3D animation: Maya obstacle course log


Maya log 1 steps
Animating my character across the first step

Log 1: The first thing I had to animate my character across was a small step up to a slide-like structured polygon. Using the channel editor to create key-frames from the ‘translate’ and ‘rotate’ channels so I could quickly key-frame each movement by simply pressing the short-cut ‘S’.

Using both the 3D and 2D perspectives, I began animating the character jumping lightly onto the step as if it were a stop-motion figure, moving each piece of the ‘skeleton’ rig a frame at a time using the ‘ move tool’ and ‘rotate tool’.


Log 2: For this part of the animation, where the character is sliding down a ramp and then climbing over a barrier, I tried a different method of animation, where I moved the frame-marker on the timeline straight to 25 frames and moving each aspect of the skeleton an appropriate amount for the time-frame.

Rotating the arms proved to be a challenge, as it was difficult keeping them anatomically correct and looking consistent.









Maya tutorial 2: animation: basic

In this lesson, we were shown how to animate basic 3D shapes in  Maya.

First of all, I created a basic cube and a sphere and, after selecting animation in the workspace settings, I selected translate X as a keyframe in the channel editor by right-clicking and selecting ‘ key selected’.

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 09.45.58
setting up a keyframe

Then, after moving the timeline indicator to 25 frames ahead, I moved my cube along it’s X-axis, and checked that it actually animated by clicking play before moving on the sphere. I then repeated this process to achieve a small animation of a moving cube.


3D animation: Pixar short film analysis and animation pipeline

1. Paper-man


In 2012, Disney/Pixar released a short-animation alongside their latest feature back then, Wreck-it Ralph, called Paper-man which garnered a-lot of attention and came away with the Annie award for best short-film, and in 2013, won the Oscar in that category.

It’s significance was also because it successfully blended 2D and 3D animation together to create something rarely seen in animation.

Research from: The making of Paperman and the future of Disney animation


Animation process

  1. Disney CG animators animated the characters and objects the same way they would animate any other CG animated feature, by using 3D models and polygons in programmes such as Maya and using techniques such as kinematics and inverse kinematics.
  2. Computers then render the CG animation in a very cel-shaded fashion, without any line-drawings or line-art, just the fills for each character and moving object
  3. For each character and drawing, the line-art is drawn over each CG animated frame, inside the custom software that Disney created for these types of animation. The line-artists would do this for each character’s key frame, in effect ‘sticking’ the line-drawings onto the CG animated models.
  4. The artists then have to go through the frames and tweak and adjust any in-organic looking in-between key frames that they come across, as the line-art is not as smooth and natural as the CG kinematics,  which is the most time-consuming task in this process.
  5. During the compositing process, the paper-like texture of the animation is added to each frame sequence using a motion vector render technique, so the texture fits in with the sequences.
  6. The shading process for the characters begins by breaking the model down into topological cylinders and then computing each tangent from the polygons into cross-sections based on the perspective of the camera. Then each silhouette is extended along the normals, and this process is repeated for each topological cylinder. Motion vectors are then added for each vertex, and then rendered for 3D space and for each pixel.

2. Piper

Pixar released Piper in 2016 alongside its latest feature film, Finding Dory and it gained significant acclaim because it successfully utilised the latest animation technology that Pixar had created.

