Sunday, December 22, 2013

Weighted Tangents

Since I'm still awake, i'll go ahead and put my second one up. This one, all about them Weighted Tangents.

Above is the default way tangents look. As you may see, the curves flow very evenly through the keys. Also, the handles are very tiny boxes on the end of the lines. These indicate Non-Weighted Tangents. To turn on the magic of Weighted Tangents,: Curves > Weighted Tangents.

Now all of the tangent handles have changed to solid spheres, the sign of Weighted Tangents. However, this is just an indication that the tangents now are weighted. If you try to adjust the curves, they still act the same as the Non-Weighted curves. To truly make the Weighted curves usable, there's one more thing to turn on.

The solid spheres on the ends indicate Weighted, but not Free tangents. This means that the actual weight, or influence, of the tangents is still locked at 50/50. in order to start really editing the curves, you need to free up the weights. There are two buttons on the toolbar concerning weighted tangents. One unlocks the weights so you can edit them, and the other locks them back into whatever place you've moved them into.

After unlocking the weights, the tangent handles become hollow squares. NOW you can fully utilize weighted tangents. When editing handles now, instead of only being able to move the handles up or down, you now
have the option of moving them horizontal as well. The handles now have a full range of motion.

Weighted tangents are the easiest tools to utilize when adding the animation principles of Smooth Ins and Outs to your project. Obviously, the point of using weighted tangents is to control how much influence a keyframe will have in an animation. This means controlling how fast or slow curves reach their max values. To make sure that a key frame is slowly eased into, you would pull out the left tangent handle to the left, toward the previous keyframe. This will make the curve's arc occur sooner and the character or prop's movement will snap out of the preview keyframe and smoothly roll into the current keyframe.

To ease out a pose or key, you would do the opposite. You would extend the right handle toward the following keyframe.

One the same token, you can make keys and poses appear and flash by quickly by pulling the handles in toward the keyframe.

You can get some pretty crazy looking curves using weighted tangents, however, you can also use less keyframes and have very smooth animation curves.

I hope these are helping! I know learning about these tools and how to use them has had a BIG impact on not only my animations, but HOW I'm animating as well.

Buffer Curves

So, much like I did before with the Camera Traffic in Nuke, I thought I'd make another blog or two about some more helpful tools that I wish I had been shown when I was first starting out on Gaiaspora. These are tools I didn't even know existed inside of Maya until Animation Mentor. I thought, maybe if someone out there is like me and is following this, maybe I can help out a little! So this week, Buffer Curves!

Buffer Curves are a highly useful tool inside of the graph editor for editing curves with fewer keyframes, but still to fit the curve prior to extra keyframes being deleted. Buffer curves will create a ghost of your curve that you can utilize to better edit curves.

Buffer Curves can be turned on by going through the menus in the Graph Editor: View > check Show Buffer Curves. At first, nothing will appear different inside of your Graph Editor.

However, if you move or delete a key…

Voila! Now, you can see your buffer curve, or your curve ghosts. You can use these curves when editing your tangent handles to make sure that you pull curves back where deleted keys were.

Now in the toolbar, there are two buffer specific buttons. There's the Buffer Curve Snapshot, and the Swap Buffer Curve buttons.

First, the Snapshot button. After you've been editing curves and checking the animations, it's bound to come to the point where you want to change the curve ghost to the newly edited curve before you continue editing it. Thus the snapshot button. It makes the current animation curve the new basis for the buffer curve.

The Swap Buffer curves is a little strange. Its function is to swap the current buffer curve and animation curve completely.

Buffer curves are an extremely helpful tool for animating inside the Graph Editor, and they are easy to use! Have fun!

Friday, December 20, 2013

First semester of Animation Mentor... COMPLETE!

Man, life sure has continued to be an adjustment this semester since graduating! Going back to school has been fun thought. Costly... but fun. I definitely believe I've found the right career path for myself in animation.

So as the title states, my first semester at AM has come to an end. It's been a fun semester relearning and get a more solid foundation in the basics. Even though I've done an animated short already, I feel like I've learned a crapload this semester, and not just about the animation fundamentals, but about animating inside of Maya as well.

For starters, I'll put up my reel.

Animation Mentor Progress Reel (Class 01, December 2013) from Nick Arbeiter on Vimeo

The assignments are simpler than the things I had to do on Gaiaspora, but I feel stronger about the fundamentals in these than in those I did on the short. I also feel like I have a better grasp on implementing the principles in my animations. From earlier blogs in the semester, you may see that I've also done poses that aren't in this reel. After I go back and fix up the personality walk animation (the first two pieces in the reel), I plan on re-rendering and touching up all of the poses and adding them to the end of this reel. So by the beginning of next semester, I will have an updated progression reel from AM. I am very thankful to my mentor, Don Kim up in Nelvana Studios, for all of the critiques and demos he gave this semester. I'm looking forward to next semester now!

And then I have a three week break. And what am I doing with it? Working on two other shorts. Haha. I'm getting the chance to do animations for two new shorts, one created by friends of mine from college, Aether Edge; the other is one I've discovered over the interwebs entitled Thin Walls. It's time to see how much I've actually learned from one semester! I'm actually ready to try something a bit more intense because I want to try out my new-found appreciation for the blocking phase.

I say that last bit because I'm fully admitting that I used to not put enough emphasis on the blocking phase of animating a shot on a full bodied character. Even this semester at AM, the only animations I blocked out first were the walking assignments with Ballie. The other animations I did straight ahead. I used to do that in 2D as well, and it worked really well for me. And I still think that I will use straight ahead animation for props and simple characters. However, when using a character like Ballie, or the main character of Aether Edge, I've come to realize just how valuable and how far you can go with stepped animation. Also after seeing a bunch of progression reels, I see how much blocked animation is used for dailies before splines are used to clean things up. I've also come to like posing characters a lot more. Trying to make individual poses read in silhouette and get emotions across at a glance is like a new game to beat. And I plan on mastering this game.

So I'll be keeping busy! Next semester is Body Mechanics. Finally getting into full bodied characters. And my mentor will be Ray Ross, animator at Blue Sky studios.

Speaking of Blue Sky, I just want to take a second to share that I have come to the realization that I want to be an animator akin to Jeff Gabor. I've been watching and re-watching some of his progression reels on Vimeo, and it's just amazing to watch. He can get so into character, and it's hilarious to watch, but I can visibly see how much it helps him when he gets to blocking. I wanna be as fun and as good as this guy!

Here's an example of what I mean:

Epic Comparison Reel from jeff gabor on Vimeo

I love the animation on MK, gaaahh! Full of personality!