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Hash, Inc. Forums > Technical Direction and Development (Learning Animation:Master) > The Art of Animation:Master (TaoA:M) < New Users Start Here! > Calling all Pedagogs
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robcat2075
"The Art of Animation:Master" has been around in it's present form for about 8 years now. Since then we've learned a lot about good practices and good workflow and we could probably revise this set of introductory tutorials to give beginners a better start by introducing these better ideas sooner rather than later.

I have my own ideas about what needs changing but I bet some of you do too and this thread is to share those ideas.


Here's the current line up in TAoA:M

Animating

01 You're the Director
02 Chorus Line
03 Move it
04 It's a Pitch
05 Take a Walk
06 The Door's Stuck
07 Can you Say that?


Modeling

08 Customized Car
09 Flower Power
10 FW-190 Fighter
11 Giraffe
11.5 Make a Face
12 Lip Poses


Technical topics

13 Show Some Backbone
14 Playing Marble
15 Eat My Dust
16 Smoke Wind and Fire
17 Cosmic Bowling
18 Waving the Flag
19 Flying South


All of these teach something useful and they don't have to be banished just because we devise something better. They can still be mentioned/linked to in a "For further Study" section at relevant moments.



My broad criticisms:


-the workflow for character animation is very non-standard and creates the impression that animating in an Action is typical when it's really a rarity
-animating in the chor (far more common) isn't demonstrated.
-keyframe editing and channels need to be introduced.
-the PWS is introduced but not adequately explained. The PWS outline, embedding, unembedding, file types.... those need to be understood.
-"The door is stuck" is a standard novice animator exercise, but too big of a leap from the animation that's been accomplished so far. Some intermediate is needed.
-"Can you say that" has the appeal of being a semi-automated solution for lip-synch but I'd like to see tut that teaches the more common keyframing technique, perhaps by using draggable poses to speed things up


In general I like the modeling exercises, but...
-the student doesn't get to model anything of his own at all until lesson 9, that should happen sooner, probably in a very first exercise.
-TAoA:M definitely needs a face tut but the Cooper tut (11.5 Make a Face) is too complex. Too many CPs for a beginner Face. I'd like to see something based on the basic mesh that Malo posted a while back.


Tech topics
-Rigging is very important. They can't animate their character if they can't rig.

I'd propose a two stage approach
1) teach a very simple rig, perhaps like my "Simplest IK Leg" tut that introduces constraints, shows why we use them and need them and why just putting bones in a model is not adequate.
2) teach installation of a premade rig (but something more modern than AM2001) that can serve them better than the "Simple rig"

Hopefully by teaching #1 they'll understand why #2 is the better way to go in most cases and not regard installing a rig as an arbitrary hassle.

-Materials need better explanation and coverage than just "Playing Marble"
-"Eat My Dust" and "Flying South" are not typical beginner needs and should be back-burnered to make room something more pressing.
-Cosmic Bowling perhaps could teach an additional Newton effect like breaking something.
-Wave the Flag could use a follow up to explain cloth a bit more.




What can you do? Can you suggest a better curriculum to get a beginner started and well-versed in A:M?


Write a numbered list of titles and briefly explain what each step would teach and post it below.

If you know of a tut that already teaches the item well, link to it. I bet most of what we are looking for has already been written and would be easily adapted to a TAoA:M format.


Other ideas and comments? Post those too!
Rodney
QUOTE
-"The door is stuck" is a standard novice animator exercise, but too big of a leap from the animation that's been accomplished so far. Some intermediate is needed.


Robert,
Something for consideration in the Modeling department might be a quick down and dirty exercise creating Credits using the Font Wizard. Ideally everything in the revised TaoA:M could be put together into a short film or demo reel but even if not... newbies will want to know how to put together a Title for their animation and they'll likely want to see their name in the credits. It'd have the benefit of being a really easy exercise introducing basic concepts of spline modeling and organization perhaps reinforcing moving back and forth between the Modeling window and the PWS.

If Holmes is willing I'd say many of his Tutorials are ideal for adding into the TaoA:M mix.
Many could even be extensions of the main exercises offering further information and practice for those that want to learn more about a subject.
I expect all of this could be along the lines of what you refer to here:
QUOTE
All of these teach something useful and they don't have to be banished just because we devise something better. They can still be mentioned/linked to in a "For further Study" section at relevant moments.


For instance, Holmes coverage of Animated Distortion cages is a logical progression of the 'Custom Car' tutorial.
He has a whole lot of basic and intermediate tutorials that everyone could explore.

I'm definitely interested in being involved in a revision/enhancement of 'The Door is Stuck'.
There is a lot of gold to mine in that exercise and... currently no video tutorial dedicated to it.

QUOTE
using draggable poses to speed things up

I like where this is going. smile.gif
robcat2075
Here's what I envision makes an ideal tutorial...

- of course, you learn to do something useful
- you will understand why you did it, how it fits in the grand picture
- it can be completed in an evening or less
- you end up with something cool that you are proud of.



Not all tuts will reach that level but that would be the goal.
largento
I would think a series of tutorials that mimicked creating your own short would be popular.

Starting from simple modeling (you can make a character out of spheres, cubes and cylinders.) Stressing thing like spline continuity. Include creating materials and applying decals.

Move from there to simple rigging of the same character. Explain bone hierarchy, weighting, constraints, etc. Create a pose slider.

Set up a scenario for the character that would make use of some of the features: Maybe a campfire setting with a cloth simulation tent, etc.

Set up simple 3-point lighting and import models to create a set in the cho.

Work out an action and scene so that you can show both applying an action and animating in the cho. Perhaps they animate a one-legged hop cycle in an action and then in the cho, they animate the character accidentally catching his foot on fire and then move into the action of them hopping around.

Rendering including NetRender and maybe some post compositing? (Give it a post effect like bloom and adjust the lighting.)