Research from: Indiewire: How innovative Pixar short ‘Piper’ got sculpted


  1. Wildlife study: Before beginning the animation process, the crew went out and studied and drew Sand-pipers, Plovers and Sanderlings, visiting places such as the Californian coast and an aviary at the Monterey Bay aquarium in order to get a better sense of how these birds and, more specifically, their feathers move and achieve more believable movement in the animation.
  2. Camera type: The director, Alan Barillaro, chose to set the lenses for the animation to a ‘faux lens’ to give the short the aesthetic of a nature documentary, while adding zooms and moments of full focus apart from the shallow depth of field throughout a majority of the short to give the short an added feeling of realism. This CG macro-photography was used to achieve a unique-looking bird’s eye view.
  3. Animation technique: Alan Barillaro wanted him and the rest of the animators to control every aspect of movement, from the waves and sand to ,especially, the sandpipers’ feathers, rather than letting a computer programme simulate the movement. However, the current technology at Pixar couldn’t achieve this, so Barillaro wanted to create the animation to test his new technology that allowed this sort of control.  This latest animation technology gave the animators a greater degree of control over the aspects of the animation by treating the sea-waves and sand like characters in their own right, controlling the timing, shaping, the edge of the wave and the bubbles, which were a mix of character animation an effects. The bird had up to 7 million individual feathers, therefore regional controls and visual direction had to be used. This allowed the character to be expressive without using more humanoid traits such as hand-gestures or speech.

Dream-works animation pipeline

Research from: Dreamworks animation pipeline video

animation BTS.jpg

This should give additional insight as to how Dreamworks and pixar and other 3D animation companies create their films.

  1. Ideas: The first thing that the animators come up with is an idea for potential stories. Taking inspiration from children’s stories, comic-books, while some ideas are completely original. These final ideas are then translated into script drafts and sketches, both being put through the editorial department to turn into storyboards for visualisation. This department continues working on the film throughout the process.
  2. Art: The art department use pencils and paper or digital tools to create the concept art for the film and establish, visually, how the film is going to look. The art is then approved by the production designer and art director, then it is all shown to the director to see if he/she approves of how the film is going to look.
  3. Modelling: Modelling is where the characters are built from the 2-D images to 3-dimensions. This begins with a wire-frame of the character and then the modeller sculpts around the wire-frame to create what the character will look like in 3-D.
  4. Rigging: Riggers take the 3D character models and add the skeleton/puppet rig underneath the model’s surface, so it is ready for animating. This includes the joints, “muscle” and “fat”, to make sure that the animators have enough control over how the character moves,
  5. Surface artists: Surface artists give the environments, objects and character models different textures, lighting and effects, to make sure they look believable. For example if they had to add to a model of a glass tube, they would add reflections, lights and smoothness.
  6. Rough layout: This takes place between pre-production and production. The 3D assets are brought into this department, and then they are put into a 3D space, where, using a virtual camera, they will lay out the different cinematography and placements of objects, so the director can see how it is going to look while the assets are animated onscreen. This includes using motion-capture technology to get a basic idea of how and where the characters are going to move.
  7. Final layout: Also called “Anim-prep”, the final layout is where the basic geometry and models are replaced with the finalised versions in a master shot. Character models are placed in a starting position in the scene, and then the scene is ready for the animators to start moving the character models. After the scene is finished animating, the Layout department will perform “set-dressing” where some of the aspects of the set are cleaned-up to look more refined. They will then create a “stereo-pass” where the camera stereo is placed for the left and right eye, so the audience knows where to look in the shot first.
  8. Animation: Animators begin to move the character in the environment using the already prepared puppet and rig. The puppets are controlled by over 3000 control-points, to give each character realistic movement. However, before this begins, the animators collect references from real-life, from online and from previously shot reference clips in the studio.
  9. Crowds: The crowds department is in charge of animating the “extras” of the film. If there are too many character models on-screen, it becomes the crowd department’s responsibility to ensure that each crowd model moves convincingly. This is achieved through creating a selection if automatic animations that apply to the scene that the crowd is in, then those can be applied to each model in the crowd, to create the illusion that this is a group of individually animated models.
  10. Character Effects: This department focuses on the different movements on the character, besides the movements that the character itself is doing. For example, rippling clothes, water effects and hair blowing in the wind. This ensures that the character looks as though it is genuinely interacting with the environment, and is part of the environment.
  11. Effects: The effects department add the larger effects such as explosions, creating fire and smoke, and environmental damage, but they also add the smaller effects to make the film appear more realistic, such as footprints, snow effects and leaves rustling.
  12. Matte painting: This department is in charge of finalising the vistas and scenery, adding effects such as stars, mist and adding the different models that would appear outside of the frame of the camera. This gives realism to the scenes and adds immersive-ness.
  13. Lighting: At the lighting department, lights and shadows are added to the shots using compositing software to blend the lights in with the models and environments as they are moving.
  14. Image final-ing: This is where any clips, smudges or any other inconsistencies in the animation gets cleaned up, to achieve the final look of the shots.
  15. Sound design: While the animation process is continuing, a composer creates the soundtrack for the film to bring across the film’s story. This is edited with audio levels, equalization and special treatments on dialogue, to create the final sound mix for the film. The final film is then released to the public.


