Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Animation Scripts

I planned to write a blog post about scripts for a while, but either totally forgot or...totally forgot. My good animationer friend Kane wrote a great blog post about scripts today and reminded me that I was planning on doing the same. So here we go!

Like Kane, I've only really been using animation scripts since I left university and even then I didn't really find out about them until I started at iAnimate. They can save you a ton of time, and they're not cheating either. They way I see it, they fight the silly things that your software is trying to do and give you smarter results. Or at least, results that are closer to what you want (you still have to click them to tell them when to do things so it's not like you can sit back and relax whilst the computer runs an "animate" script).

These are the scripts that I use the most:

AutoTangent - Download
This is my most used tool once I'm working with splines. Maya has a tendancy to throw overshoots everywhere and do weird things. For example after you've finished your blocking and have everything looking awesome, Maya might throw this curveball at you:


Overshoots and pretty linear looking curves. Slap autotangent on it and it looks much closer to what you probably want:


This isn't the best example but you can see the difference, especially on the first 4/5 frames. You'll still have to go in and fiddle around but using this script will get you much closer, much faster.

[I have autotangent set to a hotkey, so that whenever I want to use it I can press a key instead of moving my mouse/pen away from my rig to press a button.]

Tween Machine - Download
This is a great one, and it's a script I've not been using for all that long. Basically, you can use this it to favour certain poses. Have an example:

I want to animate a ball travelling from left to right. The orange balls show my start and end poses and the blue ball shows what Maya gives me I hit spline.


Now, I want my ball really slow out of its first pose. I certainly don't want it to have an even spacing as it does right now. What I can do is open TweenMachine and move the slider to the left. This indicates that I want the new pose to favour the last one I had.


As you can see, from pulling the slider to the left it has given me a pose that is 75% closer to my previous pose. This will give my ball the rough spacing it needs to have a long slow out before it speeds along and quickly slows in to its final pose.

That's a very basic explanation of how it works and how to use it. I like to use it as a rough guide for spacing during my blocking stage. If I know I want a slow out then I can dial a number in or pull the slider to where I want the certain part of the rig to be and I can change things from there. You could use it on a foot, a limb, a whole character or an eye lid. The point of it is to help you quickly hit a rough area of where you want your character (or part of your character) to be so that you can correctly pose it out from there.

If you're clever, you can use it to great effect on a full character by choosing different percentages for different controls of the rig to create lead, follow and so on.

AS_motionTrail - Download
This is the same kind of thing as Motion Trail but a little different. I couldn't tell you the differences because it's been so long since I used Motion Trail but I found this script to be much faster and easier to use so I stuck with it. This script is used for tracking arcs and checking spacing. It gives you a visual representation of your motion and the path that it's taking as well as the spacing.

Here you can see the arc of the hand on a walking character.


Zoomerator - Download
This has been around for a while but I only discovered it last month. It allows you to zoom in to any region of your camera without actually changing the camera settings or messing anything up. This is great if you have a locked off camera and need to zoom in to, for example, check out an arc/path on a really small object or on a small movement.

Take a look at the witch craft in action:
 

I've applied the motion tracker script to a hidden sphere I parented to the nose in order to track my arcs. She's moving her head really subtly so you can't really see anything right now. But, if I start zoomerator up and use its powers to zoom in...


I can see the arc her nose is following! It's not moving much but at least I can get close enough in there to make sure it's following a nice path and isn't doing anything weird. Once you're done, you hit the reset button and your camera goes back to how it was. Magic!

Those are pretty much all the scripts I use. I make my own for smaller tasks such as opening the outliner, script editor and graph editor. I also have one for playblasting. These are really easy to make and I'm sure most people know how to set small scripts like this up but if you don't drop a comment on this post or send me an email and I'll share my ways.

If you have any awesome scripts that you can't live without then please feel free to share! After reading Kane's post I am definitely going to try the ShotView script. There are a ton more scripts out there, it's all about finding what works best for your workflow/s and utilizing them.

3 comments:

IreneL said...
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IreneL said...

Great post, Bryn! I'd like to add a ghosting script I started to use a couple of months ago. Developed by the great Brian Horgan, it can be very useful.
http://www.graphite9.com/MayaDownloads.html

Nanda van Dijk said...
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