Folks could customize their characters based on the materials they create. and add their own touches.
Darkwing
Essentially a beginner version of David Rogers' book? Cause that one is basically set up for you to make your own short. And Robert, I agree whole heartedly about the face tut. Even now when I go through it, I still can't really make much sense of it, yet because of you guys, I learned a fairly simple way to model half decent faces with a lower density than the Cooper tut. I'm not sure if this is getting into too much, but maybe adding how to texture the face would be good. I mean I just learned how to make my rotos into a good facial map and it was actually insanely easy.
mouseman
Assuming we are still in the "brainstorming" level, where no idea is a stupid idea (just one that probably won't get used, at least as stated, but may influence how things turn out) ...

We cannot teach everything, but we should teach a large enough set of skills that someone could make a short and tell a story. Like a 100-level set of courses.

I really liked how people would do different gags for The Door's Stuck exercise. Rodney mentioned a demo reel ... it might be nice if all of the exercises worked together, and led to a very short short, and the user had the option to customize the storyline of the short for their own creativity and style. Or if someone wanted to skip around, they could jump in the middle and use pre-made characters/sets.

For example:
  1. creating a title using the font wizard. Do some simple texturing on it.
  2. creating a model: a prop
    • a. the splines in a model (intro to splinemanship, then do the exercise)
    • b. texturing the prop (intro to texturing, then do the exercise)
    • c. create a rig for the prop (intro to rigging ... you get the idea)
  3. create a character
    • a. the head - splining, rotoscopes
    • b. the head - textures and simple hair
    • c. the body - splines
    • d. optional: the body - clothing; if simcloth were simple enough ... or maybe the DressMe plugin? (Which I've never used.)
    • e. the body - rig with a simple existing rig. (I don't know what is easiest. Maybe LiteRig? Disclaimer: I've never used it.)
  4. scene 1
    • a. set - create a chor; bring in the title; bring in a set; bring in the prop and the character and arrange
    • b. animate; teach about keyframes and channels; use the prop with the rig, including its pose channels
  5. scene 2;
    • a. set - create a chor, bring in the set and characters and props
    • b. animate some dialog and sound
  6. scene 3
    • a. set
    • b. something that requires more complicated animation than scene 1 or 2, including some in-chor constraints; maybe this could be The Door's Stuck?
    • c. perhaps include a Newton effect
  7. putting it together
    • a. rendering options and lighting refinements
    • b. using compositing / NLE
Hopefully the prop will be both simple enough and complex enough to demonstrate basic rigging principles. Plus provide something to base the "business" around.

Sorry if this expands the scope too much. But I see others (since I started writing this response) have similar ideas.

A couple of problems that I had with the original TAoA:M when I went through it:
1. The 2001 rig, although great for its time, I was always fighting against during animation
2. Not enough practical info about rigging, and even poses and how they relate to rigging I didn't understand
3. Walk cycles are not easy to create and not easy to use. (I think this is in large part to how it's designed in the software. Even the ResoluteWalk that has shipped with A:M has some significant problems with it that result in foot slippage.) Should we skip walk cycles?
Rodney
Some great ideas flowing here.
To follow up a little on the thought of having all exercises lead to a successful short film... I'd like to think even bigger.

I suppose in a perfect world the outline/framework of TaoA:M might be outfitted/retrofitted/retooled in such a way as to allow themes to be applied to it that would sell the A:M Experience. A:M is still the best all in one modeling and animation program available and perhaps we can demonstrate that.

For instance, one pass through TaoA:M might be 'Sci Fi' themed while another might be 'Westerns'. In the Sci Fi set the user might be given parts of a set and expected to plus it up with Props and Characters. I can easily imagine the Western set having everyone model and animate a Bow and Arrow (great opportunity to understand the principles of animation (Pose to Pose animation, Paths/Arcs, Timing and Spacing etc. etc.).

Everyone could then collect all the sets as folks feel impressed to make them and expand on the experience; Race Cars, Film Noir, Superheroes, TWO, and on and on and on.. collect all 12 themes in the TaoA:M 2012 series! People could even (at least in theory) create and market their own advanced TaoA:M themes. Themes that explore some of the more advanced areas of A:M or place an added emphasis on Texturing, Lighting, Expressions or Rigging.

Note: Since Robert is heading this up it's easy for us to dream big. wink.gif

Of course, keeping the exercises as simple as possible and allowing everyone an opportunity to build, explore and take advantage of what A:M offers them is at the heart of the whole thing. I suppose my point here is that whatever the content of ToaA:M... A:M Users will apply what they've learned to their own animated films. As such the framework of TaoA:M is now more than ever... 'the way of A:M'.


*Note: I mention Westerns mostly because I think modeling, rigging and animating Bows and Arrows and building Western sets would be really cool stuff. YMMV.
Rodney
QUOTE
Should we skip walk cycles?


For character animation you really shouldn't skip walk cycles.
There are many really good reasons to keep them.

In classic terms, the point of a walk cycle isn't to reuse animation, it is to identify the personality of a character (or other animated object).
Reuse is a factor... but what you perceive as a negative right now just needs to have more understanding applied and the kinks will work themselves out.
The glitch in the system is mostly a matter of computer automation where we as animators are no longer in full control of what we are animating.
There are important lessons to be leaned from walk cycles that apply regardless of whether or not a character's walk is cycled and I'm confident most of what we experience in substandard walk cycles concerns our general over-reliance on automation without solid foundation.
I mean this both literally and figuratively... all that slipping... sliding on the ground.. should definitely not find its way to our demo reel as our best example of mastering the principles of animation. smile.gif

Bottom line: Character walks are intrinsic to good character acting. While the cycle itself may never be seen in the final animation it's an important tool in creating an animated character's personality.

