Ian F. Hunt

Cinematographer and Filmmaker


Computer Graphics for Animation and Film – 3D Animation – Sweetboy Goes Swimming UPDATED!

This is the updated version of Sweetboy

3D Animation – idea development

I’ve been experimenting with 3D characters created in Maya and exported them using a green background (Which I set in the Cameras environment settings) and then adding this as a new layer into other live action videos. For example I added the Sweetboy 3D Character to a Sports Video and a Natural History Video just to see how it would look. Interestingly it looks exactly like the small characters you sometimes see at the bottom of your TV screen which broadcast companies sometimes use to highlight the next program or a program coming soon, anyway I digress. I did have an idea of filming a road near to a pedestrian

crossing and then using the Sweetboy character to actually appear to walk across a real road and seemingly to dodge cars and get squashed at the last moment by a cars wheel. Then run the animation again but this time with Sweetboy using the Pedestrian crossing to cross the road safely, which of course could be used to deliver a road safety message to children.

One of the characters I developed was of a Sun with a face (Saw this on a children program recently) and I thought it would be a useful experiment to see how a separate 3D character would work in the same scene and so I added this to the Sweetboy animation. This turned out to be a relatively simple if time consuming operation and leads me to think that other characters with their own individual characteristics  could also be added, for example some rabbits and frogs hopping around the bottom of the animation just to give a greater visual appeal.




3D Graphics – Sweetboy the 3D Animation.

Monday 13th December 2010

Computer Graphics for Animation and Film – 3D Animation, finishing touches

In reference to my previous blog entry, I thought that the animation quality could be significantly improved upon by firstly looking again at exporting the rendered video sequences exported from Maya. With new codecs installed on my computer I exported again each 3D Graphics sequence from Maya as uncompressed AVI clips. At the same time I took the opportunity to key in more animation sequences and improving on existing ones.

Another change to the first animation, this time I imported these clips into Adobe After Effects rather than Premiere Pro for post production. The key reasons for doing this was that after doing some research I learned that it was possible to use ‘Expressions’ to loop sequences. With this programming option I would be able to turn a short 2 second clip exported from Maya into a video sequence of a length I choose just by putting in a number for the number of loops.

In addition After Effects has a more effective Chroma Key function than Premiere Pro which completely removed the background from the character without leaving some of the background pixels or removing some of the characters pixels giving a smoother edge to the character.

I also took the opportunity to add a simulated water effect as the character plunges into the pond. Initially I filmed water and then an object dropping into a basin using my Flip camera which although was relatively easy to do and gave obviously a realistic effect I thought in fact it looked too real and would not fit in with the cartoon look I was after. I then decided to make my own water splash effect entirely from within After Effects by drawing a mask directly on the area of the screen where the character drops into the water and then using the effects, Fractal and CC Glass effects to create the initial splash and the ripples and then finished this off with a splashing water sound effect.

I then exported the completed sequence as an Quicktime .mov file. Which I then imported into Premiere Pro CS5 to add opening titles, end credit and a soundtrack.

As I mentioned previously the soundtrack is my own voice after being processed in Audacity varying pitch and speed to get the characters high pitched voice and the narrators lower pitched voice. I then added a short music track to finish off.

Finally in order to reduce the file size I exported the complete sequence as an MPEG2 formatted file as this seems to work the most efficiently with the online video services YouTube and Vimeo for both quality and upload times.

The Completed Animation.

The Flip Video  – Splash


Computer Graphics for Animation and Film – Animation Storyboard

Animation Storyboard Update

Monday 6th December 2010

2nd Edit and New Animation Storyboard


Having completed the first edit for the 3D Animation I looked at how it could be improved.

I’ve already mentioned that I felt it needed a water splashing effect as the character falls into the water and so I’ve added this into the modified Storyboard.

I also realised that I needed to redo some of the animation sequences that I’d exported from Maya, in particular the sequence where the character turns to face the audience just before falling into the water. Also the animation sequence involving new water splashing effects, making changes to the arm movements and the bobbing of the character up and down in sync with the splashing water movement.

