Thursday, 15 December 2011

First introduction to Maya

We were recently introduced to 'Maya' for our 3D modelling and animation module. Our first task was to follow a step-by-step tutorial and create a small truck. Although the three dimensional model was in essence very simple, I at first found this new software very hard to work with and tedious. There were certain commands such as the grid snapping and moving the pivot position which I struggled to understand early in the process. Also I often got confused with the left right and middle mouse click functions. Although this task took me a while to complete and was frustrating at first, I believe it really helped me understand some of the fundamental modelling skills in maya such as working with faces and vertexes, and also working in multiple views. I found it important to utilise the different camera views when attempting to line up objects accurately, and the perspective view was useful when assessing the model as a whole. Here is my original model:

After completing the first model, we were encouraged to add to the truck as we pleased. As I had already spent a lot of time on the tutorial and at this point I was still finding Maya quiet confusing, I opted for a simple approach. I simple added a small trailer onto the truck, making it appear more like a van. Here is the result:

With our truck model, we moved on to the process of animating. We began simple, translating our object into different positions and setting key frames on the timeline. I found this fairly straight forward and attempted to produce a sliding truck by translating and adding a slight rotation to the object to show the back end of the object swinging in to the turn. Here is the result:

As well as this, we produced a simple swinging pendulum. We used a similar process of adding in the key frames. This time however we used the graph editor to add a sense of a hang at the top of each directional swing. This made the animation look much more smooth and realistic. Again at this point this point I was finding the process fairly steady and nice to follow. Here is the first swinging pendulum:

This next exercise was where the process became difficult and confusing. We were next given the task (still following a tutorial) to animate a second swinging pendulum with joints. I will begin by showing a screen shot of the finished graph editor:

Because the second pendulum had joints, the outside fragment had to finish it's swing last, at the point where the fragment closer to the pivot had to be already beginning a downward swing in the other direction. to keep this animation smooth and flowing we had to extend the curve by selecting the infinity option. I found it very difficult to emulate the curve in the tutorial and still now believe I would struggle to create this smooth swinging motion. I plan to experiment more thoroughly with the graph editor and improve my understanding of it when we begin animating our character. For now though, here is the second pendulum:

Finally, we followed instructions on how to create a CV curve, giving our objects a motion path. As I produced this at home and didn't have my truck model on my external hard drive, I created a quick and simply vehicle model to travel along the track. This techniques was fairly simple to follow and I was very interested by the quickness of the process. I believe this technique could be very handy for smooth flowing objects such as vehicles or objects that hover, but perhaps would not work quiet as well with a walking animation as there is a constant smooth gliding tempo which could look un-realistic. Here is the finished animation:

So far I still believe there are fundamental elements I find difficult to understand, the graph editor being one. I do feel however I am beginning to grasp basic modelling fundamentals, which could obviously still be expanded on. I have though, acquired a student version of Maya on my personal computer and plan on experimenting with modelling and animation to build on my understanding of the fundamental tools within the software. 

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