Animation: The Lion King

  • Storyboards: The directors ( Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff) began by planning their film out using storyboards describing each scene or significant frame of animation using rough sketches of the scene and the dialogue used in the scene written beneath the picture. They then displayed the storyboards to a meeting of artists and animators acting out each storyboarded scene to convey the sequence.
    Voice-acting: Different actors were then brought into the Disney studio to record the dialogue for their respective characters. Each actor had to fit the voice the directors wanted for each character, and after being shown the storyboards for the film, they would record their voices for their character using a microphone and a script in front of them. Often, the artist for a particular character would use the actor’s facial expressions as inspiration for the character’s design. For example, actor Jeremy Iron’s face was the implemented in the design of the face of his character, Scar.
    Art and design: In order to get inspiration for their drawings and paintings and to ensure that the background and natural elements were as faithful to the setting as possible, each artist working on the film travelled to the African Savannah and observed the wildlife and scenery, drawing elements like a sunset, different trees and the rocky terrain. They would then take these paintings and drawings and show them to the directors so they could get an idea of what was perfect for what the film needed and what aspects needed to be re-drawn.
    Sound and music: Composer Hans Zimmer created the music for the film by combining western instruments, such as trumpets and violins, with instruments found in Africa, such as Marimbas and African drums, in order to make the music fit well with the film and it’s setting.
    Animation: For each character, a separate animator observed the way the animal that their respective character was based on moved and emulated it in their drawings and computer animation. For example, for the lion characters a real-life lion was brought into the art studio so the animator for Mufasa, for instance, could gain an understanding of how his character moved and what a lion’s mannerisms are like.

Maya: 3D character

To further our practice with 3D animation, we signed into an animation tutorial website called Animation Mentor, in order to teach us the basics of animating a full character in Maya.

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 10.53.17
Character model mesh

After downloading the character from Animation Mentor, I opened up a new setup in Maya and selected the animation setup. I then used the attributes editor to add a key-frame to all of the character’s limbs after selecting frame 1 in the timeline. I then moved the character’s left leg up, causing the leg to bend for the first frame. I repeated this process for both of the character’s legs to creating a walking motion.

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 10.53.33
Maya animation timeline

Maya animation: Lighting

Lighting: In a 3D space, light is used to create atmosphere, and since the light is digital in Maya, we have a lot more control over how and where it is used.

The system that Maya uses to process it’s lighting is Arnold.

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 09.47.25.png

Types of lighting:

  • Ambient: the lighting used to create atmosphere and to uniformly brighten all parts of a scene, and for simulating a combination of directional and
  • Directional: Used to cover a certain angle or field using rays of light and is useful for far away scources
  • Point: Light that radiates from a certain point in all directions
  • Spotlights: Creates a cone of light in a singular direction
  • Area: Used for lighting a single space, however it takes a longer render time than other lighting types
  • Three-point lighting: Key light=main source illuminating an object, Secondary light= highlights the details in an object, and back light, which distinguishes an object from the background

Attributes of light

  • Intensity= the strength of a lighting effect
  • Cone angle= the width of a light direction
  • Penumbra= the soft edge of a cone angle
  • drop-off= how much light diminishes at the outer-edge
  • colour= sets an RGB colour for a light effect, which affects the colouring of a scene.
  • Decay= How much lighting diminishes away from the source of a light.