(You said a lot of great stuff in your post so I'm not intending to isolate this out of context... I just wanted to comment on the walk cycle aspect)
Rodney
I think it was Chris that echoed his experience with the difficulty he faced in the Cooper Face Tutorial.
It may be worth mentioning that the face tutorial was/is one part of a whole set of tutorials and other parts of the Cooper tutorials helped to build up to the Face tutorial. That aspect does create something of an unfortunate acceleration in the Modeler's learning curve from... "This is too easy" to "Wha?!??".

This is another reason why care should be taken not to have the elements of TaoA:M appear too unrelated from one another. If related to an over all theme then I might be willing to suffer through a Face tutorial but if I can't see how it applies to where I'm going at the moment I encounter it I'm more likely to skip over the exercise entirely in favor of one that keeps me moving toward my immediate goals.

On the other hand, to someone who is really motivated to learn how to model a realistic character that Face tutorial is diving-into-the-deep-end-of-the-pool-to-learn-swimmin' great stuff!

I suppose one could argue that too much simplicity would easily turn some folks off.
markw
QUOTE
Whilst the technical topics 14 > 19 are interesting, of more immediate and universal use would have been topics introducing cameras and ways of using them and also lights and how to light a set both inside and outdoors.


Yes, I was thinking a lighting tutorial is a big omission in the current set.
robcat2075
Hey MarkW, could you repost your comments?

They were perfectly fine comments but I accidentally deleted most of it, thinking I was doing a regular reply and not aware of my new moderator power to edit other people's comments. Now I can't get them back.
robcat2075
I do like the idea of tutorials that build on each other.

For example:

Mechanical modeling: build a simple robot
Rigging: rig the Robot you made
Animation (Robot, Walk!): animate the robot
Materials: yup, make them for the Robot!
markw
QUOTE(robcat2075 @ Jul 17 2011, 03:18 PM) *
Hey MarkW, could you repost your comments?

They were perfectly fine comments but I accidentally deleted most of it, thinking I was doing a regular reply and not aware of my new moderator power to edit other people's comments. Now I can't get them back.

Not a problem. Here it is again.
Now your powers have increased Robert, you must be careful in there use wink.gif

I must say I am very exited at the prospect of a revised TAoAM.
The software has come a long way since it was first published as have ideas on the best ways of using it.
My first recollections about the old TAoAM from when I went through it are that;
The exercises seemed a little isolated and didn't link together to form a natural arc of progression.

Whilst the technical topics 14 > 19 are interesting, of more immediate and universal use would have been topics introducing cameras and ways of using them and also lights and how to light a set both inside and outdoors.

And a couple of thoughts for a new TAoAM:
All of Holmes's tuts I think are invaluable, they are clearly presented and would make a good template for teaching things in a revised TAoAM. Likewise Roberts video tuts on animating. His one on keyframe options was a revelation to me.

A new A:M standard biped rig needs to be chosen to replace the 2001 rig so everyone has a common point of reference for both rigging and then animating.

Some exercises introducing plugins and what they can do might be good. But any exercises using them should be chosen with care. I think that still, not all plugins work on Macs.
Darkwing
I've personally found the 2008 rig to be an excellent rig that is both easy and intermediate at the same time. There's quite a bit of functionality with the 2008 rig, plus it's fairly easy to instal, it just takes time and is a good patience lesson as well tongue.gif
Bruce Del Porte
I'd also add a bouncing ball tutorial before the walk cycle.
Rodney
QUOTE
I'd also add a bouncing ball tutorial before the walk cycle.


I like that idea.
I've long wanted to add a bouncing ball exercise in with Exercise 3: 'Take a Walk'.
Rather than drag and drop Rabbit onto the curved path the idea was to drag and drop a ball onto a linear path and explore working with the Path's Ease.
I started to put something together several times but each time I got lost in the details.

I wonder if there is any way we could 'perfect' the bouncing ball to the point where it is straightforward enough to be (dare I say it) easy. One problem I see with bouncing ball exercises is that they intrinsically deal with math, physics and theory. In the end it's that theory part that tends to have it all boiling down to a director's opinion on what they deem looks appropriate for the scene. Not necessarily a bad thing.

The most successful Bouncing Ball lessons I've seen tend to focus on one or two elements: 1. Timing and Spacing and 2. Squash and Stretch. Of the two the second is harder for newbies to deal with in computer animation mainly because models in most animation programs don't easily squash and stretch. But there is a lot more to the Bouncing Ball than those four things.

A similar idea to the Bouncing Ball that steers well away from Squash and Stretch but keeps a focus on Timing and Spacing might be to Model and Rig a simple Arrow.
The Arrow could then be animated in a variety of ways via Poses, Actions and Choreographies to demonstrate the varied approaches and possibilities.
The lesson could thereby touch upon the importance and application of Timing versus Spacing.
Applying the Arrow to a Path would explain Arcs and how to automate the Arrow's spacing and it's trajectories.
Animating Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose could easily demonstrate the use of Onion Skinning.
It could further demonstrate how to use computers can effectively be used in creating Breakdowns and Inbetweening.
Exchanging the Arrow for a Quiver of Arrows could demonstrate how to create a hail of arrows quickly.
Of course simply suggesting exploration with Newton Dynamics and Cloth would further illustrate A:M's capabilities.
Rigging would be absolutely minimal unless/until a Bow is introduced to complicate things.

Sorry... that whole bouncing ball thing and it's relationship to Timing and Spaces has got me thinking. blink.gif
markw
QUOTE(Darkwing @ Jul 18 2011, 04:14 PM) *
I've personally found the 2008 rig to be an excellent rig that is both easy and intermediate at the same time. There's quite a bit of functionality with the 2008 rig, plus it's fairly easy to instal, it just takes time and is a good patience lesson as well tongue.gif

Yes I would be happy with a rigging exercise based on the 2008 rig, (even though rigging is my least favorite pastime) . If I'm not mistaken it was originally intended as a direct replacement for the old 2001 rig.
Straying for a moment with this thought. If a new rig is adopted, could/should the basic characters that ship with A:M, Thom, Rabbit, etc not also have this new rig in them (whatever it might be), say as of v17?.


