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Rodney

Minimal Man (Minimal Rig)

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At the end of today's Live Q&A I attempted to post a query related to spline controlled animation.

I hadn't set up the model very well so there wasn't much to see at the time... translation: it barely worked.

After the session I modified the character and inner rig a little more while it was fresh in my mind.

 

I'll be glad to share the setup (minimal man charcter and rig) but it's still barely at the stage of being presentable.

The attached video does demonstrate a little of the setup and hopefully demonstrate where I'd like to go with the idea.

I mentioned during the session that I'd probably need to set up some use cases to properly demonstrate but the basic premise is to be able to animate (characters or objects) without directly manipulating any bones (only Nulls and CPs).

 

Most of the animation (in this test) is made via 5 control points on a single (curcular) spline. To move the mass of the object inside that spline there are three Nulls. This to provide better means to move the model in depth and to aid in control of squash and stretch. This is a form of 'control cage' in that the model would have a basic or even complex rig but the animator doesn't have to work with any of that unless necessary (or for final polishing). A complex rig would likely contain levels of similar 5 cp splines that control specific areas of a model (i.e. outer facial... inner facial... eyes... mouth... each might have a spline ring of its own.

 

Use cases? Well, I dunno. There are probably as many as we can take the time to think of.

Because the CPs and Nulls are minimal confusion with what bones to move and animate is reduced.

Heads up displays and 'pickers' could be produced based on Pose sliders that mirror the structure (or actually use) the model. Ideally (I believe) these interfaces would be copies of the model (or controller) because that allows for one to one selection. You'd know you have the right Controller because *it is* the same control just in a different setting/view.

 

This type of thing is considerably harder to setup (IMO) with bones.

 

Additonal prospects are at hand although a few would need fine tuning from Steffen ala a feature request. An example of this would be to either allow single CPs to exist (rather unlikely) or mode were splines do not show; resulting in the same basic effect as if the CPs were floating on screen or on a surface as if there on their own. Some refresh issues also exist when animating individual CPs. I use the space bar to refresh the screen often while animating with these 5 CPs and 3 Nulls.

 

There are no IK/FK and other fancy things in this setup but someone knowledgeable of such could certainly take the approach to the next level.

 

But... enough with the words...

 

Here's a (very) rough walkthrough of my test with Minimal Man who consists of about 10 bones, 3 nulls and one 5 CP spline controller.:

Minimal Man.mp4

MInimal Man.png

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And a quick conversion to minimal girl...

 

I figure eventually I'll need to test cloth and hair.

 

 

Miniami.png

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Looks like a fun exploration, Rodney!

 

Yes, fun but often slow progress... you know the drill.

 

I've been wanting to put together a 5 point controller ever since I saw a reference to a similar thing in a book that collected drawing lessons from the early 1900s (no.. I'm not THAT old... but I do like old art books). In that age gone by when performing 'chalk talks' cartoonists would do many things we'd consider corny, immature... unlearned... odd... and yet often there was a glimmer of ingenuity in that process that made it worth a closer look. And it was very often fun and entertaining for performers and audiences.

 

In the 5 point drawing 'gimmick' the illustrator would place 5 dots anywhere on paper/chalkboard and then follow up by drawing a human character that had his hands on two of those dots... feet on two others... and a head on the last. This same approach is useful in puppetry... how DO those those puppets perform like that with only a couple of crossed piece of word and strings to a few primary points? This isn't to say 5 points are all it takes to get the job done... no... those points just drive the initial pose. More is required in the de-tailing and art-iculation of the performer. It is interesting to note how some of the current trends in robotics borrow from the past too.

 

Distilling simplicity out of complexity sure is hard work.

Just when we think we've got something figured out we discover we don't.

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Looks like a fun exploration, Rodney!

 

Distilling simplicity out of complexity sure is hard work.

Just when we think we've got something figured out we discover we don't.

 

 

Yessir, I've been there plenty of times.

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I just saw the gif at the top and watched the movie. That's a fun contraption! It reminds me of some sort of Chinese acrobatic thing.

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It seems a guy named Ted Nelson is the one whose silly system inspired my exploration.

Ted Nelson was a Chalk Talker from the days before film animation became easier to use for purposes of presentation and performed in the same general vein as Vaudeville performancers in front of audiences.

 

This morning I grabbed my book that combines/binds varous lessons from C.L. Bartholomew (known as Bart) who headed up the Federal Schools School of Illustration and Cartooning and spotted a few of the drawings depicting the 5 dot method.of articulation. The book is pretty thick so I thought I'd run a google search to see if the pages were already scanned and I found an entire book on Chalk Talking by Bart that I'd not see before. In it were the illustrations from my bound book as well as a few more I don't recall seeing before.

 

The attached image collects a few of the most pertinent pages related to the idea of 5 dot system (although I've shoehorned the stick figure and pieces/parts pages in because I like them too).

The lessons most related to rigging from all the lessons in the Federal School inventory would very likely be those that focus on anatomy. Some of those are very interesting.

 

I've also attached the PDF of the Chalk Talk and Crayon Presentation book the images were taken from.

The folks at Microsoft and University of California who scanned the book (and dutifully plastered their names upon its pages) suggest it is for educational and non profit use only.

 

 

Apparently during the chalk talk the presenter would have various folks from the audience tell where he would place the dots. Once all five were in place he'd create the character in an action pose by super-im-posing a character over the dots. This is kind of neat to me because in a way it foreshadows the use of animators in the digital realm where we (as both presenter-director and audience-animator) do similar stuff.

 

I'll note for the record that in the animated demo while there are five dots/CPs on the control spline, technically I cheated by only animating four of those dots. The head CP just went along for the ride.

 

post-1010-0-37805300-1461744269.gif

Ted Nelson 5 Dot Chalk Talk.png

ChalkTalkandCrayon.pdf

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