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Hash, Inc. - Animation:Master

Old, but not often repeated, advice....


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Ok, maybe this thread will take on a life of its own (I hope). I'll start off with a lighting tip I've learned that saves COUNTLESS hours and increases the accuracy of my lighting solutions. NOTE: I can't remember from where i learned htis, but it's certainly NOT an original idea. However, I've rarely ever have seen anyone mention it in relationship to AM, and hardly anyone explains this when teaching others to light an image


Ever wanted a sort of "real time" method to investigate your light levels while looking at a FINISHED render? Got a tough problem in adjusting the level of 6 lights to that precise level? PROBLEM SOLVED:


Render out a still using each light at 100% and all the others OFF! So in my example I have two images but there's no reason you can't have more.


Then bring in the images to your favorite layer-enable 2d program, stack 'em up. Now adjsut the combination method to "lighten" in PSP or some other equivelent additive method in photoshop. Now, ALL your layer combination sliders act as INSTANT light levels on your final-render quality image....


Yeah you can't adjust placement, but you CAN accurately, and now easily see your light levels INSTANTLY and how each one affects the overall look of the image.


Well I've always thought this method rocked.... :unsure:


Here's a little image sampler.... the two images on the extremes are jsut that and the one in a middle a blend of the lights.


NEXT person's turn! (Passes the conch shell).


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MY turn! (Grabs the conch shell).


Another simple trick to speed up actually positioning the lights is either removing all complex materials and textures or scale the textures down to tiny little 16x16 images (make sure to back up the full resolution ones before you do :) ). Textures are expensive to load and render, so you'll get much faster feedback without them. I like to use multi-pass with 1 pass for lighting tests, as it doesn't do any slow anti-alias. Once you've got the positions right, you can use Dearmed's approach to adjust the intensity of each light. (for those without PSP or PS, check out GIMP www.gimp.org or www.macgimp.org ).


Also coloring the lights with very different colors, red, green, blue etc. while positining them can help you see where each light falls.


NEXT person's turn! (Passes the conch shell).

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(Secures Conch shell)


Can't get any simpler than this, but is a must know powertool in windows:

When you want to document your progress (ala WIP) simply press the Print Scrn Key and what ever is on the screen is copied to the Windows clipboard. From there you can paste into any program that will accept bitmap graphics.


Holding the Alt key down while pressing Print Scrn will copy only the active window.


Mac users, your mileage may vary.


(Rodney extends the conch shell to the awaiting masses)

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[Doesn't take the conch shell since I'm only giving the Mac version of bakerrod's mini-tute]


Mac users, if you do Command/Shift/3 you will take a snapshot of your screen.

If you do Command/Shift/4 you can click and drag to take a snapshot of a selection of your screen.

[Takes the conch..]


This is probably only for serious newbies, but it took me a while to realize:


There's different ways to model a figure or object, but the best method I've found is..


1) Draw a front outline and side outline.

2) Draw some additional guide lines hanging in space for, say, the eye hole, or the cheek bone.

3) Pick some points and extrude. After each extrusion, shape the curve to match your view of what the figure should look like.

3a) You don't necessarily have to connect to the floating guide lines you've made. In fact, it might be better to just let them float, line up the extruded curve with them, then extrude on by.

3b) Have a little thought for the end part of the modelling when everything needs to be connected together; for instance, if the upper half of the face has a sheet of patches 5 extrusions wide, try to make the lower half of the face 5 extrusions wide.

3c) Circular holes or circular-tipped areas like eyeholes, or breasts should extrude outwards; For anything else, extrude across as a sheet.

4) Do this until about 90% of the figure is made up out of your extruded sheets, then do basic splinesmanship (the hooks and 5 point patches) to connect things together.


Your model should be clean, smooth, and logical.


Bonus Tip: Copy/Flip/Attach early, Copy/Flip/Attach often. Save often if CFA'ing a lot seems to destabilize A:M; it's worth it to catch problems early, like finding out your face is too wide, or your eyes too far apart. And as long as your CFA'ing often, there's nothing wrong with going from half to full, doing something tweaking in mirror mode, then deleting the other side and going to half again for a while.


And yes, 3) was not obvious to me at first.. My tactic used to be, draw splines from the front outline to the side outline, then start cutting up lines with extra CPs. With that method, what I created ended up all wrinkly and blotchy, and I found I was working slowly, thinking too much about what would happen when everything had to be connected together.


-Sean Givan

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(Grabs the conch and holds it up to the mike)


A voice from out of the conch says:

"...how do I make my decals start showing the black parts of them? And where do I find these alpha channels?"


Another voice replies:

"I dont think its alpha channels, it sounds like you need to change the images key colour. It's default is black so just change it to something not in your image map"


Yet another voice states:

"A more sure-fire way is to right click the key colour and select 'not set'. That way you don't need to worry about picking a key colour."