QUOTE(Bruce Del Porte @ Jul 18 2011, 06:15 PM) *
I'd also add a bouncing ball tutorial before the walk cycle.

The good old bouncing ball would be a good one to include and to do it before the walk exercise. Of itself it teaches time and motion of an object through space. All animation is this.
And it goes deeper. Consider the ball not as an object itself, but representing a fixed point on another object or character. Say for example the center of the hip Null on Rabbit. If you mark the position of that center at each frame of his walk with a dot, suddenly it's slight up and down motion as he moves forward looks an awful lot like that of a bouncing ball.
robcat2075
I've been thinking a bouncing ball exercise would be a good tut to introduce channel/curve editing since you really can't do a proper bouncing ball without curve editing.
zandoriastudios
I think maybe something explaining the Terrain Wizard, or the Treez plug-in would be helpful for the beginner wanting to make their sets--also Layer Objects for that too...

Robcat--I thought you were making a book?
Rodney
QUOTE
Straying for a moment with this thought. If a new rig is adopted, could/should the basic characters that ship with A:M, Thom, Rabbit, etc not also have this new rig in them (whatever it might be), say as of v17?.


Generally, (historically... whatever) the characters used in TaoA:M are targeted for use by newbies and rigged with the 'official' rig. The primary reason for that is to keep the characters compatible with the drag and drop Actions in the Library. If the 2008 rig replaces the 2001 'officially' then all of the characters used in TaoA:M would be updated.

This may be related to why Robert suggested the revised TaoA:M be an extension rather than a replacement of the original TaoA:M as replacing the current TaoA:M would be a pretty big undertaking.

Obviously all of this will have to be worked out in some detail.
robcat2075
As I see it, the "official" rig isn't a big deal. We certainly didn't stick with it for TWO or SO.

Its value is that there are some premade actions for it, but there's just a handful of those. When have we seen anyone make significant use of those actions other than in a tut?

For all other purposes it's an inadequate rig. If we're going to teach a rig, lets teach a better one. The old tut showing how to install AM2001 will still be available for anyone who has a reason to need it, but that will be nearly no one.

We should certainly tell people that there are many different rigs for different purposes. We will teach one in TAoA:M and pin point them to tuts for others they may investigate if they are so inclined.

I can't think of anyone who has gone through the work of creating their own character and then only wanted to use those few pre made AM2001 actions.

We dont' have to re-rig the old characters. They can still do the tuts they are in just the way they are. They serve their purpose for that.

But let's stop handicapping people by continuing to teach them that rig that will always be a hassle to animate with.
Glob Studios
There are some very good thoughts here. Here is my perspective.

TaoA:M is intended to walk newbies around the shallow end of the pool, not really to push them into the deep end. The big hurdle new users need to get over is the idea that they can actually do this stuff; that it is not too hard or complicated for them to be able to create something they can show people fairly quickly. That said, it would be good to put them firmly on the path toward the techniques they will eventually use.

With this idea in mind, I think the walk cycle and bouncing ball are good ideas, but rigging may not belong here. It would be great to have another volume that follows TaoA:M (The Zen of A:M?) that includes next stage topics like rigging, and extends the topics introduced in TaoA:M to more complex applications.

The one chapter I think really belongs in TaoA:M that is not there is a Getting The Look chapter. It would include these items, taking a single scene and modifying it to appear different ways:

Lighting
A plain 3D cartoon look (without decals or materials)
A 2D cartoon look (toon render)
A 2D anime look (toon render differently)
Using materials to give a fantasy look
Using photographic decals, specular highlights and reflections to give a photorealistic look

These topics can provide a fair amount of joy to the user for a comparitively small amount of effort. They will also help new users to see the potential of A:M to tell lots of different stories different ways. I would put this chapter right after Chorus Line.

On the subject of a standard rig, I agree with Rob that having a more robust rig to teach would be a positive step. And if the community could develop a library of actions for the rig, which would be more useful and extensive, that would be even better.
robcat2075
QUOTE(Glob Studios @ Jul 19 2011, 04:44 PM) *
There are some very good thoughts here. Here is my perspective.

TaoA:M is intended to walk newbies around the shallow end of the pool, not really to push them into the deep end. The big hurdle new users need to get over is the idea that they can actually do this stuff; that it is not too hard or complicated for them to be able to create something they can show people fairly quickly. That said, it would be good to put them firmly on the path toward the techniques they will eventually use.



I think this is the right philosophy for TAoA:M. We can't teach everything in 20 tuts.

I do think rigging needs to be part of it, however, since they do buy A:M to make their own characters and they do want to be able to animate them and they can't do that without rigging them.
mtpeak2
Converting the actions from the 2001 rig to another rig is not that big a deal. As Robert said, there's only a handful of them and it wouldn't take that long to do. Constrain the new rig to the 2001 rig (just like using BVH files), bake the action and remove all the unnecessary keyframed bones.
Rodney
Regarding the emphasis placed on Modeling, Rigging and Animation...
TaoA:M is currently divided into three parts: Animation, Modeling and Technical Direction.
All three are huge areas which can get complicated quickly.

I'm a big fan of the current TaoA:M approach with launches off immediately into Character Animation which is the focus of the software.
I sure do wish we could keep that focus but I do recognize the difficulties in maintaining that approach in the face of diverse needs.

The dilemma, as has been stated, is that people purchase A:M to tell their own stories and explore their ideas.
For this to work they must be able to model, rig and texture all of the assets necessary or find someone that will do it for them.
The question: How to keep the focus on animation while resolving this?

