The Knight Spider's Audition
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The Knight Spider's Audition

My entry for The Knight Spider competition - the Spider is practicing for an audition where he plays the role of Knight. This is part 1.

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Update - 30 Nov 2021

After taking a second look at my blockout, I realised that I had splined too early - which meant that I still had a lot of work ahead of me that needed refining. So, I took notes on a syncsketch review and started putting together the extra frames I needed to make a cohesive splinned animation. Here's the result:

After doing this new splined animation, I moved onto cleaning up all of the transitions. I noticed that, thanks to the way I'd attached the umbrella to the hand, the wielding arm was stretching and compressing a lot. I'd spent a lot of my time adding tweens for the arm so that the umbrella: a) followed an arc and b) wouldn't cause the arm that's constrained to it to stretch and compress in this way. After this, and various other needed tweaks to the spider's motion, I added in the floor lamp prop we were given access to (which replaced my initial mannequin model that i'd made myself).

Then, the next task on my list was to add facial animation and to properly animate the hands of the Knight Spider - just to sell the actions a lot more and to give him a bit more life. What didn't help was the very unnatural and 'maya tweened this' transitions between some of the key poses - which needed a serious amount of push to really sell. So, I got to work:

I've still got some cleanup to do for the face and for other parts of the body, but I'm currently at the polishing stage of my animation. I've already set up and run through some test renders to ensure I can smoothly render this out  (and so that I don't have to crank up the denoise settings when I take this into Adobe After Effects for compositing).

I will end this update with the polish I've gotten done so far - this isn't the final animation, but its very close to being finished.

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Update - 24 Nov 2021

It's been a few days, but I have finally gotten a blockout finished of my entry! By using the markings I'd made on my reference footage (that were also in the wrong places sometimes, but part of my reference was also horribly out of sync which just makes this a lot more difficult) I'd placed the Knight Spider in some key poses. After doing that I'd quickly put in cyclical actions in his feet so he will walk in and out of the scene.

Here's a playblast of the final blockout (he's got his god controller muted, but I'd accidentally left him a bit out of shot....):

So, following the initial blocking, I needed to rig up the two objects I'd grabbed off of the Adobe Substance 3D Library so that I'd have an easier time animating the rest of this project. This didn't take as long as i thought it would (and a proper rigger would be really disappointed in my rigging, its only barely functional), however I did run into other issues - for example the umbrella wouldn't follow the Knight around, meaning I'd need to bind it to him somehow. 

Here are images of the final rigs for the props:

Luckily these rigs do their job decently, but this isn't the main part of the challenge. I'd then taken time to re-parent the umbrella to the Knight Spider so that he now wields a 'weapon'.

Before that, I did take all of my curves out of stepped so I could tween between the poses a bit faster. I struggle to work in stepped for tweening, so I just decided I'd take it out earlier than I really should have.

I made sure to adjust the god control's keys so that the foot sliding was lessened - I'm definitely not ready to bake yet - and also began pushing parts of the character's motion a bit more. So, this is what I've got so far:

At this point, the size of my file was catching up to me - I had reference all of my files in, but everything just began slowing down a lot when trying to play my animation back in Maya. This is why the background and lights (and textures) are temporarily disabled, so that I could at least keep working on this. 

Update - 22 Nov 2021

In order to come up with ideas for my entry, I decided to spend some time sketching out the character in different poses to get a feel for his personality. I eventually decided to portray a pompous (or at the very least confident) character who takes his role as a knight very seriously.

However, a lot of my ideas involved using props, which meant I'd need to storyboard around the props we had available. Initially, I wasn't aware that we weren't allowed to use props we've modelled ourselves and had to use the Adobe Substance 3D Asset Library for props, but when this was clarified to me I needed to find substitutes. 

Originally, The Knight Spider was an actor auditioning for a role as a knight in a play or film - where the propmt for the character was fighting an enemy. However, this became The Knight Spider practicing for this audition with things he found around his home (even though there isn't a set for this) due to the props I had available to me.

Luckily, I didn't need to change my storyboard, just the props I had spent time modelling for ones available online:

Unfortunately, my drawings look really faint in this image (which is something I should've taken time to fix honestly) but the storyboard is there. So, following this, I recorded some live reference footage to work from of me acting out this sequence (ignoring my face, its really hard to keep a straight face doing this).

I started on the blockout already, but once that part is done I'll share it here! So far its looking alright, but nowhere near being close to being a finished blockout.