CAP 203 - Computer Animation III

Rigs from the Eleven Second Club


This lesson covers material from the Eleven Second Club, about its rigs for 3DS Max. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Advice from Chapter 2
  2. Download rigs for 3DS Max
  3. Add a sound file to a scene
  4. Animate a rig to speak

Before we begin with the main focus of this lesson, just a few words about chapter 2 in our text. The chapter begins with a recap of several lessons from previous classes.

The first two lessons discuss using reference art, and beginning the model of a character with a box. Ms. Bousquet starts with a box, converts to an editable poly, and moves vertices to positions that define major changes in curvature: neck, top and bottom of bodice, waist, and hips. Her lesson is brief and would not be sufficient if we had not modeled the soldier and rocket in our CAP 201 book. Her observations about the placement of the edge loops formed by segment boundaries is an improvement on the lesson from our text from last fall.

Her clean-up advice in the third lesson should make much more sense to you now than it would have last fall. Review it as well, to get any ideas you have not had on your own.

Eleven Second Rigs

This lesson ties in with the lesson about wiring controls to models to change some of their attributes. The Eleven Second Club has been discussed in class previously, but it did not matter to most students because you did not have a character modeled and rigged that could be used in one of their monthly competitions.

Eleven download screenThere is a rig available from the Eleven Second Club for anyone who cares to use it, called Eleven. Go to this page, and you can accomplish the first goal of this lesson.

In the panel shown in the image on the right, click the link to download the Eleven rig in a 3DS Max scene. Save this scene to a scenes folder in some project area you already have.

On the resources page for the Eleven Second Club, there is another rig called Max which you can download as a zip file. Once unzipped, you have to decompress a rar file. To save you the trouble, I have the two scene files for this rig ready and will place them in our class folder on the Assign network drive.

Each of these files, Eleven and Max, has a set of wired controls that will allow you to morph the character into preset or custom facial expressions. As you know, the point of the Eleven Second Club is to present challenges to animators, and to encourage them to polish their skills. Since we have not had a lesson involving facial expression, let's use these rigs to make a character speak as well as we can manage it.

This will be a group project, so choose small groups to work on it, and plan to present what you find along the way. This is not a competition: we want everyone to succeed.

  1. Set your project folder for the exercise.

  2. On the Eleven Second Club web site, select the Archives tab.
    On the Archives page, you can download any of the sound files that have been used since June of 2007. Pick a file and download it. The proper place to store it is under your project folder, sceneassets folder, sounds folder. Put a copy there. (Note that all the files are saved in .wav format. 3DS Max 2012 will only accept .wav sound files.)

  3. Open either the Max or Eleven start file. You will see a rig, and a control panel for it, already placed in the scene. You may want to open both scene files and look at them for a bit to decide which to use.

  4. Add Sound FileAdd the sound file.
    To do this, first open the Graph Editors menu, and select Track View-Curve Editor.

    Next, double-click Sound, which is the first item under World in the Curve Editor navigation panel.
    Note: In the classroom, we found that the objects under World did not appear in the regular Curve Editor. Darn. They did appear if we opened the Mini-Curve Editor. Use the Mini version if you have this problem.)

    On the Sound Options dialog, click the Choose Sound button.

    If you saved your sound file where I told you to save it, it will appear in the list of files that appears. If not, navigate to where you saved the file , select it, and click the Open button.

    The Sound Options dialog now points to your sound file. Click OK.

  5. Select the Waveform item, which should be the second item under sound. This will show you a graphic of the sound file.

    Drag out the right border of the Curve Editor until you can see the frame number where the sound file ends. This will tell you how many frames you need for this sound file. Hint: how many frames does eleven seconds take?

    Open the Time Configuration dialog, and change the number of frames for the scene to a number a bit larger than the sound file's estimated length. If you play the animation now, you should be able to hear the entire sound file. You may want a few more frames, depending on the sound file.

    Save your scene incrementally.

  6. Now you must experiment with your model: try to make it talk. Watch this video from Autodesk to get an idea of what they think are good mouth positions for sixteen phonemes.

    What's a phoneme? Welcome to the world of Linguistics. Most written languages depend on letters, which we combine to make words. Spoken languages depend on sounds, which we also combine to make words. Those sounds are called phonemes.

    For an animator, each phoneme has a corresponding facial expression. Some phonemes are produced with the same facial expression. Try this: make the sound of a hard G, like the g in gallon, or the first g in garage. Pay attention to your mouth. Now make the sound of a K, like the c in cat. Yes, really. The c in cat is pronounced like a K, isn't it? Now that you are over that realization, pronounce each of those sounds about three times. Do you have to move your mouth in between them? No. You will probably move your tongue, but we can't see that on a model. (For those who are aware of it, I will acknowledge that there is more than one way to pronounce a K, but the facial expression is not significantly different to us for today's assignment.)

    The image on the right appears in the Autodesk tutorial that I just recommended to you. The narrator explains the situation. You have a sound file. You need to determine the sounds that are being made, and the corresponding position you want your model's mouth, lips, jaws, etc. to be in for each moment of the dialog. Ideally, you want to create a set of reference positions for your model, like the set in this image, so you can be consistent with your puppetry. Be consistent, but not robotic.

    Should you always use exactly the same facial expression for each phoneme? No. The expression you choose should also relate to the character's emotional state. Alert, animated, tired, angry, happy... emotions affect our speech and should affect your model's speech as well. Once you get a feel for the phonemes, you will want to add acting skills to the puppet as well.