As important as Modeling and Technical Direction are, I do think the folks at Hash Inc got it right when they established the current order in TaoA:M. Modeling, rigging, texturing, lighting... whatever... all serve to help the animation look even greater.One way might be to further separate and expand these three tiers, perhaps even dividing them into three books.

The current TaoA:M would then be the first of four books and provide an Introductory to A:M. (As part of a four manual series it would eventually be revised to include only those elements a day one user who just purchased A:M needs)
The first TaoA:M manual would be distributed with A:M (as it is now) but readers would then choose to expand into the area they deem most needed.
Kind of like... reality.
Darkwing
It really would be good to have multiple volumes with higher levels of skill taught in them as aside from the forum, there isn't tons of literature or anything on using the software and whatnot. (I mean written lit that is).

I do think if TAOAM goes the approach of gearing towards a short, the time frame should really be emphasized. This isn't the type of thing you can do overnight usually. I know the current TAoAM has a rough time estimate for each tut (which I always found to be grossly off, but maybe it was just me) but still, a good emphasis on the fact that this takes time
robcat2075
If you had a budget of 14 tuts what would you include and what would you move to "For further Study"?


Moi, I think the core that needs to be taught is:

-Modeling, because you want make your own characters
-Rigging, because you need that to do any...
-Animating, because you want to tell a story with your character.

There are lots of other things people do with A:M, but I think that's the core focus that most people buy it for and it's also a good starting point from which to venture to all the other things.
Rodney
QUOTE
-Rigging, because you need that to do any...


I do regret that Rigging seems to fall under Technical Direction in most classifications of the subject.
It's such an important aspect to computer animation.

QUOTE
If you had a budget of 14 tuts what would you include and what would you move to "For further Study"?


Most of the subjects that fall under Technical Direction I might reserve as 'For Further Study' due to the complexity that it takes to master.

Here's my attempt at listing the 14 tut budget without thinking a lot about it (i.e. In no particular order off the top of my head):

- Animation (Pose to Pose)
- Animation (Straight Ahead)
- Animation (Beats and Phrasings) - Demo'd via Dialogue and Lipsync but used in any animation
- Modeling (Lathing and Extruding)
- Modeling (Stitching and Automation via Wizards)
- Rigging (Concepts and Constraints)
- Rendering (Files and Formats)
- Netrendering (Automation and Optimizations)
- Lighting (Three to Seven Point Light Setups)
- Texturing (Procedural Materials)
- Texturing (Decaling)
- Texturing (Patch Images)
- Storyboarding and Animatics (Storytelling)
- Reserved for that very important tutorial I've completely forgotten.

I have a feeling this list runs pretty close to the current TaoA:M

Sorry to say, I would NOT cover things like Hair, Particles, Dynamics and most things controlled by plugins.
Each of these would benefit from a 'For Further Study' tutorial of it's own but is not strictly needed in most short films. I believe everything I've listed is needed.

I realize that just creating this list is an exercise in futility. wink.gif
Rodney
It occurs to me that many of the 14 tuts I've listed could be covered via basic Demonstrations.
What Exercises might follow would be a test to see how well those Demos sunk into the brain.

So let's try this again as Demonstrations.
Note that the Exercise itself is not Demonstrated and optimally would be submitted to the forum for peer review and critique:

- Animation (Pose to Pose) - Demonstrate a progression of Models from Simple to more complex giving examples of Animating via Extremes, Breakdowns and Inbetweens via Pose Sliders and via Actions Exercise: Introduce a Character and Challenge the Animator to Exercise them. The word 'exercise' could be taken literally; Push Ups, Sit Ups, Pull Ups, etc.

- Animation (Straight Ahead and Automations) - Demonstrate Movement of Objects via Frame Placement and via Path Animation in a Choreopgraphy. Note: As this is technically easier than Pose to Pose do not Demo this before that Lesson. Learn the harder concept first then reinforce it with this easier lesson. Exericise: Introduce a series of Props, Vehicles, Spaceships and other moving things and challenge the Animator to move them cinematically.

- Animation (Beats and Phrasings) - Demonstrate how music and dialogue can be used to accentuate an animation. Show how cyclic rythyms, curves versus straights, tempos and recurring themes help audiences anticipate and heighten and lower expectations. Exercise: Introduce a piece of music or dialogue and Animate a character to the beat.

- Modeling (Lathing and Extruding) - Demonstrate the variety of shapes and objects that can be created with only basic modeling techniques. Exercise: Challenge the Modeler to find and model a set of mechanical props for use in later animation.

- Modeling (Stitching and Automation via Wizards) - Demonstrate Modification of already existing models to create complex objects and organic creatures. Exercise: Introduce concepts of modeling for animation with an eye for determining character performance and riggings needs.

- Rigging (Concepts and Constraints) - Demonstrate a variety of ways rigging assists the Animator: Exercise: Rig both simple and complex shapes and then simple and complex characters.

Rendering (Files and Formats) - Demonstrate how the Camera is used to render and composite scenes using a variety of previously rendered sequences. Exercise: Challenge the Artist to manipulate and render a series of previously created scenes to specific formats for established needs. (i.e. A client wants 12 images of a character from different angles for use on his web site)

- Netrendering (Automation and Optimizations) - Demonstrate the benefits of Netrender and delve into the variables of more complex and high resolution renderings. Exercise: Render several simple and several complex stills and animated sequences simulateously.

- Lighting (Three to Seven Point Light Setups) - Demonstrate how lighting effects both rendering quality and rendering time and discuss reasons to choose specific lighting (mood, special effects, radiosity etc.) Exercise: Render one scene with a variety of different lighting schemes.

- Texturing (Procedural Materials) Demonstrate the various procedural materials and how to access or create them. Exercise: Experiment with a select group of materials and determine the effect on objects in a scene.

