New books

General discussion about JPatch

New books

Postby sascha » Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:11 am

I've cought another cold (as most other family members), so I still wasn't able to finish that timeline-feature :(

This week two new books arrived:
Character Animation In 3D somehow reminds me on The Animator's Survivial Kit - it has a strong focus on 2D cartoon animation techniques, but also tells how to apply them to 3D animations. The CD contains a lot of pdf files dealing with how to do this with different applications (Lightwave, Max, Maya and XSI) which is interesting because this way I can get a feeling for how these applications are supposed to work.
Some of the files can be downloaded online here.

I've barely started reading, but one thing I've already learned is that graphs for the x/y/z curves of an objects position actually do make sense :oops: so I'm gonna implement them (perhaps not in the first version of the timeline-editor though).

Stop staring deals with facial animation and how to set-up controls to manipulate them. It's focused solely on Maya, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I haven't started reading it, but after quickly browsing through it I already discovered a lot on interesting things:
An example: To control the face, they use different kinds of sliders. Some horizontal ones, some vertical ones and some "2D" sliders (which can be moved up/down and left/right). This is rather cool, as you can blend between several expressions or poses with just one control!


Seems like the list of features I'd like to add to JPatch grows larger and larger :wink:
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Postby dcuny » Sun Feb 05, 2006 10:09 am

Sascha wrote:I've cought another cold (as most other family members), so I still wasn't able to finish that timeline-feature
I hope you're all feeling well soon! I thought perhaps you'd gone away on vacation. :o

Character Animation In 3D somehow reminds me on The Animator's Survivial Kit
I remember seeing the book earlier this summer... I thought it was great that someone was covering basic 2D and 3D animation in the same text, and I went back to the book a number of times before deciding I couldn't afford it. :?

I was really tempted to buy it, but as you mentioned, most of the same material was already covered (much better, I think) in the The Animator's Survival Kit. I don't think there's anything in the book that's wrong, but I don't think the author's really an animator. Look at the the example movies, for example. They look and feel like something out of the 1920's. The author can't really draw, and the animations don't feel animated.

Mind you, I think it fills an important niche, and if I wasn't perpetually broke, I'd have bought it. The author certainly has more real-world experience than me! ;)

To control the face, they use different kinds of sliders.
One control that I've seen being added to a lot of applications is a box, where you can map various facial poses to each axis. Dragging a point around in the box adjusts the relative weight of each pose.

Another thing I've seen is a proxy object - sort of a 2D cartoon drawing of a character. Instead of interating with the model, you interact with the proxy, which drives the character.

There's all sorts of nifty gadgets out there, but I want FK and IK first, please! :D
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Postby sascha » Sun Feb 05, 2006 10:26 am

Yes, thank's, I'm feeling better already. But since cristmast each week either my wife, our daughter or I had a cold... :?

Character Animation In 3D...

I like the tutorials (and the fact that they have been worked out for four different applications). I hope this way I can get a feeling about how those four programs work - and decide how to implement similar features into JPatch.

One control that I've seen being added to a lot of applications is a box, where you can map various facial poses to each axis. Dragging a point around in the box adjusts the relative weight of each pose.

Yes, that's exactly what I meant with the "2D"-slider. It should be possible to implement this with JPatch - currently you can add multiple morph-targets for a single morph at different slider positions - this concept could be extended to add morph targets (or key-poses) to different positions in the "box".

There's all sorts of nifty gadgets out there, but I want FK and IK first, please!

Agreed :wink:
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Postby dcuny » Sun Feb 05, 2006 10:45 am

Sigh. I revisited the author's website, and see the author is an animator. So I'll have to go back on that, although I'll stick with my comment about 1920's style animation.

One thing that really bugged me about Character Animation In 3D is that his stickman bore a striking resemblance to the one in Tony White's The Animator's Workbook. I know stuff like that shouldn't be a big deal, but I found it troublesome. :?

Anyway, I can see how being worked out in four different applications is a huge benefit, so I'll cease any further gripes and look forward to JPatch reaping the benefits. :D

The controls you're talking about are also making their way into Blender. I've also seen them in messiah:animate:

Image
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Postby sascha » Mon Feb 06, 2006 12:47 pm

Stop Staring looks quite interesting too (I've just finished the first 3 chapters...)
He has some interesting opinions about lip-syncing, which (although my expirence in that filed is limited to what I did in "The Impostor") make perfect sense to me: The author is of the opinion that preset shapes for phonemes work well in classical 2D cartoons, but not in CGI. One reason for that is that 2D cartoons are usually animated on ones or twoes (there is a new drawing for every or every second frame), so it's only natural to have phoneme-presets applied at the same rate.
In CGI, you usually don't key every or even every second frame, so it looks unnatural if the lips have keys every or every second frame. (That corresponds to what I've seen when animating the lip-sync for my IRTC entry: I had far too many keys on the phoneme-morphs, so I deleted quite a lot of them and attenuated or "blured" others.)

Having too much action on the phoneme-morphs will only drag the audience's attention to the lip-syncing (and away from the acting), and this way they'll notice even the slightest mistake in lip-syncing.

He tries to break down the mouth motion into two cycles: Yaw open/close and lips wide/narrow (both are accessible via a single box-slider: up/down for yaw open/close and left-right for lips narrow/wide).
He sorts out all phonems that are not producing distinct lip shapes and only works with the remaining "visimes". There are some interesting concepts like relative shapes (e.g. lips narrower or wider than the previous shape) - so the same visime might look different, depending on the context.
He also applies the concept of anticipation to lip-syncing: If you e.g. can't make the lips narrower at the current frame, make them wider on the surrounding frames!