Aim from/aim at is the distance and angle you aim at an object with the intensity remaining the same, which has an affect on how it falls on an object

Cone radius is the size of a cone of a light source

Lighting tips:

  • Look at photography for good techniques
  • Think in terms of balance
  • Avoid being overly dramatic
  • Avoid over-saturated lighting and hues
  • We normally only need a small number of lights
  • Try and avoid disco-like colours and effects

The different types of shadows in a scene are:

Hard shadows

Soft shadows

Fall-out shadows


3D modelling: basics



Polygonal: Digital 3D shapes made up of faces, created using vertices (Corner points)

NURBS: Non-Uniform Rational Bee Splines

Vertex: corners of a 3D shape

Extrusion: extending the shape to create a new shape

Sub-division: Dividing shape to gain more information on that shape.

Valence: Number of edges from a point

N-gon: A shape with 5 points or more, making the shape uneven and hard to work with.

Cartesian: Maya’s grid system


Q= General selection

W= Move tool



F= Focus on one shape

A= Focus on all objects

D= Move pivot point

3D modelling Industries


Gaming: Modelling characters, environments and objects in game

Geology: Used for simulating earthquakes and different landforms such as Deep-sea trenches.

Entertainment: Most blockbuster films and television shows use 3D modelling for CGI (Computer Graphic Imaging) to create artificial characters and environments in their film that they cannot use practical (non-digital) effects for.

Publishing: 3D is used in publishing to let publishers show environments or flora and fauna in their book that may be difficult to depict in their writing. Especially in fantasy books that contain environments that do not exist in real-life.

Different programmes used for 3D publishing include TurboCad, 3DCad, and Architect3D.


Autodesk Maya

Maya has 2 main file types

  1. .MA: Maya Askey
  2. .MB: Maya Binary


Magnet 1= Snap to grid


3D models: spaceship

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 10.03.35.png
A basic 3D space-ship

First of all, I created a small cube as the basis of my ship, then made 2 new cubes on either side of the first.

Using the extrude component tool, I manipulated the cubes on either side of the main cube, to look like wings, then, adding a new cube in front of this, I used the same tool to transform it into a trapeze shape to form the front.





After-effects: Duik animation

During an after-effects lesson, we installed a plugin called Duik which allows people to create animations easier by having control over one joint of a limb for example, and having the other joints follow automatically. To practice this, we were asked to animate a basic arm.



Before starting, you must name each piece/joint of the arm otherwise there will be spaces in the animation, for example, L_arm = left arm.

Then, we create a controller to control the different functions of the arm. e.g. one for rotation, X-axis and Y-axis. Be sure to change the size and colour of the controller. In this case, we put the controller in the place of the hand, as then the other joints will follow what the hand does. (Note: you will only need to see the controller’s layer and not the other joint’s layers, so click on the “shy-guy” on the layers tab to hide the separate layers

When making the animation, make sure you work reverse from the controller, so from the controller an arm would be 4=controller, 1=forearm, 2= elbow and 3= arm.

For each frame, simply move the parent part of the limb you are moving, and the rest of the limb will simply follow the controller. This creates more natural looking movement in the animation and is far easier than having to move each part of the arm frame-by-frame on it’s own.



Animation introduction: 2D

In our first lesson of this week, we were introduced to animation in after-effects and were given a tutorial on how to do a basic 2d animation of a spaceship.

I uploaded this one onto After effects and created a new composition using this image, along with a galaxy background.

Spaceship (from Clipartfest.com: 09/01/2017)

Then after I uploaded this, I imported this composition into the preview screen and activated the different key-frames in the key-frame window.

Then, using the position key-frame, I moved the UFO frame-by-frame until it reached the edge of the scene, making it look as though it were gliding through space.