DMA Central

THE OFFICIAL COMMUNITY FOR DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY

DMA Course Profile: Learn How Maya Can Animate Your Career

Courses: Maya 2011: Character Modeling & RiggingMaya 2011: Animation & Visual EffectsMaya 2011: Texturing & Lighting

DMA Instructor: Adam Watkins

Education: Master of Fine Arts degree: Animation. Utah State University; Logan, UT (Undergrad Major: Theatre Set and Lighting Design). 

Professional Portrait: DMA Instructor Adam Watkins is a teacher and noted author of multiple books on the subject of graphic arts, with special emphasis on Maya. He’s also written more than 100 magazine articles on the subject. An Associate Professor of 3D Animation for the School of Interactive Media & Design at San Antonio’s University of the Incarnate Word, Adam also serves as Art Director for the Justice Media Lab. Recently, Adam has been using his animation skills to produce ultra-realistic simulations for nuclear training facility inspections while serving as an animations developer at the historic Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

DMA Campus: Harvard University
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Adam Watkins is a longtime Digital Media Academy animation instructor and when he’s not teaching DMA’s summer sessions, he’s a full-time teacher. He’s also a published author, with a handful of books and more than 100 articles on the subject of computer graphics. However, there things we can’t tell you about Adam. Why? Because it’s classified.


Adam’s work, like this character and environment he created, are featured in his latest book about Maya.

As the Artistic Director and animation developer for the VISIBLE Team, based at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Adam is using animation skills to develop training tools that can improve the quality and safety of inspections of nuclear facilities. This August he’ll leave New Mexico and head for Harvard University, where he’ll be teaching animation with Maya at DMA’s Harvard summer computer camp.

Putting Maya into Motion
“Maya is very robust,” Adam says. It’s true. Maya is recognized by the videogame and film industries as the premier computer graphics 3D modeling tool. This summer Adam’s again looking forward to sharing his experience. In terms of creating characters, Adam will show students how to model, UV map and texture a character…and then rig that character for animation. At that point, Adam will teach students how to animate the character with some basic animations (like walking and running). After that Adam will familiarize student campers with a collection of Maya’s amazing special effects.

Teaching Tech with Passion
Adam keeps his teaching skills sharp as an Associate Professor at the University of the Incarnate Word, a liberal arts college in San Antonio, Texas. Adam calls it “the largest university you’ve never heard of,” with multiple campuses in China and Mexico. And although the school is run by a charitable organization it still functions like a normal university, in most respects.


Under Adam Watkins’ instruction, DMA student campers will build a complete 3D environment like this one, also created by Adam.

The 3D Animation and Game Design program that Adam teaches for the University is an intensive, four-year program that concentrates on utility.“We are product-focused and students who successfully complete the program have many projects and a robust demo reel upon graduation,” Adam says, “A degree is nice, but as part of the mission of the university, we make sure to graduate people with the reel, tools and skills to get real work…fast.” He brings that same practical industry focus to the courses he teaches for DMA.

The ‘Ah-ha!’ Moment
We asked Adam Watkins about what motivates him as an educator. “My philosophy of teaching in very general terms, is to focus on helping students do real work (and will show off their skills to an employer.”

“I don’t do tutorials,” he says. “I believe that especially for beginning 3D students, tutorials simply teach students how to follow recipes, not how to solve problems. Great 3D artists are great problem-solvers, and they get this way from practice. When I teach, I give assignments that require students to help define a problem, and then grow into the solution. I’m there to assist in the process.”

And that process pays off big for him when a student learns how to solve the problem for themselves. “I love the ‘Ah-ha!’ moment that students have when working through complex ideas,” he says. “3D technology can be abstract, and good 3D is a complex collection of technical and artistic skills. Helping students harness these divergent ideas to create good work really gets me going.”

For aspiring 3D animators, videogame designers or graphic artists, DMA instructors like Adam Watkins can help you learn how to turn your passion for computer graphics into a career…so you can experience your own ‘Ah-ha!’ moment.

(Images from Creating 3D Games with Unity and Maya: How to Develop Fun and Marketable 3D Games, Adam Watkins, Focal Press.)

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

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.

siff_lighter_car1

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.

glass-filling-set1

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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posted by Phil Gibson in News Blog and have No Comments