Rigging an accordion lamp

The distinctive design of the accordion lamp may look simple to rig, but don’t be fooled. As the lamp expands or contract the joints at each end of the arms moves in a circular motion, rendering the standard constrains useless.

The accordion lamp consists of a series of individual arms which are mounted in pairs creating an X-Shape. Rotating any of the arms will cause all arms to rotate which either expand or contract the lamp. Start by open the scene Accordion_Lamp.scn. The scene consists of a number of null objects and the arms, which are parented under the null representing their respective centre joint.

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Squash and stretch

One of the most fundamental (and important) rules in animation is the use of squash and stretch which is used to give the illusion of weight and volume as an object moves.

Open the scene Ball_Rig.scn. Select the Ball and from the Get > Primitive menu choose Lattice. In the Lattice PPG, change the Subdivision on all three axis’s to 2 and close the PPG. With the Lattice still selected, press [T] to set the selection filter to points and select the top nine points on the lattice. From the Main Command Panel (MCP) > Edit menu choose Create Cluster with Centre. This creates a null object and automatically constrains the selected points to that null, meaning that if you move (or scale) the null the corresponding part of the lattice will move as well.

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Surface constraint and transformation

While constraining an object to a surface as such is a straightforward task and won’t require more than a few mouse clicks, it may still leave you with a sensation of not being quite satisfied. Once you add the constraint you loose the option to freely move the object with the standard translate tool and are left with two (somewhat less intuitive) sliders within a PPG. By adding an extra dummy object to the mix, you’ll effectively manage to get the most out of both approaches.

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Rigging a piston engine

The concept of a reciprocating engine, commonly referred to as a piston engine, is in fact quite simple. Petrol gets injected into the cylinder and the piston pushes upwards to compress the petrol (fumes). The spark plug sets of a spark which ignites the fumes and causes it to explode. The force of the explosion sends the piston down through the cylinder. The piston is connected to the crankshaft via a connecting rod, which transforms the up and down movement into a rotation motion which in the end drive the wheels of the car. The piston is connected in pairs so when one piston is pushed down the other is pushed up which compresses the fumes, which is then ignited by the spark plug and so on.

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Single axis direction constraint

As you’ve noticed there isn’t a one click solution to limit the direction constraint to a single axis. However there’s no need to despair as we’ve supplied you with two different methods to tackle the problem.

Open the scene Surveillance_Camera.scn from this issues DVD. The first method requires two null objects, one which can be moved in any direction and one that will be used for the actual direction constraint. Create a null object, name it Direction_Cns and move it somewhat in front of the surveillance camera. Create another null object, name it LookAt and move it in front of the camera as well. Press [Ctrl] + [K] to pen its Local Transforms PPG and click the Lock icon to pin it to the screen. Select the Direction_Cns object and press [Ctrl] + [K] to open its transform PPG as well.

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Facial rig in Softimage XSI

After successful thesis such as cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”), the prominent French 17th century philosopher and scientist René Descartes came to the conclusion that the mind and body where separated from one and other. 400 years later we know that nothing could be more wrong. In fact, you can’t have a single thought without a bodily reaction. The second you have one, the brain cells starts working frenetic and sends signals all over the place including to the autonomous nervous system. The ANS generally performs without us being aware of it and controls functions such as the hart and respirators rate, perspiration, sexual arousal (okay, this you might be aware of) and the diameters of the pupils. So even without utter a single word your body may very well be screaming.

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Rigging Pixar-ish Eyes

It only takes between 90 seconds and four minutes from the moment you meet a new person to decide whether you fancy him/her or not. Though it’s natural to think that this decision above all is based on the verbal communication, it’s in fact very much the opposite. What the person is actually saying only accounts for seven per cent of your impression. The tone, rhythm and inflection accounts for another thirty-eight per cent, which mean that the remaining fifty-five per cent comes solitary from the body language; in which the eyes plays a very vital part. In addition, you only make eye contact in about 20 per cent of the time while talking to a person, so during the other 80 per cent your eyes will be doing something else. And no, we’re not talking about where teenage boys are looking when chatting with a pretty girl.

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Hydraulic Piston in XSI

By looking at hydraulic pistons in action you’ll soon find there’s quite a lot things going on at the same time. When trying to recreate the same functionality in 3D, you’ll most likely become aware of it even sooner. As the arms, to which the piston is attached, moves the piston obviously needs to stay connected at both ends at all times. This is achieved by making it expand and contract. However, this will also change the rotation of the piston which is what makes the setup a bit complicated. While it is the hydraulic system that is driving the arm in reality, there’s really no point in creating the same setup in 3d since you’ll be animating by hand anyway. It’s far more intuitive to do it the other way around, animate the arm and make the piston follow the movement.

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Getting Started in Animation Part 1

While having the largest box of crayons in class may have been thrilling when you were a kid, ithad little or nothing to do with the quality of the images you drew. Although we doubt thatanyone would seriously argue with this, it’s something people often forget when it comes to 3D. With the manuals of modern 3D applications weighing more than the contents of a schoolsatchel, it’s as easy to be dazzled by the number of features available as it was by the number of crayons. But the basics of 3D are exactly that – basic enough for anyone to follow.

During this four-part tutorial series, we’ll introduce you to the fundamental concepts of 3D animation. While primarily aimed at newcomers, we also encourage more experienced users to drop by our 3D kindergarten; no matter how well you know your software, there’s no substitute to an understanding of the principles of weight and timing. At the end of the day, animation is all aboutbringing things to life, not marvelling at the tools employed to do so.

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Getting Started in Animation Part 2 and 3

One of many files lost when my old backup decided to crash, was all the images for the 2nd and 3rd part of the Getting Started in Animation. I should have a second backup somewhere tucked in the closet, so if anyone asks me to I’ll have another go at finding them.

In the meantime, both articles can still be found at 3D World’s website http://www.computerarts.co.uk/tutorials/premium_content/3d__and__animation/get_started_in_animation_part_2
and Getting Started in Animation part 3 at http://www.computerarts.co.uk/tutorials/premium_content/3d__and__animation/get_started_in_animation_3

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