Proj 1

Proj 2

Proj 3

maya plugin info

Project 2: An Animated Production!

Note: one of the days in class during the week of March 4th will be devoted to a discussion of this project. We will look at some past projects for ideas, and give people a chance to talk about what they are interested in to help forming groups.

Your mission in this project is to produce an animation.

The animation should be 1-3 minutes long, and involve two characters that interact closely (fight, contact dance, ...). There should be a story.

You should use Maya. If you'd like to use another animation system (like Blender or 3D Studio MAX), you must let us know by March 11, We might try to talk you out of it.

The main thing in this project is the "technical" part - you are supposed to build tools to help you create the animation. Your grade will be (primarily) based on this. There must be sufficient challenge in what you choose to do (more on that later).

The artistic aspects of your project must be "good enough." Clearly there must be enough artistry to show off your technical prowess. For this project, really great technical prowess can make up for artistry.


The final project will be due on April 12th. There are many intermediate deadlines (note, these are described in more detail later):
  • March 8 - Checkpoint 0: You must send email to the instructor and TA saying who will be in your project group.
  • March 15 - Checkpoint 1: You must provide us with a "plan" of what you are going to do.
  • March 22 - Checkpoint 2: You must provide details of your animation, including a story board. You must also have provided "signs of life" on the technical issues.
  • April 5 - Checkpoint 3: Review. You must show that your technical pieces are working (maybe not done, but working). You must also have some images to show.
  • April 12 - Animatics: You should have an animatic (or at least the frames that would go into an animatic, and at least a draft sound file. At this point, all that should be left is rendering and (post-production) editing.
  • April 19 - Project Due! You will have to turn in your final animation and post your documentation web page.

Project Groups

Ideally, project groups would have 4 members. Since we have 19 students in the class, one group will only have 3 members.

Your project partner for project 1 cannot be part of your project 2 group.

Managing a group project with 4 participants is difficult. I strongly suggest that you figure out how to divide up the work.

Because there are (at least) two main characters in the animation, a logical way to divide up the work is to have each pair of people be responsible for one of characters.

You must describe your division of labor as part of Checkpoint 1.

Each group will receive a "group grade." Each group member will also receive a personal grade. The group grade will count for 3/4 of the overall grade.

Technical Requirements

Each character must have at least one "custom technical piece."

Each group member must be "lead" on at least one technical piece (e.g. there must be at least as many technical pieces as group members).

Some examples of technical pieces:

  • plugins
  • complex scripts
  • complex sets of expressions or control rigs
  • stand alone programs that produce animation data or manipulate scripts

Technical Examples

There is a tradeoff between how technically challenging a piece is, and the required level of artistry. If you do something really complicated technically, we will have lower expectations in terms of the artwork.

For guidelines:

  • Writing plugins is harder than writing scripts or writing C++ code to manipulate scripts.
  • Dealing with raw motion capture data is harder than dealing with skeletal data. If you do something that uses raw marker data and applies it to a character, we will have lower expectations of what that character looks like than if you use skeletal data. (Even if what you do is process the marker data into a skeletal form yourself).
So, putting these together...
  • If you use raw marker data, it will be impressive even if you do the processing as a stand-alone C++ program that communicates with Maya by writing scripts or data.
  • Building some simple motion editing tools as Maya plugins is impressive, even if what these plugins do is simple.
  • Building a complex character control rig as a set of Maya scripts and expressions is more impressive than simply making a complex model and animating it with "normal" methods.
  • Making use of the raw marker swing dance motion (available in /p/graphics/public/Data/Motion/Apple/Raw_Motion_Data/DG) is impressive not just because it is raw motion data, but because it is data I have a particular fondness for. Making use of the "raw" medieval fighting motions is also impressive since its cool data.

This is not to say that merely drawing little squares where the markers are is fine because you are doing something with raw markers. You need to do something interesting.

The purpose of Checkpoint 1 is to make sure that everyone picks something reasonable to do. We will devote some time in class to helping people come up with ideas.


In terms of artistic resources (images, models, motion, music, ...), you can appropriate whatever you find. You MUST document where you found it (on your project documentation page). Any scripts, plugins, or code-fragments that you find from other places you need to describe and give proper attributions to.

In terms of computing resources... You have access to the CS instructional machines. I will try to provide after hours access to B240 around the deadline so that you can render frames overnight. No guaruntees. Please give me a disk space request by April 3rd. 400M of AFS space is almost certainly doable.

We will be able to provide you with some access to video editing facilities in the graphics lab. However, we cannot provide you with much training. You might want to pick your group such that there is someone who knows how to use premiere and/or storm edit, or has access to something else.

The Checkpoints

March 6 - Checkpoint 0 - Group Selection
You must send email to the TA and Professor saying who you will be working with. Each group need only send one message
March 15 - Checkpoint 1 - Plan
You must provide a list of the technical pieces that you are going to do, and a description of the animation you plan to produce. You must describe what your division of labor will be, and provide a schedule of how things will be accomplished. We will provide feedback at this point to try to steer groups such that they do a sufficient amount of technical work, but do not try anything overly ambitious.
March 22 - Checkpoint 2 - Signs of Life
At this point, you must provide a detailed description of your animation, including a story board. (if your story board is on paper, we will help you scan it). Also, before this date, you must demonstrate "signs of life" for each technical piece. For example, if you are writing a plugin, you must show that you can successfully load a plugin that you have written. While the pieces do not need to be done, you must describe enough so that we believe that you can pull it off.
April 5 - Review
This is a nearly final checkpoint to make sure everyone is on track. At this point, you must provide a frame or two from the animation (so we can see how it will look). Your technical pieces should be done (otherwise, you will have a tough time finishing)
April 12 - Animatics
An animatic is a series of still frames with the timing of the movie. Creating one lets you make sure that you can produce frames, understand how long rendering is going to take, and to see how the story "plays out."
April 19 - Final Deadline
You will turn in your final video, as well as posting all of your documentation on the web.
website (c) 2002, Michael L. Gleicher