Multi-Dynamic pivoting system

Hello all! It has been a while since my last post mostly due to developing my recent employment at the animation studio Lani Pixels. 

recently I have been working closely with a colleague to more develop my technical skills as a Rigging TD. Most days I have been working on my Python, PySide and PyMel programming skills as well as working to understand the animation production pipeline. 

In this post I just wanted to show one of the systems I've been working on for implementing into character foot rigs as well as creating a more advanced prop rig. So without further adue here is a short video showing the system in action. 

Hulk Animation Blocking 1 and 2

Hulk Animation Blocking 1 and 2 

Above is the first blocking pass of a side animation I have been working on since I finished "Rocket Raccoon" Free rig. I haven't had a lot of time to work on it due to freelance work and school but this is what I got the first session. 

For the second blocking I was able to expand more on where I'd like to take the animation. I think Im going to introduce Rocket Raccoon in this animation. As you can see hulk is jumping in fast and somewhat clumsy and turns around as if he's going back for more but all of a sudden Rocket flanks Hulk with a few gun blasts. My intention is to have Rocket come into frame running and just knock the hulk out. Then he'll turn to the camera and salute like the badass he is!


Rocket Raccoon Gun Rig

For this post I just shortly wanted to talk about the rig I made for Rocket Raccoon's Gun the "Glow Gun".

With this set-up it was fairly simple. Most of the controls are locked down to either rotate in one direction or translate but despite the lack of controls you are able to get nice animation with so many moving parts. 

This trickiest part of this rig is Dynamically parenting the controls so that the main controls could reorient everything underneath it. 

This project took less than an hour and I'm happy with the result!

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SpiderMan Rigging Side Project

The past two weeks I have been wanting to jump back into some more bipedal rigging to refresh and extend some of the principles I've learned from rigging throughout the last few years.

I decided to do SpiderMan simply because he is my favorite superhero and I also thought it could be challenging to create a very naturally flowing rig for more natural looking body motion.

Here is a jump cycle I did to test out the rigs mechanics.

and honestly what is spider man without a functioning web shooter am I right.
this is a simply video demoing the webshooter's ability on the rig.

I was very pleased with what I came up with for this 2 week rigging project!

Also if you'd like to mess with the rig yourself then head to my website at and look for "free rigs" in the menu

Water and Viscous Simulation / Shader Building

For this project I wanted to focus on the look of the water and creating interesting splashes that you see everywhere such as water pouring into a glass or water flowing over a water fall and even simple splashes that water makes when it hit an interesting surface. So before doing this I had to research what this looked like.

When finding reference I had a hard time finding a water source that would continuously pour water so I kind of compiled different references to get a since of what I was trying to create.

Next I needed to know more about the shaders that houdini builds so I used houdini’s help docs to learn more about how the shaders work in houdini.
In my scene I first started with a bowl so that the water would flow into it but then I realized that it took away from the splashes I was trying to make so I created a grid and connected a mountain node to it to create a more interesting surface.

Then I created a Flip emitter from a Sphere just out of camera view. To connect the water to the surface I created a RDB solver for the surface and turned the volume collision off. In the AutoDop I tweaked some of the motion attributes for the water to create a better splash and to help match my references.

The Last step was to tweak the shader for the water and help create a more believable clear creek water I was going for. In the shader I was mostly experimenting with different values for the over all diffuse and the cloud density in the volume shader. 

For this project I wanted to focus on the look of the chocolate and creating interesting deformations that you see everywhere such as chocolate pouring over the bar flowing over an ice cream cone and even simple folds that chocolate makes when it hits an interesting surface. So before doing this I had to research what this looked like.

Next I needed to know more about the shaders that houdini builds so I used houdini’s help docs to learn more about how the shaders work in houdini.In my scene I first started with a bar so that the chocolate would flow onto it. I created a box above the bar and animated that moving over the bar. I then created a flip fluid emitter from the box and animated it’s activation to start and stop when I wanted. Next I selected the flip fluid and pressed “make viscous” this option then turned on all the viscous attributes through out the autodop network. After creating the initial fluid I then connected the geometry into the network making the bar and the ground an RBD so that they would interact with the particles. Next was the experimental part where I mostly went through step by step and attribute to attribute testing to get the right motion. I ended up adding stick on collision and also tweaking the viscosity to get the right look.

The Last step was to tweak the shader for the chocolate and help create a more believable melting chocolate I was going for. In the shader I was mostly experimenting with different values for the over all diffuse and the cloud density in the volume shader. Also I did some research on the reflection map and anisotropy settings to get a more diffused specular sheen. 

Visual Effects Tools and Maya Fluids

This post is going to be mostly about effects that I have been making over the past month. Some of these are tools that can be implemented in any software package and one effect is native to Maya fluids but can also be redirected to a number of different applications.

First up is a Coil tool I created that you can customize to your specification. This coil also has Dynamic features.

Second is a Domino Tool I created that will create however many Dominos with random numbers as well as being able to shape the roll of dominos however you'd like via a curve.

Third is a Tool that will fracture walls and make them dynamic for simulation purposes.

Last is a Maya Fluid project that involved creating a fire effect using maya's Fluid system.

SoftBody/IK-Spline Dynamic Tree Rig

For this project I wanted to explore the notion of using rigging techniques to create a dynamically driven motion.

When thinking of this idea I asked myself what would best represent this idea and that's when I thought of tree's.

For this system I first started by creating a joint system. I did this by creating a master joint system. Then separately I created individual joint chains for each branch. Next I parented these children joint chains into the master joint system.

