DMA Central

THE OFFICIAL COMMUNITY FOR DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY

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

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.

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“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 Hands On Training Courses 3D Modeling and Animation

Finding the Best Maya 3D Modeling and Animation Learning Resources

By Geoff Beatty, Lead Maya Instructor

Just about everyone is familiar with the endless creative possibilities made available by the latest 3D modeling and animation software. Software like Autodesk Maya and 3D Studio Max bring professional quality tools to the independent artist, the hobbyist, and the teenage student with an interest in animation.  Maya 3D modeling and rendering software is used in the game, film, television, web, multimedia, marketing and communication professions, and the need for up to date and efficient 3D modeling and animation Maya training is growing rapidly.

In my experience as a Digital Media Academy instructor and university professor, I have seen more and more students showing up in class with prior experience creating 3D models and animation, 3D modeling training is in high demand.

These 3D artist students are usually self-taught, having picked up whatever lessons they could find from the internet and in books. This is fine to a certain extent. I’m always impressed by how these 3D artist students are constantly seeking 3D modeling answers on their own, not waiting to simply be handed the information but actively searching.

However, in order to really get the most from these learning resources, in fact the best way to really learn the software and become a 3D Artist, is to get some hands-on instruction with a knowledgeable teacher. I experienced this dynamic myself when I was first learning Maya. Prior to this I had worked in Softimage and 3D Studio Max, and I had practically taught myself 3D modeling through manuals and online tutorials. I was certain that I was going to have to do the same with Maya. I was on my way to doing that when the company I worked for hired a Maya professional to come in for a few days and get our team of 3D animators up to speed on how to model, rig, and animate a character.  Even professional 3D modelling artists can benefit from Maya workshops.

I learned more in those two days than I had learned on my own in the past two years. Not only was it personalized instruction, but I had never had someone tying it all together into a well-organized workflow. Things made sense and were directly relevant to the 3D modeling task at hand. Now all the bits and pieces of the online tutorials and book chapters came together like puzzle pieces fitting into their places. And not only was that time productive, my future self-directed learning in Maya was made more valuable because I was able to put it into the solid framework established during that 3D modeling training session.

So, if you would like to become a professional 3D animation artist, and you are beginning the long and rewarding journey of learning 3D software, I would highly recommend you take the time to start out right with some quality instruction of the type that Digital Media Academy offers . This could be a summer pro or teen summer camp course , or perhaps it’s an instructor coming to your workplace to offer specialized training . In any case, not only will the hands-on instruction be of immediate benefit, but it will add value to whatever 3D animation learning resources you pick up afterwards. And there are a lot out there, which is why it’s good to have someone be a guide through it all.

To that end, here are a couple that I highly recommend: Autodesk Area is the official hangout for Autodesk Maya users. It offers a wealth of well-moderated tutorials, plugins, models, and other resources. Creative Crash (formerly know as HighEnd 3D) is another well-established repository for tutorials, models, and the like. It’s also got a great responsive forum community, in case you run into any problems. 

Hope to see you at Digital Media Academy this coming summer for some great Maya 3D modeling training!

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You’ll enjoy these related posts:

Digital Media Academy’s Maya-Certification-Program-An-Amazing-Immersive-Experience!

3D Modeling and Animation Tip – Asymmetry!

The Digital Media Academy Difference – Success Stories!

A Teen’s Summer Camp at Digital Media Academy Review

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Ready to register for summer camp for teens or Maya Certification Program?  Click here for more information and registration:  Digital Media Academy

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posted by Geoff Beatty in News Blog and have No Comments

Virtual Teaching in our 2nd Renaissance

By Chris Platz, Lead 3d Game Art and Design Instructor, DMA @ Stanford University

After last week’s Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, I realized that we are indeed in a new Renaissance, and most of us don’t even know it. The current convergence of social networks, virtual worlds, and games is connecting people world wide faster, and in new ways that are mind boggling.

The research going on in the two departments I work in at Stanford has opened my eyes to many of these new paradigm shifts on the Web. The current group I am spending the most time with is the Stanford Humanities Lab shl.stanford.edu

This is where society meets art, meets technology. Our new open source 3D virtual world platform Sirikata is being developed so that anyone can build a networked virtual environment, and use it for what ever they like.

http://www.sirikata.com/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page

The other research going on the the Computer Science Department, Graphics group, is also truly amazing. Tools that allow for anyone to build a great avatar will soon be available. A few Ph.D. students have a rendering system that rendered over 12 BILLION polygons realtime, and with 6 simultaneous users in that networked environment! Incredible advances.