- Texturing (Decaling) Demonstrate how to Decal simple and complex shapes. Exercise: Texture one object and one character with both simple and complex (layered) decal images.

- Texturing (Patch Images) Demonstate use of Patch images on simple and complex shapes. Exercise: Animate the Patch images.

- Storyboarding and Animatics (Storytelling) Demonstrate how sequences of images can be used to create storyboards and animatics in preparation of creating a short film. Exercise: Adapt a storyboard into an animatic or short film.
- Reserved for that very important tutorial I've completely forgotten.

Yikes... there's a lot of work for somebody in there.
itsjustme
It's tough...so much to cover.

I've been of the mind of making short (under five minutes, if possible), focused video tutorials...each tool having it's own (each constraint, modeling tool, etc). Then, a few tutorials that tie all of the concepts in the short tutorials together into larger projects. The short tutorials would be a lot easier to put together and new users could "cherry pick" the ones they need to learn more about. Some subjects don't lend themselves well to the short tutorial limitation, but most of the basic tools shouldn't be a problem.

Rather than being a giant mountain to be tackled all at once, this would allow a lot of people to each select one very focused tool/subject to help with. Then, they can be organized by topic for easy browsing. I started doing this with Expressions (they are also on A:M Films)...still more of those to put together when I get more time. Also, I think a subtitle file for each one would help non-English speakers and the hearing impaired...translations could be provided by anyone that wants to volunteer. All that would be needed is a provided splash screen for the tutorial open and criteria set up. For the Expressions tutorials, it is five seconds of splash screen with the subject and narrator information then a tutorial that is under five minutes in length 900x600 H.264 encoded Quicktime.

Just my two cents.
Rodney
David,
You've demonstrated via your video tutorials how well bite sized tutorials work.
Tutorials that are much longer may lose the viewers attention or become overly complex.

What am I trying to say... You've set the bar really high with your video tutorials! smile.gif
robcat2075
I'm tempted to want to try to impart a lot about the animation principles in a book like this but I think a basic goal for an introductory manual is to get the user up to speed with the operation of A:M so that they are equipped to do further study.

The web is awash in animation tuts now, we don't need to reinvent their wheels, but the screen captures may be in other software.

When someone sees a tutorial by Keith Lango or a Dreamworks person on "how to make a moving hold" for example, I want a TAoA:M alumnus to say "Ah, I can do that with A:M too!" and not "Wah, I need to buy Maya to do real animation!"

Ideally every A:M feature would be introduced with example that incorporate good animation practice, none-the-less.
pixelplucker
Even after reading and doing the tutorials in the original I found myself back peddling and asking questions on the small stuff that wasn't covered or the small tips and tricks that are difficult to find such smoothing models out, smart skin usage and so on. Looking through the forums you will see the most frequent topics new users get stuck on. Removing my redundant rants and lazy look-ups will make that search much much simpler.

A pdf manual that is downloadable that can have embeded video tutorials might be an easy publish. This could be printed once all the content is final.

Not sure how much help I could be, I do have book making experience so hollar if you need help assembling it.
A good outline helps to break out chapters.
mouseman
For rigging, I see two issues:
  1. Installing a pre-existing rig.
    I think we should select a biped rig that is not overly difficult to install but easier to use than the 2001 rig. Candidates are probably LiteRig and 2008 rig.
  2. Creating a rig from scratch.
    I think we should cover the basics, but leave advanced topics out. Maybe focus on a single part of a body, such as an arm or a leg.
For #1, I personally have done okay with installing the 2001 rig, but have had problems with others I've tried.

--

I want to second the call for avoiding explaining the principles of animation. The existing TAoA:M has a good sprinkling of general information without getting in the way of describing how to use the software.

--

Here's a general idea ... what if we had "Exercises" and "Projects"? For example, after a section with 4 or 5 exercises, have a project that incorporates and ties together everything that was learned in the exercises. The project wouldn't have to go into detail, but could be a 1-page description of what to do for a project, not a step-by-step set of instructions. The user could decide what she/he wanted to do (e.g. I'll have a lizard playing a saxophone).
robcat2075
QUOTE(itsjustme @ Jul 20 2011, 07:20 PM) *
Also, I think a subtitle file for each one would help non-English speakers and the hearing impaired...translations could be provided by anyone that wants to volunteer.


How does the subtitling work?

Just having English subtitles would be a big plus for most international users as reading english is easier than hearing it.


zandoriastudios
The harder stuff, like building a rig from scratch is what the Technical Reference is for....
Rodney
QUOTE
I want to second the call for avoiding explaining the principles of animation.


I understand what you are saying here. Most do not want a play by play of how to apply the principles of animation in A:M compiled into a book. I'd certainly buy one though.

The principles of animation don't have to be explained so much as incorporated.
Everything we do in animation touches upon the principles of animation in some way so this makes the process both easier and harder simultaneously. Easier because the principles are there even if we don't consciously add or acknowledge them. Harder because not consciously being aware of how the principles apply to the lesson at hand may be a missed opportunity or at least could have been used to enhance the lesson.

The conscious decision to incorporate the principles is what tends to separate good animation from great animation. The same should surely be true of a revised TaoA:M. Perhaps the best possible approach would teach the principles without the student even knowing they've been exposed to them, empowering the student to take what they observe in the world around them and apply that to their work. In this sense the principles are simply a conceptual framework for communication. For instance, there are a lot of words that can be used to emphasize clarity. We just need to make sure where applicable at least one of those words is used.

Rigging is fertile ground for this kind of emphasis of the principles.
Most people see rigging as a necessary evil but a good rig simply provides a framework for communitcating the basic principles of animation to a computer.
Knowing why a rig must be created in a specific way may be more important than actually understanding how to rig. Why? Because there are many ways to animate things... some do not require standard rigs. The best ways will vary on a specific scene or the performance required. Technical Directors (Riggers) must be able to understand, at least in part, how the objects they intend to rig are articulated and/or how they are supposed to move through a scene.

