creating powerful interactive museum exhibits, as well as character-based web-interactive projects and web-to-TV convergence properties. He also leads workshops on 3D animation for instructors, media professionals and kids – and remains one of only a handful of Autodesk-Certified Instructors in Maya, the leading 3D animation software program.

******

“This could very well be the most exciting time to be learning animation.”

Geoffrey Beatty, Animation Instructor, at Digital Media Academy’s Computer & Digital Arts Summer Camp ought to know. He remembers back when he was a college student majoring in Animation, before technology triggered a revolution in animation. Back then, he and his classmates had to hand-render designs and shoot them on 16mm film, which was then carefully hand-cut with razor blades and assembled with splicing tape, with the final, edited product loaded onto reels. In other words, lots of slow and tedious work.


Maya, the movie and video game industry standard is used in the Digital Media Academy studio classroom.

Fast-forward to today, and not only are computers everywhere, but the same animation software used by professionals is available to students at reduced cost, or sometimes even through a free Internet link. Not only that, but now you have the ability to instantly share your creation with the world, either through a YouTube video clip or downloadable game mod. So access to animation software is easier to obtain and there are more ways to get your creative vision across to a mass audience. So now the question becomes: How do you sift through all these choices without growing totally overwhelmed? And how will you learn to really harness the power of this complex software?

That’s where DMA’s Animation program comes to the rescue. DMA instructors such as Geoffrey Beatty know not only the latest versions of the leading software that’s involved in creating great animation, but they also bring real-world professional experience to class sessions. As artists themselves, they understand what’s involved in taking a unique creative vision and translating it into animated form. They know how to get the best efforts from students, by actively encouraging their growth as animators. “I love the intense, hands-on approach of both the Professional and the Teen DMA classes,” Geoffrey reports. “This allows me to work closely with the students to create the best possible work – work they can be proud to show their colleagues, families and friends.”


Teens and Pro Series adults experience learning all of Maya’s powerful animation capabilities.

DMA’s Animation program is offered at the Kids Adventures, Teen and Professional levels. Beginning-to-intermediate students will learn basic animation principles, including character animation using pre-built rigs. Instruction for students at the Teen and Professional levels contains special emphasis on Autodesk Maya, the industry standard software for 3D animation. It’s an amazing tool that can unlock whole new worlds of imagination, and there are few instructors in the U.S. that can claim to have as much experience with the program as Geoffrey Beatty.

“I started using Maya more than ten years ago,” he recalls, “And since then I have used it to animate games, a television pilot, broadcast promos, museum exhibits and augmented reality graphics. I never would have imagined – back in school with the light tables and room-sized animation camera – that I would get the chance to create something as cool as this.”

Bring to life video game or comic book characters with animation. DMA offers computer and visual arts summer camps and courses in both traditional hand-drawn art as well as digital animation. Learn more or register for a summer camp by visiting Digital Media Academy.

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posted by Phill Powell in 3D Modeling,Maya,News Blog and have No Comments

Maya 3D – Alternative Uses, Alternative Careers

Maya is well known for it’s role in feature animation production, special effects, and the video game industry.  Indeed, when students enter one of my DMA Maya classes, it’s usually one of these three things that they are interested in pursuing.  However, in addition to teaching the fundamentals of Maya, I also like to broaden their perspective of what it can be used for.  That way, when students finish the class, they not only have an understanding of the software, they also have a lot more potential job titles they could be looking at.

Augmented Reality

In a previous post, I discussed the burgeoning field of Augmented Reality (AR), and how Maya was used to create some interactive AR exhibits at MSI Chicago.  This technology is not only for static displays and cameras however.  There is a growing body of AR applications for mobile devices.  Users place a card or some other marker on a tabletop and then point their mobile device’s camera at the target.  On screen, graphics are superimposed on the live video and users can interact with these on screen graphics, and even play games with them.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koRLVqfE9mg]

South Park

Did you know that Maya is used to create South Park?  That surprises a lot of people, probably because the show looks like it was created with paper cutouts.  The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of sophisticated work to make something this crude.  While the original pilot was made with cutouts, the demands of weekly television production soon dictated a digital workflow.  The production quickly moved to Maya because of its robust animation tools and virtual camera.  If you’d like to read more about it, there’s a very good profile of the production on Apple’s website.

Data visualization

What is data visualization?  Data visualization is the art of turning information into something visible.  We are all familiar with the charts and graphs in the newspaper or our science textbooks.  It can be much more than just charts and graphs, and it can be much more than static 2D images.  It can encompass 3D graphics, and some data is best visualized using time-based visuals, like animation and video.  More and more, engineers and designers among others are turning to 3D software to make complex information come to life in a way that is both accessible and entertaining.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMrOFuSZAj4]

Virtual sets

If you’ve got young kids, or if you just happen to watch Sesame Street nowadays, you’re probably familiar with one of the recurring segments called Elmo’s World.  Elmo’s world is made to look like a child’s drawing, and it’s got a lot of whimsical elements – dancing desks, bouncing computers, etc.  Elmo is a real puppet, but almost none of the elements around him are real.  Elmo is performed in front of a blue screen, and then the background is filled in with a virtual set created in 3D.  The moving furniture around him are actually digital puppets, performed in real-time with the real Elmo puppet.  This approach isn’t unique to Sesame Street, as you can see from the example below.  The puppets are manipulated in front of a blue screen, which is then replaced with a virtual forest set that is connected to match the moves of the real camera.  It may be for kids, but like in the case of South Park, there is really sophisticated technology behind it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7c4XIsJd2A]

And more…

In my next post, I’ll explore some more examples of alternative uses for Maya and 3D including motion graphics, non-photorealistic rendering, and even illustration.  Until then, find some inspiration by perusing some of the work produced by users of Maya, as showcased on the Autodesk website.

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posted by Geoff Beatty in Maya,News Blog and have Comments (2)