Now that I had a proper hierarchy I need to create curves along the "curvature" of the joint systems. This Curve system would serve as the goal weight for when I apply Softbody Dynamics. Once I had my curves in place I then created IK-Splines for each individual joint system including the master joint system. After this process was done I created an automation mel button to create the joint systems and IK-Systems based off the geometry.

Below is a video of the result that I got. ( I used a Turbulence Field to create the rustling )

Here is an example of another system using a Lattice to create a similar effect.

Software and Hardware Particles in Maya 2015

This was an exciting new world for me. I have always used maya's native particle system nparticles but never had I ever used the hardware particle system inside of maya. What I learned from this was the basics of what most particle systems consist of in most other programs.

In this project My goal was to create a scene that used multiple avenues of software and hardware particles. I mostly used sprites with creation expressions as well as animated instancer geometry.

First For the smoke effects and exhaust effects I used a basic volume emitter with sprites as the render type. After cycling the images that the sprite would use it made for a very believable result.

Second for the rain effects I created another volume emitter but instead of using sprites I used a multi streak render type. The great part of this effect was having the particle interact with the car and the ground, I've even added particle collision event to have the rain droplet create a splash on impact.

Below is the finished product. ( there is sound )

Visual Effects 1 - RigidBodysimulation and Particles

This month I've been exposing myself to all kinds of new techniques for creating interesting and somewhat realistic animation via maya's dynamic simulations.

My first project was of a Rigid body exercise create active and passive rigid body's to elude to the audience that everything in the scene is actually interacting with each other. Underneath is a playblast of the animation that I came up with.

Character Animation 2 at Full Sail University

I wanted to take a second and post what I've been doing recently in maya and at Full Sail University.

This month I'm focusing on strong animation body mechanics and acting. In the first exercise my class and I were tasked with creating a short animation based on a given scenario, by showing the characters full body and with the help of strong storytelling poses I believe I was able to achieve a comprehensive representation of my scenario.

Scenario: "You are impatiently waiting on the bus and are excited or relieved to see it arrive, only to have it whiz right by. You must walk 3 consecutive steps in this scene."

Below is what I came up with!

Next post will be about the next project. Lip Syncing!!

Character Animation 1

This blog post is dedicated to the projects that I have been working on for my Character Animation 1 Class at Full Sail University.

In the first project we explored a basic walk with a leg rig called eggy. 
here is a playblast from the final project turn-in.

For the second project we were tasked with creating a series of strong poses that would suggest a specific emotion. In this video you will see each pose one after another all while in a silhouette format.

For the third project the stakes were raised and we were given a fully rigged character.
This walk was still more on the basic side of things but with having to move the arms, head, body etc... This project became a little more intricate. A turn around was also required but this time we had the articulate the character acting towards the end.

Advance rigging and shot finishing

For this section of my blog I wanted to cover some more advanced full body rigging.
This past month or so I've been developing a rig that has sudo muscle systems using nDynamics in maya. For the stomach and pecks I created a dynamic system that manipulates the geometry to get a realistic "jiggle" to emulate the way skin might slide across the muscles.

This rig also has a fairly basic joint based facial rig with SDK's that control the emotions and eye blink also the nose and ears have abilities to be animated.

Here is a playblast from one of the final shots. Below is an image of some added fur detail that was also attached to a hair system letting the fur be manipulated by dynamics.

Facial Rigging for Animation

I wanted to cover a basic facial rig that I have been working on for a few weeks. I started working on the rig with purely 'blend shapes' in mind but as I did more research I realised the amount of control seemed limited and adding blend shapes onto the file seemed heavy and honestly unnecessary. 

Instead I went with a combination of blend shape driven controls with a second layer of control that could directly manipulate the face.

In the picture below it shows the joint based system on the left and on the right you can see the individual nurbs control that give the character secondary control for a-symmetrical posing.

Here are some quick emotion poses using the blend shape driven controls. 

During the process of creating the facial rig I came across a very monotonous work flow and found myself having to do the same function over and over sometimes more than 50 or 100 times. So this called for some scripting. From taking my course at Full Sail that covered mostly mel but more importantly python scripting I was able to create some fun workarounds not to mention making a pretty hefty rigging shelf that I now carry around with me.

here are some snaps from my code and shelf setup. code is partial of course

quick tools for unlocking and showing locked attributes

creating a hierarchy tool to automate the joint system for the root_joint, neck and head.

Fast Animation and Animation Wipes

This post is all about the fast animation. What makes fast animation so appealing? Why is it necessary?

Well to start off, this project is comprised of about 8 frames all on their own timing to create the illusion of a fast movement from one part of the screen to the other.

When you go to break this animation down though you will notice that towards the middle you will be able to see the image of the boy start to warp or blur. This effect in animation is called a "wipe". Similar to what a live action camera captures when an object is moving across the frame except in reality this is called motion blur and happens naturally. In animation we must draw these frames to resemble the motion blur effect.

Now the key to creating a successful wipe or motion blur frame is to stay true to the arcs of the character or subject you are animating, the stronger the arc is the better the animation will read. The second trick to getting this effect to work is to animate the "wipe" on 1's. This means creating three frame right in a row. frame 1 and 3 will be the determining drawings for when you go to create the wipe frame on frame 2.

The Wipe frame is strictly to represent the silhouette of the character from frame 1 to frame 3.  This image is often the most distorted and can take some time to get right.

This big question is why is this type of animation so appealing?