Picky Mouse and Sleepy Laptop

Project Presentation for Computer Animation (CS 527 - Project 1)


Computer Animation has fascinated me for some time now. Using Anim8or was a good way to start making purely animated clips from model to scene (I used to piece stolen clips from all over the world to make my own movies).

The initial tutorials were interesting - the fact that you actually had to select a tool before having to move an object took some getting used to. (Click on the images to view blown-up versions.)

Eggplant is called Brinjal in India. This exercise helped quickly get the whereabouts of the "stuff" in Anim8or. I was able to go around and grasp a lot of information in minimal time. That way, Anim8or is straight-forward, simple and a no-nonsense tool; thanks to Steve.

While the Brinjal example helped get the intricacies involved in building an Object, the Simple Walk example aided in the understanding of actually developing the Scene. The walk cycle came out more like a walk-come-slide cycle when I did it the first time; I did not bother to match the distance with the stride, but tried out a smaller piece and got a hold of it. Time is the only thing required to get someone or something to walk and make it look like it is walking. You can download the clip of the "Birdie Walk Cycle" that I did here.

The DivX(R) Codec and Player (required to watch this video) can be downloaded for free.

The Project

For my first project, I wanted to animate an object, like a chair or something like that. So, I ended up with the Laptop and the Mouse.

This laptop is tired at the end of the day. The guy who works on it has forgotten to switch it off or to plug it to a wall socket. But this mouse still has about six months of battery life left and is all excited and jumping around. It sees that the laptop is almost dead, and before it is too late brings a power wire to provide food for the laptop.

Modelling the laptop was simple: two objects (for each half), a figure with two bones, a couple of morphs to give some "life" to the laptop and a sequence to make it wake up. I ended up not having the time to put the keys in - it was a lot of effort that seemed to never end; so I got rid of the whole bunch.

The mouse was done in more detail than the laptop in the sense that the curves for the buttons and the red laser light was all done although it never came "on-screen".

The wire was initially made up of 16 bones. It was animating like a charm. But sometime towards the end of the development, something went wrong, Anim8or crashed more dramatically than usual, and I lost the Wire. I had to re-do the Object, Figure, Sequence and Scene for the wire, which is why it now has only 8 bones. God, I miss the Original Wire!

Materials happened just like that for me - no sweat there. I created textures and bump maps for the walls, the laptop face, the translucent glass window, et al using an old version of Adobe Photoshop.

Then came the Herculean Task of the Scene, which is what this project was originally meant for - to know how difficult it is to do key-frame animation; how much time, patience, effort, accuracy and 'love' goes into the making of a movie!

I went on and on and on making small changes for days together, until a "see-able" version was made. As much as I wanted to put the keys on the keyboard, some stationery on the desk, and make the clip smoother, time is limited and I had to draw a line somewhere.

I got an instrumental number by Ian Anderson - At Their Father's Knee (Twelve Dances With God) and cut it to fit my movie using Audacity - The Free, Cross-Platform Sound Editor. Then I used Windows Movie Maker to put the Titles and the Credits. These were quick and easy.

I wanted to ray-trace the entire clip soo badly, but time was against me. It was taking 5-7 minutes per frame if I did a Monte Carlo Ray Trace (for which, of course, I had no time); so I had to settle for Volume Shadows, and that is why the shadows don't seem to be right sometimes. The DivX(R) Codec and Player (required to watch this video) can be downloaded for free.

And here it is - the version I showed to the rest of the class on Tuesday, September 26, 2006.

Alternate Link to the movie.

I also made the making of the movie. Here it is.

Minutes of the Project Presentation:

The presentation went pretty well. The sound was too boggy on the speakers (probably because the sound off my laptop was too loud); the scene made it well. The extempore speech and analysis of the movie pretty much covered everything.

Morph Targets made the laptop shrug and tired and the mouse shrink and stretch when leaping into air.

Skinning Bones helped make the wire bend seamlessly. I got an opportunity to show to the class how exactly I went about doing it.

Video-Audio Sync turned out to be impressive. The "bang" when the Wire makes its entry blended well. The music editing was decent enough to make it seem like it was made for the movie.

Text-Styles and Materials was worth the effort. The detail on the objects and in the scene paid off well.

Q & A

Question from Dat Tran: The Video and Audio went really well together. The audio sounded like it was not tampered. So, I was wondering if you made the video after you had the sound or did you just edit the audio to go with the video.

Vishu's Reply: I started thinking about the music sometime towards the end of the build, when I was making the wire pop-up the first time (the one with the 16 bones). I found this one and had pretty much fixated on it. I had a vague idea what the final version would look like, but did not synchronize the video for the sound. I used Audacity to zoom deep into the audio file and carefully cut the instrumental song and put three different parts of the song together to sync it with the final video. This, I did after the title and the end credits were in place.