As I mentioned in a previous blog I filmed actual objects dropping into water to use for the water splashing scene but decided to go with the water effect created in After Effects as it suited the design better.


Animation Storyboard

Animation Storyboard


Maya 3D Animation – Post Production

Maya 3D Animation – Thursday 2nd December 2010

Maya 3D Animation – Post Production – First Edit and Conclusions

Having an idea roughly Storyboarded now, I began to put together the small 3D sequences exported from Maya into longer sequences against a background image which I had already prepared in Photoshop.

Again I was amazed at how much time is required in order to make such a short 30 second film. Some of the applications I used created their own problems particularly in exporting the animated sequences from Maya. On many occasion previewed sequences in Maya became corrupted during the export process either losing opacity or the actual speed of the animation changed. However experimenting with the CODEC’s and Export options finally delivered an acceptable if compromised sequence.

I suspect the time required to produce the animation could have been considerably shortened if the applications and hardware worked as they should have done.

After what seems to be days (it was days) I now have a 30 second Maya 3D Animation that just required a soundtrack and a few more images from Photoshop.

Using Photoshop I added a No Swimming sign to the animation which adds to the 3D effect.



One of the key points of the assignment brief was to be able to deliver a message to children under the age of 6. My safety message was about the dangers of swimming in ponds/lakes etc.

Using a standard computer microphone I recorded my voice directly into Audacity – whilst trying to match the sequence playing on screen – which turned out to be somewhat difficult. Finally after making some modifications to the speed of delivery and the narrative itself I managed to record a short soundtrack to match the action on screen. Then using the effects in Audacity in particular starting with the noise removal effect I removed the sound produced by the computers fan and then set about modifying the pitch and speed of the recorded sound to seem more child like.

I then recorded another short sequence for the second part of the animation this time decreasing pitch to give a more adult sounding voice but still not recognisably my own.

My final addition to the soundtrack was to add some classical music (Brahms) at a very low level and set it running throughout the sequence which helps add to the continuity of the whole animation.

Final Tweaking

Although the animation works and it is my first animation using Maya and in 3D I’m not 100% happy with the quality of the animation and so I plan to use some of the time over the holidays to see if this can be improved upon. I made one immediate change by adding  another layer to the background image so that the 3D character appears to be walking in the grass rather than floating upon it.

Sweetboy Goes Swimming



Maya Animation – Sweetman

Sunday 28th November 2010
Having designed the 3D character I set about keying in some basic animation sequences, walking, hand and head movements etc. and then rendered the sequences from different camera angles. This gave me a range of short animation sequences that could be edited together to form a story. The brief calls for a short animation of approx. 30 seconds delivering a message to children. Having considered a number of possibilities I’ve decided to deliver a safety message.

Progress update

Each 3D sequence is between 2 and 3 seconds long. I had already changed the background in Maya to be the brightest Green available from the colour pallet as this would make keying out the background later much easier. I then exported each sequence as an AVI video to be imported into Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 for editing. It was at this point that a problem was identified. Maya has the means to export AVI files which it says is uncompressed but Premiere was unable to play these files. I suspected the problem was with CODECs and looked at alternatives, With the right CODECs installed the files were viewable again, but the quality of the image changed depending on which CODEC was used to compress the video.
Using the Chroma Key setting in Premiere I removed the backgrounds from the 3D images and then dropped them onto a video track to make up a longer sequence. Then using the Motion option I keyed in locations against a fixed background until the 3D character seemed to have walked from one side of the screen to the other. From a time estimate I worked out that each second of animation took just over an hour.
Although I added to my workload by taking time to produce Green Scene footage it does mean that I can change the video background for anything including moving video/live footage which means my Maya produced 3D character could interact with live images.
The next stage is to produce more 3D images using the character I designed and then adding them to the sequence. Then I need to work on a voiceover soundtrack to get my safety message across.
One thing that I have really learnt from all this work with Maya is that 3D Animation is not a career choice to be made lightly. You need to be enthusiastic about this subject with the patience of a saint to spend hours/days to produce just a few seconds of video.


