Tuesday, April 26, 2011

PRJ350 - Week 15 Project Post-Mortem

Having gone through the process of creating this short, I want to look back at what went well, what didn't and what I'm taking away from the project.

First of all, I should look at what it was I set out to do, my initial plans, versus what I was able to accomplish in the time I had. Initially, I wanted to have a much more playful portion of the scene where the goblin turns the god lights on and off by touching the sword. Now, the god light stays on, even after he removes the anvil - not what I had hoped, but by the time I had gotten to the actual animation, I had run out of time for the polish needed.

Additionally, I wanted to use Maya's Paint Effects to put in geometric grass to soften the background, give it more volume and shape and help with the transitions between the ground and the trees. This, again, wasn't possible due to time constraints and had to be abandoned - what it would have done to my render time alone would have made the project impossible in the time allowed.

As far as the character's controls and acting, I really wanted to get more blend shapes set up to allow more facial rigging and expressions. This, too, had to be abandoned, as I had already taken up far more time then was allotted for the rigging process.

There's a number of other things that didn't make it in or had to be sacrificed for the project due to time constraints, but breaking down the specifics isn't particularly interesting. Instead, I should look more at the reasons behind why - most of the time spent on the project was in research and development of the rigging process and creating and tuning the textures and subsurface scattering shaders. Had I been more familiar with this process, I could have better planned the time for it, and gotten through the process much easier, but that's what I'm happiest about taking away from the project. The power of the rigging process in Maya and the capability that can be built into it is intriguing, to say the least, and I'm excited about learning more about it - the rig I have in my scene is pretty basic, all things considered, but it did the trick for what I needed it for, and I learned more about how to plan a rig for animation and how to animate a rig well just having spent the weeks researching and building it and learning from others who were more proficient with the process.

At the outset, I did lose a week or two of work when I had to go back and redesign the character - a step I'm very glad I did, as the new character design has a lot more appeal and was just a lot more fun to work with. The more I model, the more I learn about edge loops and how to design them for deformation, and this character's belly and wrists certainly could have used a lot more careful planning. His skinning, as well, is a bit atrocious, which is something I'm definitely going to have to learn more about. Using Maya's paint weights tool was a new experience, and more difficult than I had originally planned, and I spent much of my animation time posing the character in ways that minimized or hid any problems I had with the skinning.

Overall, I wish I had gotten through the process of building and designing the character faster so that I had more time for animation - as it was what I was hoping to focus on, having only two or three weeks to do more animation then I had done in all of my animation classes for the year combined meant that great sacrifices had to be made in quality. There simply was no way to have time to properly block in poses and spend the weeks needed to polish the spline curves and finesse the animation into appealing, smooth and high-quality motion the way I would have liked. Tight deadlines are a reality in the industry, I understand, but with all the technical hurdles I faced in creating a well-rigged character that would allow for quality animation, I don't know what the alternative would have been other then planning for very simple, short animations or creating a simpler character without the technical requirements a well-rigged and skinned character posed.

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