The voices go silent... a note of satisfaction still lingering in the air.

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MY turn! (Grabs the conch shell).


If you do not have graphic tablet you can paint wrinkles in A.M

easier than in most paint programs


When you are finished modelling your face for example

create a new group called wrinkles, lock everything else

and "spline" your wrinkles to your hearts content.

After you have flattened your face and made your template

for mapping create a seperate layer for for your wrinkles.

By duplicating this layer and using tools such as smudge,

invert colors,eraser,blur etc you can get far better results

than painting directly with a mouse.


BTW you can set thc cp color and size to that of the spline in

the custumize appearance settings in AM to get smooth lines.


In the meanwhile start saving all coins for that wacom cintique

we all dream of.


Luv Patos

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If you want to speed up your render and animation times in a complex scene (say the warehouse in Killer Bean 2 or a forest) - first make yourself a much simpler version with key locations highlighted. Then animate your characters to heart's content. Once finished, bake the resulting choreo work into a single action for each character, and then slap that on your characters where they are in the far more complex scene.


That allows you to animate without destroying your processor in the process for complex sets.

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[grabs conch shell quickly]


Waitaminute... won't deactivating objects work for that as well.


here's what I do in my compelx sets:


Add a few nulls *if* I have particular looking targets on certain complex objects (like a many cp'ed building)


Deactivate all models not important to relative locations of the actors (sky spheres, the ground plane if it's flat, buildings, etc.)




Works like a charm for me.


This also works for particle emitters too- if you don't want them calculating when you scrub back and forth.



[sets the conch down]

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Yeah, I guess that's a way to do it as well. I think part of the reason was that I also had a bizzilion objects that I didn't want to activate/deactivate all of the time. Of course now, I think you have an on/off pose that activates/deactivates the entire set - so problem again solved :)


So nice to have all this options.

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Ooo Ooo ... My turn...


Just figured out how to EASILY get my character Models on a flat white background, where the groundplane only shows the shadows of the models - without doing shadow buffers, alpha buffers, and recompositing in another program:


In the Chor -


1) make the Camera have a Rotoscope that is a plain White square (or any color or any image of your choice)


2) Make the ground plane model be a Front projection Target, Flat shaded, and accept shadows (do NOT say shadows only)


Render away, et Voila ! The trick seems to be the ground plane has to be front projection target ... if you just set flat shaded - no shadows show up on the ground.


Oh I am sooooo happy. (or perhaps I'm so simple minded, that it took me so long to figure this out with all the bewildering array of options)



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I got the conch shell, I got the conch shell :D

A simple thing that make it easier to positioin decals.

When decalling from a screen grab if you leave your model in the same screen position, or take note of the screen position information in the bottom right hand cornner, you can enter this and the decal will be positioned at the exact size.

Here are the steps

1.screencapture model in flattened pose

2.paste into paint program

3.crop image to the area you need for the decal. Save

4.Load into AM and create a new decal. Align the wireframe on the image over the wireframe of the model.


6.Go back into paint program and paint to your heart's content. I leave the wireframe on the bottom layer intact, as it's often handy reference.

Had something else to write, but I've forgotten.

Next? :D

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Hey look... the conch is channeling the voice of Yves Poissant!

...and waxing poetic about materials to boot.


" Plastic is the easiest type of material to do. Just set your specular color to white.


Now that is a mini-toot! from the conch if I ever saw one.

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Hey, I can hear the ocean in this thing! It's pretty simple to activate/deactivate a number of objects in the choreography at once:


If they're contiguous in the PWS, click on the first object, then scroll down and shift-click on the last object, keeping the shift key held down until the screen has finished repainting. Or, if you've got the objects in a subfolder in the choreography, simply right-click on the folder (or whatever the Mac equivalent is) and click on "Select Children".


You can then toggle the Active property in the Properties panel, and all of the selected objects will follow suit. You can also use this method for many other properties, and the little icons next to the object's name (pickable/unpickable, wireframe/shaded/hidden).



Bonus tip: If you need to use your computer for something while A:M is rendering and you don't want to abort, but your system is too sluggish because A:M's hogging the CPU, if you're using Windows XP (or, I presume, an NT flavor), hit Ctrl-Alt-Del and find Master.exe in the process list (second tab). Right-click on Master.exe and change the process priority to "Lower". Do what you need to do and then set A:M's priority back to normal by the same method.


Windows may warn about affecting system stability, but in my experience that only comes into play when you set a process to higher than normal priority.

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Is it possible for a conch shell to have multiple personalities?

Sure looks to be the case.


Let me tell you the story...


