Creative Strageties Reflection

Looking back at all the assignments related to this module I can honestly say that I have learnt so much. From the walk cycles I have gotten more confident and better with animating using a rig. The next part of that task was to create a scene modelling in Maya. My team made a pirate cabin which I really enjoyed doing. This has gotten me confident in my modelling ability and also introduced us to UV mapping. In a way I think that part of the module would have been very helpful in first year. The next part was when we had to pick which subject we wanted, for this I went for sculpting in Zbrush. For this task I found it very enjoyable learning Zbrush and sculpting for the first time. However I must admit with everything else going on I kept putting this assignment off or only working on it for short periods a time. I regret not working on this more as I would have liked to explore more detail and adding materials and poly paint. During our time off before next semester starts I will be looking more into Zbrush and am going to try and do a sculpting piece for my show reel, giving it more of my time and effort. Although I can’t say I didn’t learn anything. This task has got me familiar with Zbrush layout and the different brushes. I have learnt about dynamesh and the importance of topology for animation. I have also learnt about baking and how that is used with very low poly models that are used for games. So with that in mind this task has been a good start to my Zbrush learning experience.

The animation assignment was given to us from the BBC. At first I didn’t like this assignment as I felt we were limited to what we could do for the animation and also our storyline that we had to work with was ridiculous. Not employing guys because of aids but really didn’t want gay men working for them? Seriously. Just no.  So to begin with I wasn’t keen but like everything I try my best. As this is only my second animation ever, when looking back at our first it is clear how much more we included in this and how we were ambitious. I mean first year characters looked like a bean bag, this time we did real people. With the first task of walk cycles and modelling it got us prepared better for this task. We still ran into problems and wanted to pull my hair out a few times but in the end I really like the finished result. Overall I fell this module has been a great learning experience and has grown my confidence on Maya.



For hand in we are able to do rough renders of the animation due to lack of computers for renders and time restraints when uni was closed over Christmas. SO we did playblasts for each of the scene and I edited them in Adobe After effects


After I got them altogether in After effects I moved them to Adobe Premiere were I added in the audio script from the BBC. After I had the sound placed correctly I rendered it out and give the video over to Kirstin who added in the background music and sound effects.


Animating Edna

Edna unfortunately had so many issues with her Rig that she was unable to do alot of movement. Her sculpt was made very late on and we didn’t have time to correct the rig ourselves since Mixmo would not do it properly. Luckily she is just sitting at her desk the whole time.


A big issue with her rig was the fingers. As you can see from the image below the rig seemed to just put the controls on the one finger and I could barely move her hand in the position to hold the newspaper. Because of this issues we had to think about removing the scene that she points to the sign and also turning the sign around. To replace this we will just be moving her head to look at the sign.


BUT then we came to another problem,  her left eye that was rigged didn’t have a good texture as the UV map was wrong. This is because it was the high poly texture going onto the low poly mesh. I had the same issues with Ross but I was able to move the UV shell and I got it in the right place. With Edna’s right eye was able to get into the right position but the left could not. The part where the pupil was meant to go was in the seam of the UV map. I tried remapping it but when I moved her head the texture warpped. I couldn’t rotate the eye because once the head moved the eye left the socket!

There is only two days until hand in and I don’t have time to retop and rerig Edna with the better eye. Since we have until the end of January to get this completely finished I will work on Edna more. For now I have to make do with some eye movements and blendshape expressions with her head not moving.



As part of the assignment we had to retopolgising our elephant low poly. I retopologised using the Zremesher in Zbrush. I used the guide brush to mark our any loops I wanted in the mesh or try to fix where  it didn’t quite retop correctly. Once I was happy enough with the retop I projected the detail of the high poly onto the low poly also in Zbrush. Below are the images of the low poly.



Once the mesh is low poly, even with project it still loses alot of the detail. To fix this I baked the high poly detail onto the low poly. Firstly the sculpt had to be UV Mapped. I did this by using the UV master in zbrush. I then I was able to do this in Maya after I exported the sculpt out of Zbrush as an OBJ.

UV mapped in Zbrush


UV map shown in graph editor

Below is the two meshs after I have baked them. They both look the same detail but the one on the right is high poly with over 3 million polys and the left is low poly with below 10 thousand polys.