I believe 'The Principles of A:M' will be an entirely different book. wink.gif
dblhelix
QUOTE(robcat2075 @ Jul 22 2011, 05:41 AM) *
QUOTE(itsjustme)
Also, I think a subtitle file for each one would help non-English speakers and the hearing impaired...translations could be provided by anyone that wants to volunteer.

Just having English subtitles would be a big plus for most international users as reading english is easier than hearing it.

put this to a vote before putting energy into it.
the windows are cramped with information as it is.
reading subs won't leave time to look at what's happening.
tuts tend to be all action no drama.
but my english is pretty good so i'm not a good representative.
robcat2075
QUOTE(dblhelix @ Jul 22 2011, 01:31 PM) *
put this to a vote before putting energy into it.
the windows are cramped with information as it is.
reading subs won't leave time to look at what's happening.


That's a problem. Potentially, they can rewind for things they miss and Would expect them to do that, but I'd certainly want the subtitles to have an ON/OFF switch.


itsjustme
QUOTE(robcat2075 @ Jul 22 2011, 08:41 AM) *
QUOTE(itsjustme @ Jul 20 2011, 07:20 PM) *
Also, I think a subtitle file for each one would help non-English speakers and the hearing impaired...translations could be provided by anyone that wants to volunteer.


How does the subtitling work?

Just having English subtitles would be a big plus for most international users as reading english is easier than hearing it.


I use "Subtitle Workshop" to make ".SRT" (SubRip) files for playback. These subtitles are supported by VLC, KMPlayer, GOM Player and probably a few others (unfortunately, not Quicktime at this time...they support CC and some other format which I don't think work as well). An ".SRT" file is a text file that has in and out times for the video and the text for those timings. When the ".SRT" file is in the same folder and has the same name (except for the extension) as the video, the text can be displayed by turning on subtitling. The Quickstart Expressions tutorials I made recently have ".SRT" files included if you need something to test your player. When multiple languages are in the same folder, they are given slightly different names with "en" for english, etc. and can be accessed as alternate subtitles.

Hope that helps, Robert.


QUOTE(zandoriastudios @ Jul 22 2011, 11:08 AM) *
The harder stuff, like building a rig from scratch is what the Technical Reference is for....


I agree with Will on this.


QUOTE(robcat2075 @ Jul 22 2011, 01:56 PM) *
QUOTE(dblhelix @ Jul 22 2011, 01:31 PM) *
put this to a vote before putting energy into it.
the windows are cramped with information as it is.
reading subs won't leave time to look at what's happening.


That's a problem. Potentially, they can rewind for things they miss and Would expect them to do that, but I'd certainly want the subtitles to have an ON/OFF switch.


The subtitles can be turned off.
robcat2075
QUOTE(itsjustme @ Jul 22 2011, 07:27 PM) *
QUOTE(zandoriastudios @ Jul 22 2011, 11:08 AM) *
The harder stuff, like building a rig from scratch is what the Technical Reference is for....


I agree with Will on this.


Does the tech ref actually teach rigging? It explains what all the constraints do, but that's not the same as teaching how to rig a charcter or why we use constraints or why you need them to make a character manageable.

We have too many people who get stopped at rigging because

a) they think the installation for a premade rig is an unnecessary complication, then...
b ) they try to make their rig from scratch and have no clue what they are doing and get disappointed a second time.

I want to show them how to build a simple, functional rig that shows fundamental constraints in use.

Then say, "there's about a hundred other useful things character rigs can do for you, wouldn't it be cool if you didn't have to build all these constraints from scratch every time? You don't! In the next chapter we'll learn how to install a pre-made rig that adds the constraints for you."

I want them to understand a bit of what makes a rig work, I want them to understand that it is a drastic improvement over a plain chain of bones, and I finally want them to view the pre-made rigs as time and labor saver.


itsjustme
You're correct that the Tech Ref doesn't actually teach rigging, Robert. My thinking was that building a complete character rig would be a lot more than a "quick start" set of tutorials could cover in very much detail. Holmes' tutorials (Part1 and Part2) do a good job of covering a basic rig and I think it runs about an hour altogether...I would have to watch it again to refresh my memory, but I think it might be a lot to take in at once for a first-day user.

Rather than pile a bunch of stuff on a new user in large doses, I still think a bunch of highly focused tutorials with a few others that tie them together in useful ways would be an easier and better route. The making of the tutorials could be done by a bunch of people in the community, so the work wouldn't be the responsibility of one person and you would get more thorough coverage of every aspect of A:M. I think it would make learning easier for the new user as well.

Just my opinion, not necessarily true, but it makes sense in my head.
robcat2075
"Why can't I just put bones in my character?"

Give me a great answer to that.
itsjustme
QUOTE(robcat2075 @ Jul 22 2011, 11:21 PM) *
"Why can't I just put bones in my character?"

Give me a great answer to that.


LOL! I understand what you're saying, Robert. It's a tough nut to crack, like everything else. You want to instill good practices, but you can't make it too complicated at first either.

It's like explaining a "favor" or a "breakdown"...you have to explain a few other things first.

As an example, I learned HTML by doing very simple, one function type of things like changing the color of the background of a web page. It was very simple, but it was added to in the next very simple lesson and built from there. It took me about three days to get a decent grasp of HTML...of course there were finer points that I had yet to learn, but I could make simple things that didn't look like a three-year old had slapped it together. I think the same thing is possible with rigging, animating, etc.