Once upon a time in a far away land a man seeking wisdom sought the council of the conch. He arrived at the fount of information and pleaded his case for wisdom into the conch. He got much more for his efforts that day as three, count 'em three voices issued forth from the conch in effort to guide him on his path toward enlightenment in the art of Copy/Flip/Attach.


The first voice said, when you copy flip and attach sometimes the flip is in a direction other than desired. One way to fix this is to move the model or mesh closer to the 0,0,0 coordinates. The software will do the rest.




The second voice spoke: Another way is to create a spline to guide you on your path. When the C/F/A is complete delete the extra spline.



And the last voice simply stated: Pivot is the key my son.



The voices fell silent.

And the man departed with his newly found light.


The producers would like to thanks the cast for they're contribution.

Voice 1: Rodney

Voice 2: Takahiro

Voice 3: Phillip Leavens

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  • 6 months later...

Big ol' bump and:


A non-technical bit, but I've found it helpful.


In creating animated shots where more than two characters are involved, I've found that choreographing their emotional responses and body motions can sometimes be difficult to get in hand. So I came up with a simple little concept- it's like a dance, and one person usually leads.


This means I'll animate the character who's got the "lead" of the dance in those places where they have the lead... then animate the other characters in the shot where they have the lead. Then I go back and animate reations to this lead action.


I find this also fits neatly into the conept of one (important) thing at a time for the viewer... it helps me remain conscious about where I want the viewer's main attention to be focused- and keeps the narrative of the shot clearer.


Ok, bye fer now...

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  • 9 months later...

One way to control key drift without resorting to double keying:


Say you have a hand keyed at frame 10 and 20 at identical spots. It's during a moving hold, or other subtle motion. And you get that "hump" or curve between the two keyframes (check it out in the channels window).


There are a million ways to control that curve, but one handy way I've found is to select the two cp's that control the keyframes. PEAK them. Then you can manipulate the curve with the bias handles to soften it or increase it on both sides of the cps independently.


Beware that if you move the keyframes, though, your bias changes may screw up the interpolation, so do this as a last step.

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ooooo... shiny conch shell...


er...um, I mean.....


My first choice for controlling the motion curve of a keyframe is "Zero Slope".

This serves several purposes:


-automatically eases in and out of a positional transformation or whatever other value is keyframed.


-it keeps bones from drifting.


-You can still control the magnitude of bias handle of the keyframe in timeline when it is when it is in channel edit mode.


-The bias handle remains at the same angle even if the keyframe is moved.


Tastes great. Less filling.


Ok... I'm done.

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...grabs conch shell, with a slightly mad, luddite look...


One of my favorite animation tools is..a Dry Erase Marker.


You can make any sort of reference line or notation directly on the viewplane (monitor), and "delete it" with the flick of a wrist.


..long live the analog...


puts shell down.

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my turn, my turn


well this isn´t much of a tip but it´s a life saver for architectural modeling in A:M!


go to http://www.microsoft.com/products/expressi...sion3_home.aspx


and download expression 3.3 for free (mac and pc), it´s the A:M of illustration software and it rules!!!! Hurry though, microsoft has taken up development again and will probably start selling it soon!!!!!


OH, the tip is, draw out bricks, arcs etc in expression as a solid obj. SAve in the illustrator 7.0 fromat and use A:M´s AI wizard. Next!

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This is a cool idea. I'll contribute...


Ever build a model that has several identical parts, each of which contains intricate moving parts controlled by poses (say a robot hand that has 4 identical fingers) and as your building it think; why am I creating the exact same poses over and over?


Build one part and create the poses and save it out to model file. Now embed the model into the project file again and rename the poses and the bones associated with them. Now import the one you saved and move it from on top of the existing one -- the poses will be read in and will work. As long as the bones and poses are renamed each time (i.e. are not the same as the model you want to import) you can keep importing the original model and its poses. I hope that makes sense.



But wait! As a special thank you, you’ll get…


Need to delete half of your model but dread deleting all the left over splines stretching across the break? Do this, copy half of the model, delete the entire model and then paste... bingo, no left over splines (save before you try this okay).



But wait! Order NOW and you’ll get absolutely free…


You build some shape that is not sitting on the zero axes and you need to duplicate it and flip it to the other side. So you copy, paste and flip on X axes -- now to move it over to the other side to the exact position. Got the setposition plug-in? Run it with the copied mesh selected, select group mode and flip on X (or whatever) axes. Its there!


Next person...



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But WAIT!! There's even more!


Ever want a little more control when rotating a model with TURN? Hold down the key (not sure for mac).



Ever go through each material, model and/or action opening each in order to embed then? Many may know this but I didn't until recently. Right click on the top folder (the one with the project name) and select 'Embed All'!



Ever want to clean up your groups, bones, decals, poses but... oh so slow... even crashes now and then! Close the all windows with the model in it! Fast, clean and easy.




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