I'll have to experiment with this method. I think both ways (the one presented in the book, and the traditional phoneme-presets) have their right to exist - but perhaps we could improve Yolo to also support this new approach (e.g. by keeping track of the mouth's open/closed and the lips' wide/narrow states and applying these relative changes).
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Postby dcuny » Mon Feb 06, 2006 5:41 pm

Even for 2D, you shouldn't try to hit every phoneme. It's just too busy. Most people recommend just hitting the main shapes. It takes a couple of frames for a shape to register, so if it's less that that, you shouldn't even try to hit it.

I picked up Corpse Bride last week, and noticed that because they weren't using replacement heads, so they weren't able to get particular mouth shapes, such as "o". It didn't seem to harm the animation at all.

I can easily imagine Yolo supporting multiple lipsync methods once it's added into JPatch. For example, you could add logic to make it drop phonemes that were less than a particular length. But I suspect the best method will always be one that allows manually adjusting the results, instead of relying on the program to produce the best results.
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Maya

Postby sascha » Wed Feb 08, 2006 9:47 am

Stop staring focuses on Maya, and it's quite interesting to read what can (and what can't) be done with Maya.
At one point the author mentiones Animation:Master's smart-skin feature (which basically binds a morph to a bone). You can do this with Maya, but only the "hard way" - you must bind the "bend shape" (morph) to the bone manually by entering MEL expressions.
Another funny thing is how binding ("weighting") controlpoints to multiple bones work. If, say, a point near the elbow is only 50% bound to the lower arm bone, and the lower arm bone rotates by 90%, you'd expect that point to rotate by 45% - but that's not what it does! In fact, it interpolates the positions between where the point originally was (0%) and would be (100%). You can work around it by adding "fans" - e.g. by adding another lower arm bone (also attached to the upper arm), and constraint to inherit 50% of the original bone's rotation. If you now want a point to only rotate 50%, you'll have to attach it to that second bone. You can also add multiple "fans" - e.g. for 25%, 50%, 75%...

JPatch is a less flexible, but on the other hand does exactly what you'd expect - you can't bind a point to multiple bones, but it automatically sets up the weights (and this per degree-of-freedom, not per bone). When the joint-mode is set to "soft", point's close to the elbow will really rotate only by 50% !
I still can add a weighting tool that allows to manually adjust the weights to JPatch too.

My impression is that you can do almost everything with Maya, but things can become very complicated and confusing.
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Postby dcuny » Wed Feb 08, 2006 5:26 pm

I don't think I've seen a bad review of Stop Staring. :)

JPatch is a less flexible, but on the other hand does exactly what you'd expect
I think that's exactly where JPatch should be positioned. "Normal" things should "just work"; hard things will be harder.

My impression is that you can do almost everything with Maya, but things can become very complicated and confusing.
There's a price that you pay for flexibility, and a lot of times, it ends up being hidden behind a third-party toolset. Rigs are typically like that - you'll use a prebuilt rig that someone else has created that does lots of cool stuff, without really understanding all the constraints that drive it.

I'm sure as JPatch progresses, complex features will creep in, too. ;)
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Postby pollywoggles » Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:59 pm

dcuny wrote:I was really tempted to buy it, but as you mentioned, most of the same material was already covered (much better, I think) in the The Animator's Survival Kit. I don't think there's anything in the book that's wrong, but I don't think the author's really an animator. Look at the the example movies, for example. They look and feel like something out of the 1920's. The author can't really draw, and the animations don't feel animated.
The Animator's Survival Kit is amazing. In my opinion, I think it is second only to the The Illusion of Life.

Wow. I just saw the sample animations. I really wasn't impressed with them at all. To be specific, these are some of the things I had problems with...

3D lift: lack of arching in the wrists

3D dive: Assuming the animation starts at frame 1 -- he gains speed (increased spacing) on frame 13, it should have happened on frame 11 (i.e. we are fastest at the moment of lift off, then gravity starts to have its effect). Having it happen on frame 13 makes it look like he as a rocket attached to his back that suddenly went off.

3D walk: the back leg lifts off, before the body has a chance to center it's weight over the front foot -- if he was a real character, he probably wouldn't have been able to lift that back foot quite yet. I don't see a lot overlapping action either -- everything happens at the same time. Although the hips rotated forward, I didn't see any up/down rotation.

... just my opinion on why I didn't like it...
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Postby Guest » Mon Feb 20, 2006 11:25 pm

I've stated to read both books at the same time, but now continued with "stop staring" - I haven't read "Character Animation In 3D" back to back yet, so I have no opinion at this time.
But I still like to add two things to this discussion:

Firstly, the demo animations could be out of context - I mean you don't know from which chapter they are and what the focus of this chapter was - he maybe exaggerate things in order to point out things mentioned in the text. I'll now once I've finished reading.

The second thing is that exaggerations are common in 2D cartoons, and should be common in 3D animations as well (if they're somewhat toon style). When watching an animation (2D or 3D) we immediately notice that they are not real - so we need exaggerations to make them believable! (which at first seems counter-intuitive - you take something that doesn't look real and deliberately animate it in a completely unrealistic way in order to make it look more real ;-) ) I'm not saying that e.g. the diver is particularly amazing - but it would look completely boring if the 3D caracter would move according to the laws of physics.
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Oops

Postby sascha » Mon Feb 20, 2006 11:29 pm

:oops: It "guested" me again... (Perhaps I should drop my paranoia and at least accept cookies from my own sites :) )
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