Animating Ross

So my team has split up the Ross animations between myself, Kirstin and Samantha. For my part I am to do the newspaper peeking scene and the ending when the door finally opens so he can apply for the job. So when I began to animate I quickly realised  that the Mixamo Automatic rig was TERRIBLE! It totally had a mind of its own. I wanted Ross to side step in a sneaky fun way behind the newspaper, and just doing those simple steps was a hassle. The rig has a foot control and a knee control that must be moved to correspond with the other. Which is fine, until you do one move, move onto the next and the previous move you did completely changes! Also I noticed that the rig controls seems to move the way you want, but the foot of the mesh does a little dance whenever is pleases. I couldn’t do anything about it since the rig control itself was staying steady and the graph editor showed that no other movement was meant to be happening. The only other explanation was that the movement of the waist control that moved the body downwards was effecting the feet, but that didn’t help much when I couldn’t find a way to fix it. To resolve this I made sure that Edna’s hand partly covered the foot so you didn’t see it when the feet left the ground at one point.

I got some feedback from Alec during the animating and he suggested doing a follow though and over lapping motion on the head when he moved across. I also did something similar to the hands.


Other than the dodgy rig I still had fun with the newspaper scene. He just breaks the door and tries not to make it obvious by sneaking away. I then made Ross peek over the newspaper the same as in the animatic.  He looks over the paper with a curious look, turning his eyes left and right and wondering what the receptionist has been doing all this time and why he hasn’t been called. We wanted to make it slightly funny so the first look is over the top and the second is to the side. The whole time Edna is ignoring him and I rotated her head slightly as if she is just reading the newspaper and not paying any attention to him.


I used different blend shapes for the emotions of Ross. When creating the blend shapes we did not realise they had to be made before the character was rigged so that they would have been part of the rig. At first we thought the only time we can use the blend shapes was when his head wasn’t moving. Further down the line we were made aware by Alec that they can be used when the rig was moving and that the settings just needed to be change. Although with my particular scene it didn’t matter since his head wasn’t moving during the expression changes anyways.


The other part of Ross that I animated was when he looks around to see that the door is now opened to let him through. At first he looked confused at the sudden change in the receptionist mind ( which I thought was very similar to the script as the change in policy was also very sudden) Once the door opens and he turns he soon realises that he is being allowed in, which makes him smile happily. For this scene I tried to get a natural swing in his arms when he turned around to see the door. I did the movement myself and made note on how the shoulder plays a part in the turn aswell as the waist. I tried to get a follow through motion with the arms as they softly swing. I moved his head first because the sound of the door is what causes him to turn, and then be directly followed by the shoulder.


Mixamo Rig

Due to time restraints we are allowed to use an automatic Rig for our characters. For this we will be using Mixamo.

This website is great and all you need is an Adobe Cloud Subscription. Once our models are retopologised in Maya I exported the file out as an OBJ.


All you need to do is upload your OBJ into Mixamo. You are giving pointers to mark ourt areas such as the chin, wrists and knees. Mixamo automatically makes the rig. You can look at how your character moves by using the animations already set (below). which you can also download if you want. When you are happy with the character rig you download the file as a FBX.


The Mixamo script can be downloaded and added onto Maya in the script editor. It is just a matter of importing the FBX file of the character and clicking one button!


Some issues 

The rig for Ross seemed to work really great but Edna was a different story. I think because she had such a bigger body mass the weights needed fixing. But not only that, the rig on her fingers where completely wrong. I tried putting her through mixamo again but the result was the same. With not alot of time left there is no time to manually do her rig fingers so we are going to keep her hands in the same position (holding the newspaper) throughout.


Retopologising Edna

The Rezemesher does not appear to like making the loops around the mouth and eyes on a face, even when I used to guide brush. So just like I did with Ross, I used quad draw on Maya and Manually added topology onto Edna. I was able to do this alot faster than Ross since I had a better idea at what I was doing.


Final sculpt

After considering the feedback I looked more at the concept and tried to bring in more characteristics that I had drawn. I tried to make it look younger, with the legs more pudgy around the knees. I also looked at other sculpts of elephants and noticed that they all had alot of detail on the skin like the winkles of a real elephant. Since this character is more for animation I looked at different animated elephants. I liked the look of Horton from Horton hears a who. He does not have alot of detail on his skin, only a texture.

Image Link


Here is some screen shots of the final elephant. I will be doing some renders and turnarounds soon.