Part 4. All about animation setup

Do you remember our article about ‘scary modeling’? This time we continue the thriller of 3D video production. It’s animation setup time.

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Customising and preparing 3D models for further animation is called setup. Or rigging.

A long, long time ago, Englishmen used this word for putting sails on masts. In our case rigging is 80th level of responsibility customisation of the 3D model’s ‘skeleton’.

In other words, rigging is responsible for limbs bending, muscles swelling, all the wrinkles on a character’s body when it bends over. It also includes moving parts of machines or waving tree branches… In brief, it’s customisation of everything that will swing, roll, walk, fall or fly in the video.

Simple? Far from it! You see, a model can have a huge number of ‘bones’ that are all interdependent. You make a mistake in one of them and the whole model gets distorted.

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Faces are especially tricky. Animation of any facial gesture needs its own ‘skeleton’. What’s more, each part of the face (eyebrows, lips, cheeks) is worked out independently. A face is not an emoticon. It takes 43 muscles for a person to smile, and 17 muscles to frown. And all this needs to be customised.

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We borrowed this amazing picture from here

Animatic inside out

So, there is character animation, technological process animation, organics animation and also camera animation.

At this stage we set the camera’s path, and work with movement of the objects. The result is a draft video clip that is almost ready – it’s animatic.

Approval of this is a task for a hero of the highest order. As soon as the client says: ‘It’s a deal!’ you’ll have no chance to change anything – not camera angle and location, scale of objects or movement of characters and items. Nor aspect ratio or frame per second.

What’s the conclusion? Setup and animation are long, labour-intensive processes. And effects animation is just a massive headache. For example, for one of our projects we put a lot of time and effort into cracking coal. Maybe it would have been easier to crack it for real.

It takes hours to recreate liquids, particles, smoke and physical kinetics. It’s very difficult and ties up all our computer resources – you cannot do anything else at that time.

And yet you have so much more to do! The details will follow.

And now, some of our videos – for clarity

Here we have animated characters and organics…

…and here, some technical animation. Feel the difference.

Barge animation from Qubio Studio on Vimeo.