Monday, September 15, 2008

Technical - Making Ilksville

Yes, there will be technical stuff here. I'll try to give fair warning (like the word "technical" in the heading). But since I enjoy knowing how other people do stuff, I figured I may as well show I do stuff.
Here I'm gonna walk through the basics of how we put Ilksville together. Here's where we started . . .

Audio is recorded on a little device (a Zoom H2, it's awesome. records in surround sound if you want! It's cheap and small and works like a charm). Just stuff with our friends for now, but we'll branch out and record other people and things as we go. We take that "wild" sound and listen to it and clip out a few interesting little snippets. I run those through Soundtrack pro and 2 semi-tones up of pitch correction to each. I take these snippets and we figure out which to use and then pick a character for each person (if they don't already have one) from the many pages of characters Rich has done and start to set them up . (BTW, I think this is basically how South Park is animated . . .)

This is one of the dozen of so pages of chars Rich started with. The character for Rich is third from the left on the bottom row.

(click pics for larger)

Then Rich redrew the character so I could put it back together as individual pieces.
I used the original template to piece this back together in seperate layers in Photoshop. Then I rendered each piece out in its own Tif file.

The next step is to go into Maya (3D program) and create a flat plane for each body part. I map the textures onto the planes. Here's a quick example.
Each plane is positioned and the pivots, etc are adjusted so the parts move as they should when rotated. Basically, every thing will rotate in only one plane. If we wanted to create a new arm shape we would draw a new arm and map that onto the flat plane. We're trying to stay away from that for now. Just keep it super simple.

Then I add in controls for each body part and link them as I would any character (parenting, point, orient and parent constraints) I try to lock off anything that won't be used so I don't confuse myself when animating. The only parts that are slightly different are the mouth and eyes. That's because these have so many shapes.

For instance you can see here that the mouth has some new controls. I set up some enum controls on the mouth controller with each phoneme. This type of control works well because each shape will completely cancel the previous shape.
I tried to use the bare minimum of shapes, as you can see. I then used set driven keys to drive the visibilities of the various mouth shapes (easier to me than switching textures).
The eyes were similar.
Each mouth shape and eye shape was drawn seperately in photoshop then imported and mapped onto a plane. Again there's probly an easier way to do this, but I couldnt' be bothered . . .

BTW, I copy each rig from a previous character and reshape it for the next one. Then I reproject the UV's and change the texture maps, so I don't start from scratch on each one. . .
In terms of the backgrounds we're just using anything that seems to work. In this case I took a photo at the Museum of Natural History and tweaked it out. Sorry kid. Whoever you are.

The first pic is the orig. The second pic is the corrected one.
I use these in Maya to layout the scene, but don't render them. I only render the chars and props then comp it all in after effects, adding shadows, etc.
So here are the characters in the set. Everything is done from the front view, so there is no perspective at all. Everything is orthagonally flat.
Since the set won't be rendered with the chars, I don't need to complete all the doodads before I render. I can go back and add in signs or whatever later.
Then I just start moving things around. I do the mouths first. Then just do runs on the body. I'll do the torso, then the arms, etc. Sometimes I'll animate straight ahead for a little while too. This one ("purses") was really long. It took about one day. "swayze" only took about 2 hours. I'm trying to animate as LITTLE as possible and still have it be watchable. I'll have to adjust the level of animation once I do a few more and figure out what works best. Trying not to be fussy at all. Bush-league, I know, but time is precious and stress sucks. The red hashes at the bottom are all hand animated points, so you get an idea of how many things need to be touched even for this level of animation.The timeline covers about 1 minute. Even keeping it simple, it's a lot of animation to do in a day.
That's about it. As I said I render it out and comp it together with the final pic in after effects and mix the sound back in. Eventually I'll also be adding a quick title and end card to each one as well.

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