DMA Central


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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Creating "Red Carpet" for the Sonoma Film Fest

By Keith EnglishAnimation Director, Screaming Pixels and DMA Instructor.

Thought you might be interested in a project we have just delivered to a client which uses a lot of the tools you can learn, or might have already learned at Digital Media Academy. “Red Carpet” will be running before every movie at the upcoming Sonoma International Film Festival April 1-5th 2009. The main purpose of openings is to list sponsors before each movie and our quest is to make that repetitive experience as enjoyable as possible, especially when some of these run over 150 times during a festival.

This spot was produced using Maya, RealFlow and Shake (which could have also been done in After Effects if necessary), plus of course Photoshop to create a lot of the textures we needed. We were first given the poster, which the client had designed in Sonoma and although they gave us a carte blanche, from that point on it was obvious it needed to be styled as an art deco piece. cinema_interior2

To give it a poster-like look we rendered using only a 20 degree angle of view camera, so that it was almost orthographic with only a tiny amount of perspective, and then added a paint, cartoon and film grain filters all mixed back into the original so that everything was kept subtle.


The character models were built to be almost comic-like, flat and graphic, and the last thing we did was to take off the specular highlights on their eyes to flatten it a even more. The sets were also designed to be slightly exaggerated, especially the car of course, which is just the front end of a car. We only built  just as much as we needed for each shot.

The champagne was created using RealFlow. The bubbles were from Maya’s underwater Paint Effects, painted onto the interior bottom of the animated glass, which had its visibility turned off, and then those bubbles rendered, taken into Shake, color corrected, then warped with a filter to look like they were inside the liquid, rotoscoped out to be seen only in the area of the liquid and finally layered over the glass as a “screen” to combine the lighter areas of both the original image and the bubbles.


The flash bulbs were created by rendering the two finished characters separately (as they were massively different scales), then rendering them again with an all white version of each character with a single spotlight ahead of their faces for the complete sequence. This created a grayscale image of each face front lit and black on the back of their heads, which when applied as a matte to a brightness node in Shake would brighten just the front of their faces.

faceTheir eyes were tracked, again in Shake, and a 2D flare added to the front ofeach eye. So now we had two complete sequences, the first with their normal face renders and the second with the flash on the front of their faces continuously including a continuous flare. Now we just used a “mix” node in Shake to dissolve between the two sequences every time we wanted a flashlight to go off. 3 frames up for the flash and 10 down for the bulb fading.

feetOnly the bottoms of her dress and bottoms of his pants used Maya’s nCloth, with all else being regular polygonal geometry modeling. The hair on both characters was created using Joe Alter’s Shave plugin in Maya, but without any dynamics on it. Everything was rendered using Maya’s software renderer except for the champagne liquid and glass shot for which we used Mental Ray in Maya as it’s much faster with refractions. The project, from conception to delivery, took just three weeks.

Cody Westheimer, a very talented LA composer created the music for the piece. Well actually, that is where we really began, with the music and then everything was animated to that. Hopefully in the end it looks and feels as though it was all created together.

If you have any specific questions I would be happy to answer them. And my advice to all of you who want to work in this business? … really learn the tools and then … BE PROLIFIC.

Watch the video here:

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