3D Animation – Character development

3D Animation

Wednesday 10th November 2010

Mr Sweetman (Changed to Sweetboy) – 3D Animation

Worked on the character ideas that I’d had for the 3D Animation during the morning session, while we were looking at a summary of previous tutorials on basic principles of Maya design and animation techniques.

3D Animation Maya Screenshots

3D Animation Maya Screenshots

3D Animation Maya Screenshots

3D Animation Maya Screenshots

3D Animation Maya Screenshots

3D Animation Maya Screenshots

3D Animation Maya Screenshots

3D Animation Maya Screenshots


After experimenting with a number of designs from basic walking cones to a 3 legged alien like crab I finally decided on a particular design. As we are developing an animation for children I decided my  character would be based on sweets and in this case I chose Liquorice Allsorts which I thought could be easily produced in Maya using the default Polygon shapes such as the Cube, Cylinder and Sphere.

Although new to Maya it was relatively easy to quickly design the character using these shapes and by the end of the session I had a basic character ready to add joints to ready for animation. Of course the design was very basic and I suspect a lot more work would still be required for say adding features, eye etc  and possibly textures to the individual components that make up the character. Also of course there are the designs of the backgrounds, although I feel that an image would make a better background rather than constructing basic surfaces and then adding textures.

How Narrative Effects the Design – 3D Animation

I’ve already got in mind a basic narrative for the animation which involves either the character losing it’s component parts as it walks, or it gets eaten bit by bit as it berates whoever is eating it, leaving the head and a shaking fist until the last word is spoken. I also have another idea where the character is used to deliver a safety message of some kind, a narrative would be required and almost certainly some voiceover.

This is the reason in regard to my first idea that if you look carefully the component parts of the character are actually not joined, they have been designed to have a ve
ry small gap between each of the components. This is to allow each component to be removed without effecting any of the other components allowing the basic shape of these individual components to remain intact. But as I would later learn that by not building the character, that is the design from a single Polygon, when it comes to adding movement the individual components of the character may not move in exactly the way I’d expected. For example I’d already had to separate the skeletons spine from the characters body as when I moved the character the body distorted like a paper sack and applying different weights did not totally remove this unwanted effect.


Computer Graphics for Film and Animation – 3D Graphics Research.

Friday 22nd October 2010

Researched the internet for 3D Graphics examples for inspiration for my own 3D Graphics design. I identified several amazing animations which I’ve added below, one a standalone short animation, a soon to be released game and the final one a good example of the current level of what’s possible in 3D Graphics.Smile

Bertie Bassett Advert

Not a 3D Graphic but a puppet in this TV advertisement but this inspired my idea for my own 3D character with it’s relatively simple construction out of individual components which are all default shapes in the Maya Polygon library.


Computer Graphics for Animation and Film – Maya Introduction

Friday 15th October 2010

Introduction to Maya 3D Animation

Flying through the Wormhole

Had our first look at the Maya application and its workspace, the creation of basic objects, shading and keying for animation. Then a quick look at creating a camera and lighting effects.

In the latter half of the day the group were split into two and given the opportunity to explore and create their own design and produce an animation.

I had the idea to create a sequence representing space travel through a wormhole – not an original idea as this has been explored many times in sci-fi movies and TV productions.

How I did it

Using Polygons I created a Torus and a Sphere. I manipulated the Torus to create a cylindrical shape and then positioned the Sphere at one end of the cylinder. I then rendered these using the Lambert option. Following another session where we were introduced to adding a file and applying it to rendering I added a JPEG file of the earth and mapped this onto the Sphere giving the effect of the Earth spinning in space.

I then created a Camera which I then planned to animate so that it effectively flew through the cylinder and passed close to the orbit of the Sphere (Spinning Earth).

I keyed the first position of the camera to be right of the centre of the cylinder and the next to be central to the cylinders opening and the final key to be just passing the rotating Sphere.

To add to the final animation I used the paintbrush and the Galaxy selection to add stars in front off and behind the cylinder (Wormhole) and keyed in the rotation of the Sphere.

Finally I edited the exported AVI animation from Maya in Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, added a copyright free sound file some basic titles and uploaded the finished animation to YouTube.

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