Ok, it’s time for my first english update. After a weekend of some hard labor (moving stuff to a new apartment) it’s actually pretty nice to come back and again start sitting 8 hours a day and fighting those small fights with our animation. Our main character is ready for action, although he still has some issues with himself. Jussi and I are starting to get a hang of animating again (our last episode with moving stuff around being maybe three months away), and some light is already shining through our grisly mental cobwebs. Also, the agreement of cutting animation shorter feels like a mountain rolling off our hearts (if you can say that in english, I don’t know). We feel Hulk Hogan.
Our main character was naturally built with help from many sources. His face was modeled with much help from Mr_Bombs tutorial of modeling a human face, with the exception of ears, which were done with help from Michel Rogers tutorial ”Modeling Joan of Arc”, which also helped with the characters body. Nameless tutorial called ”Get a hand!” helped with (no shit) hands, although it proved to be too hard to follow through completely – so our hands are much more simple.
Then it was time for rigging our man. With this the famous Ludwig-rig was very helpful, as was Tony Mullens book ”Introducing character animation with Blender” and many tutorials. ”Rigging a hand and a foot” by Lyubomir Kovachev gave some fine ideas, but it was Ludwig and Mullens book that really helped with the foot rig. Rigging the hands was a real pain, but again Mullens book showed it’s wisdom. Also Siggraph hand rigging demo by Bassam Kurdali proved invaluable.
Skinning was pure torture, and there was no tutorials around to really help that much. We first used envelopes to get the basics, and then weight painting to refine everything. Unfortunately, the guy has a shirt, so whenever he sits, the shirt should be raised. This is hard, because to achieve strong enough effect, the shirt would raise all the time when he walks, which looked really retarded. Some shape keys have been tried, but no real solution has yet been found. Oh well, time will tell.
Facial rigging was mostly done like it is done in Mullens book, with shape keys and ipo drivers. Problems arose when we realised that the guy has to open his mouth sometimes, and we had no inside piece. So, quickly one was crafted, but to fit it with all the shape keys was horrible. After a dosen small adjustments it now works pretty well. Oh, and I almost forgot, there were huge problems with mirroring shape keys from one side to the other, until tolobáns (from blenderartists.org) extremely helpful script was found. After that, mirroring shape keys was like dancing in a cloud of otherworldly pleasures.
So, now the character was ready and we could start animating. Peter was working with the materials of our man while Jussi and I moved him around. Using Blender’s ”link”, we created separate files for the scenes, linking in the environments and the character. Thus, if there was trouble with the character (as there surely were), one could go back to the father-file of the character and fix things, and they would update in the scene-file. For example, we noticed that our character was too long and his head was too small and he looked stupid, which is kind of a problem. So we just scaled down his body, then scaled the bones. With little trouble, it worked, and we were back in business. By using links it also became possible for Peter to work with the textures, lightning and materials with no fear of how to combine stuff later.
So, now we are animating, and as it can sometimes be such horror, it actually is pretty darn enjoyable most of time, especially when compared to rigging’n’skinning. Yippee! Some stuff has proved to be helpful in this stage too. First to be mentioned is without doubt Richard Williamson’s book ”Animator’s survival kit”, which seems to pretty much cover everything under the sun. Also John Lasseter’s stuff at Siggraph site is definitely worth a peek. But ok, now I’ll just shut up and get back to work. I’ll list all the good stuff down below along with a blend file of the character, in case that someone would be interested in checking it out (and by all means, feel free to use it too if you like). Now, i go.
Jonathan Williamson (aka mr_Bomb): Modeling a face and ear
Michel Roger: Modeling Joan of Arc
some nice human: Get a hand!
Jason Pierce: Ludwig
Lyubomir Kovachev: Rigging a hand and a foot
Bassam Kurdali: Siggraph hand rigging demo
Tolobán: RKVmirror.py (thread at blenderartists.org)
John Lasseter: Tricks to animating characters with a computer
Tony Mullen: Introducing character animation with Blender
Richard Williams: Animator’s survival kit
.blend-file of our character – right-click and ”save as..”