close-up screenshot

an animated short film
by mike pratscher


produce a 15-30 second animation involving two characters that interact. there
should be a story. Maya should be used to help learn the workings of a
commercial animation system, as well as to become familiar with existing tools
in Maya. everything must be done from scratch - modeling, rigging, animating,
etc. include a mel script that contributes to some part of the modeling,
animating or rendering. try and be as creative and artistic as you can.

doodle a few years ago while doodling i drew a little character that i
found myself drawing over and over again. so it didn't take me
very long to decide what the main character would look like. i
thought it would be interesting to bring this little doodle to life,
but he needed a story...

storyboard having just covered layered characters in lecture, i had the
idea that the doodle man could be the underlying skeleton to
a character having jello-like 'muscles'. the main story would
be that everyone was complete with skeleton and jello, except
for a lone skeleton man and a lone jello man. in the end they
would find each other and become complete.

at first i pictured the skeleton man as being made from wire but
then decided to make him a little bit thicker. he ended up being
composed of a thick cylindrical metal which could flex.
the geometry was modeled using subdivision surfaces in Maya.

the jello-like muscles, or jellies, were the other components that
would make a being complete. the jellies are attached to the
skeleton, but have no influence on anything (unlike a true layered
character). the jellies would need to have jello-like properties as
well (such as transparency and jiggle).
the geometry was modeled using NURBS surfaces in Maya.

the setting for the story is a city street, complete with
buildings, trees and a cobblestone path.
the very cool PaintEffects in Maya were used to create the
buildings and trees. the buildings were converted to polygons
for easier manipulation, while the trees remained painted


to achieve the metallic look for the skeleton i followed the
suggestions in the tutorial Making Metallic Shaders by Cris
Hunt. based on the anodized aluminum example, the skeleton
shader adds a 3D crater texture to give a worn, eroded and
rusted look.

as for the jelly shader, while i was browsing shader tutorials, i
came across the Creating a Velvet Shader tutorial by Steven J.
Tubbrit. i liked the effect this shader produced so i based the
jelly shader on it. i added transparency based on the 3D marble
texture and allowed the model to swim through the texture in
order to achieve a shimmer look.


wanting to get the full experience, i decided to
keyframe the walk cycle. i based the entire walk cycle
animation on the pictures in the tutorial Anatomy of a
. while it was quite difficult to get a 'good' looking
walk, it was definitely worth doing. it gave me an
appreciation for the type of work that an animator
does, as well as for why motion capture is so often used.
all characters use the same walk cycle. the difference
between the main character and complete character
walks is the upper body and walk speed. complete
characters stand upright and have a more pronounced
arm swing. the walk speed is quick to portray
happiness or confidence. conversely, the main
character's upper body is hunched over and has very
little arm swing. also the walk speed is quite slow, all in
an attempt to portray sadness or depression.

to make the jellies a little more realistic, i added a
jiggle deformer to them. tweaking this deformer was a
lot more difficult than i had expected, but in the end i
think the effect made a difference.


Adobe Premiere was used to sequence the frames and add sound. the main
track is Porcelain by Moby from the album Play. at first i felt that the
music alone was enough, but then decided to add the metallic footsteps.
the sound effects were obtained from

mike pratscher
graduate student
dynamic graphics project
university of toronto
map [at] dgp [dot] toronto [dot] edu

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