With rigging, bone hierarchy and the differences between bones and nulls could be explained in a five minute tutorial, every constraint and the basics of what a Pose is could be quickly explained in a five minute tutorial, Smartskin might take two five minute tutorials (one for use on geometry and one for making controls), CP Weighting could be basically explained in a five minute tutorial, but I think Expressions really needs each function explained, so quite a few five minute tutorials for those (Marcos and I have made a total of seven so far). Once there is a basic understanding of those things, great stuff can be accomplished by combining them (of course, there are some things to know about combining them as well).

It's an organic whole, rigging a character has as much to do with modeling a character well as it does rigging. Without understanding how everything is related you will struggle for years and get upset. For animating, it's the bouncing ball...sounds simple, but the more you study it, the more ways you can see it being done and how it relates to a biped, quadruped, etc. The truly fast way to learn rigging is to spend a few days on the small stuff. Nobody writes a PhD dissertation their first time out...for the really complex stuff, you need a lot of background information.

The answer to the question, "Why can't I just put bones in my character?", is, "You can, but you'll hate trying to animate it. You don't have to constantly fight against a well rigged character just like it's easier to learn to play guitar on a nice one with a good action instead of one that makes your fingers bleed."

I hope my rambling made a little sense...sorry for the length. This is your basketball, Robert. You have the final say on what game gets played with it. My opinion is just my opinion and I think you'll do a great job whatever you decide.
robcat2075
QUOTE(itsjustme @ Jul 23 2011, 05:20 AM) *
The answer to the question, "Why can't I just put bones in my character?", is, "You can, but you'll hate trying to animate it. You don't have to constantly fight against a well rigged character just like it's easier to learn to play guitar on a nice one with a good action instead of one that makes your fingers bleed."


That would be my answer too. That's the premise behind my "Simplest IK Leg" tutorial where I start with just bones and show how that falls short of an animator's needs and then show that a little more rigging work can make something much easier to work with.
mouseman
QUOTE(Rodney @ Jul 22 2011, 12:13 PM) *
QUOTE
I want to second the call for avoiding explaining the principles of animation.
[...]
The principles of animation don't have to be explained so much as incorporated.
That is a pretty decent distinction. For example, when introducing rigging a character's legs, and indicating that when he jumps, you want for his feet to "stick" to the ground while his body goes up, and his legs therefore stretch. And then when they release, they snap back to the body, overshoot slightly and squash, and then go to their normal length.

In other words, instead of having a squash exercise and a stretch exercise and an overshoot exercise, set up a scene or a situation that should be supported, and then discuss how to achieve those. If you choose to incorporate squash, this is what you would do; when you want to overshoot, this is what they keyframes look like in the timeline. etc.

When to use the principles and to what effect are the responsibility of the director. The book should be an enabler, but not an evangelist for or a comprehensive course in the principles.

QUOTE(robcat2075 @ Jul 23 2011, 06:51 AM) *
QUOTE(itsjustme @ Jul 23 2011, 05:20 AM) *
The answer to the question, "Why can't I just put bones in my character?", is, "You can, but you'll hate trying to animate it. You don't have to constantly fight against a well rigged character just like it's easier to learn to play guitar on a nice one with a good action instead of one that makes your fingers bleed."


That would be my answer too. That's the premise behind my "Simplest IK Leg" tutorial where I start with just bones and show how that falls short of an animator's needs and then show that a little more rigging work can make something much easier to work with.
Good discussion from both of you! Getting across why any rig beyond geometry bones is needed, and showing the tools to make a simple rig, and including some text like "all complex rigs are built from multiple simple rigs and here is where to go to find more info on more advanced rigging" is a good approach. Also, I don't think TAoA:M needs to go through each constraint, but focus on the ones needed for the task, and refer to the Technical Reference for more information on others.

The only problem is that the technical reference is that it describes the individual pieces (which is incredibly useful and greatly appreciated). It does not (and is probably beyond its scope to) describe how to assemble them to create a rig, or how to choose constraints and expressions to achieve various effects.
themike38
hey Rodney are you going to bring back that nice little diploma that you had going on a number of years back???. As a newbie (again) i remember back in 05 and 06 you had us newbies posting our work for all to see and we were able to look at everyones work and post and recieve crits, i thought that was a really good idea as it helped us to keep going and to add our own little creativity to the next lesson. Also i remember that a lot of the seasoned am users were also doing the lessons and adding there own creativity which i thought made me strive a little harder to be a little more creative. Also if memory serves you used to throw in a little teaser mow and then to keep us motivated like i do remember doing the bouncing ball after i had completed x numbers of lessons. i guess my question is , is could something like this not be implimented again, we start doing the lessons and depending on the progress of the class you set up a little teaser lesson for us???
thank you
mike
Rodney
Mike,
I remember that well!
What impressed me the most was that despite running through exactly the same exercises everyone's personality shown through.

As you've noted (and more importantly experienced!) that is a great way to get feedback and refine your approach.
Besides the feedback, other benefits above and beyond involve delivering a product for review, hitting (personally set) deadlines and milestones and effectively communicating online. Unless planning to hire an agent that'll do all of that for you it's something every animator should press into.

Regarding the certifications... I sure wish we could do that.
Realistically, I don't think it's something I can do personally but... please note... I'm not an avid advocate of realism. wink.gif
Practically speaking, it is something we could certainly plan and execute.

Ultimately, I sense the proof of completing the new revised TaoA:M could very well be it's very own certificate of accomplishment and merit, not to mention something of an initial demo reel too. The challenge is how to keep each one manageable yet still unique and personal.

Regardless of the approach, having everyone post their progress is most definitely the way to go.
It's a very different world now than it was before and there are many options avialable to us. For instance, back when we were getting TaoA:M up and running there was no such thing as Youtube...
robcat2075
I like the diploma idea. We should try to figure out how to continue that without Rodney needing to fund it.
robcat2075
What if Rigging in NewTaoA:M was an and/or choice?

Build SimpleRig from scratch to learn about rigging theory

and/or

Learn to install PreMade rig for faster results.
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