Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Maya Madness

Ladies and gentlemen, Autodesk Maya 2012 is a nightmare. Based on some previous student work, I wouldn't expect anything too difficult. I  have to say these examples are pretty incredible for Maya first-timers.

So this was my first major encounter with the program, and it's been a wild ride for sure. Thank goodness I teamed up with my friend, Sara Wasserboehr. She's an Illustration major--check her website out.

We decided to keep it simple an animate something with basic shapes. Something cool. Something people would recognize. Adventure Time was definitely a winner. If you're not aware of this bit of Cartoon Network gold, you should really check it out. The show is a riot.

So our original plan was to have Finn riding Lady Rainicorn through the clouds around a hilly landscape.The first step was to model the characters using polygons and poly-extrudes. Progress was a little slow.

There were so issues with Finn's butt along the way...

But everything straightened out.

Next I had to start creating an environment for our characters. All I really had in mind was a basic hilly, landscape.

For a brief while we considered using a toon outline, but it was hard to keep track of things within the character mesh.

Next we experimented with lighting within our scene. Our professor suggested mental ray+sun and sky settings. I plugged the information in the menus.

Finn looked crystallized. I screamed a lot the next 90 minutes. It took a lot of adjustments to the ramp shaders and I had to zero out the reflectivity of the lamberts.

That fixed it pretty well.

The next challenge was to implement 2D clouds and hills into our scene. We wanted make extra references to artwork of the show, so we included elements that Sara replicated in Adobe Illustrator and pasted on 2d planes.

Our scene ended up looking a lot like a pop-up book.

Next was animation portion of it. Unfortunately, I don't remember most of this process because my teacher took over. To get Lady Rainicorn to zoom around in the sky, we used a motion and flow path. Originally, we had planned on Finn riding her, but connecting the two characters was another whole ordeal. We were a little short on time, so we changed the animation to Lady flying and Finn meeting her on the ground and waving. Not as stellar of an animation, I know, but at least we knew we could complete this project in three weeks.

Or so we thought.

Sara and I had a challenging weekend. Things did not go as planned. We had originally intended to complete the assignment on Saturday, but our camera was not rendering properly. A million emails and tutorials later, I got the camera to register, but our lighting was completely thrown off. Everything was green and saturated.

So I emailed my professor again, and I adjusted the natural sun and sky settings. I zeroed out the saturation and  dropped the light intensity. It helped slightly---the clouds were still green.

How on earth?
Happy Halloween to me. I hope everyone in the library computer lab enjoyed my screaming.
From there, I just clicked around through a bunch of menus and cranked up the ambiance of the cloud planes. This turned them back to white, FINALLY.

I figured all was well and it was time to export the movie to Adobe After Effects. I batch rendered the 10 second movie into a targa sequence and enjoyed my 30 minutes of sleeping in front of the computer.

Ok. So it didn't actually work out. We ended up ditching mental ray altogether and just changed the lighting settings in Maya Software settings.

And then Sara was a wizard and stitched this thing together in Adobe After Effects and added music from the soundtrack. The motion blur we added ended up being a little glitchy. But after 3 weeks of work and hours of rendering, we didn't really care.

Enjoy this cute little clip. It's not much for 3 weeks and coming from amateurs. I enjoy it though.


  1. I really hope we can get together over your christmas break and dive into maya together. We both might learn somethings.

  2. Most definitely!
    Where would we use Maya? I think the techzone has like one computer with it installed.