What does all of this mean for me as an instructor? By next year we’ll have a virtual classroom environment in 3D, with people logged in from all over the world. Inside people will be able to upload their 3D models and textures directly from their favorite 3D package, and we’ll build worlds, games, whatever, together and be able to talk with Voip. All of this will happen with dynamic lighting.

This should all trickle down to K-12 education, and allow children to start building virtual environments to express themselves, learn, and communicate in such a manner that they will far surpass us old folks by the time I see them in my DMA students in college classrooms. They already know more than I do in many ways, and I love the collaborative learning that goes on when generations come together around new technologies.

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Thoughts on last summer's Maya classes…

By Geoff Beatty, Lead Maya Instructor – DMA @ UPENN

One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is opening doors for my students.  At the beginning of each class, I literally unlock the door to the computer lab, turn the lights on, and lead my students in.  But in a more meaningful sense, I enjoy being the one (or one of many) who introduces them to a new medium, a new set of tools for creating imagery and telling stories.  The part of that experience that is especially gratifying is seeing my students making connections between their respective backgrounds (e.g. illustration, music, graphic design) and this newfound world of 3D modeling and animation.

Last year, during DMA’s Maya sessions at the University of Pennsylvania campus, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach an amazingly diverse group.  Among that group, there was the middle-aged illustrator from the midwest, learning a new skill.  There was the recent art school graduate with a graphic design degree.  There was the home-schooled high-schooler with an interest in visualization.  And there was the teenage musician and composer with a talent for digital imagery.

Each person brought a unique sensability and focus to their study of Maya.  And I can truly say that by the end, there were just as many unique 3D creations.  The characters, environments, and animations they made each reflected a personal vision.  And this is what I consider the strength of both the software, Maya, and the type of course I was teaching at DMA.  My duty as an instructor was two-fold.  First, I introduced students to the basics of the software.  This included both the explicit features and the implicit workflow, which is the proper process and sequence for using those features.  Secondly, I attempted to build on that foundational and common knowledge by guiding each student to a point where they could begin to use that tool to fulfill a personal interest or vision.

Maya Training Courses

This ends up being the point at which I grow too as a 3D artist and instructor.  DMA courses bring together such a variety of students that it ends up being an antidote to the homogeneity common to most 3D classrooms.  I learn new things every time I interact with my students.  My experience last summer was so gratifying in that respect that I couldn’t turn up the chance to teach again.  I look forward to opening doors, turning on lights, and having my students do the same for me.

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Learning Maya made simple

By Dave Bittorf, Lead 3d Modeling and Animation Instructor, DMA @ UC San Diego

Learning Maya can really open some doors for you in the world of 3D, animation, and special effects.  This will be my 3rd summer with DMA and I love how streamline the curriculum is.  Here is a quick overview of the Maya I and II courses.

maya8-5_flexshot_3d_3in_web-copy

MAYA I : Introduction to 3D Modeling
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Maya has become one of the foremost 3D packages in the film industry. Participants in this Maya I training course will explore the Maya interface, workflow and production pipeline. The course includes an in-depth analysis of the modeling and texturing process. The class will also introduce students to basic rigging, blendshapes and other character animation functions.

During the course, you’ll use many of Maya’s high-end modeling tools to create a fully modeled, textured, lit and rendered interior set design. You’ll also construct a game character and a higher-poly organic head. And you’ll do basic rigging for a pre-built character including blendshape (for facial animation) setup and use these rigs for basic character animation

MAYA II : 3D Character Animation
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In this Maya training course, you’ll learn the advanced features of Maya’s animation package. We’ll explore the dope sheet and graph editor in depth, and learn about keyframes and how to manipulate them to create believable motion. Many of the basic tenets of good animation will be covered to help you understand the difference between motion and believable physics and weight-based animation.

During the course, you’ll create multiple animation projects, including custom rigs utilizing techniques like IK, spline IK, custom skinweights and custom character control systems. These projects (including illustrations of stretch & squash, the whip principle, secondary motion and anticipation/action/follow-through) will be output both as playblasts and portfolio-ready rendered clip.

I hope you can join DMA for an amazing Maya learning experience this summer.

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