Sunday, 29 January 2012

Softimage XSI: Selecting and transforming objects

Now that I've got a basic overview of the interface, I'm getting my hands dirty with actually moving and manipulating objects. Wish me luck...

Here I've got two "primitive" objects, a sphere and a cylinder. Currently the cylinder is selected. The panel on the right hand side is my transformation panel and contains all the tools I need to scale, rotate or translate (move) my object around the workspace. Currently, scale is selected.

Objects can be scaled by simply grabbing the handle and dragging it up or down to transform the object along that axis.

Objects can be transformed across all three axis simultaneously by clicking and dragging in the center of all the axis. This constrains the proportions of the object across all axis - similar to scaling whilst holding shift in Photoshop.

You can also transform objects on just two of the axis by holding the cursor between the two handles that you want, then clicking and dragging in the normal way. I got far more excited about this than I perhaps should.

The space bar functions as the select tool in Softimage. Hold shift to select a new object - otherwise you'll continue to transform the previously selected object!

Keyboard shortcuts

Scale - X
Rotate - C
Translate -V
Select - Space bar

Softimage: Projects and folder structures

Similarly to After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut and other such programs, Softimage works with a project-based folder structure used to contain the project files themselves and all the necessary assets that go along with it (textures, scenes, audio, renders, etc.). Fortunately Softimage creates this folder structure automatically when a new project is created, so half of the organization is already done for us!

File > New Project brings up the above dialogue box, asking simply for a name and location for the new project.

This incredibly daunting list is basically all of the assets Softimage will generate as we start creating and animating stuff within it. Kind of scary, isn't it?!

The Open Projects menu contains a list of all recently accessed projects (including Softimage's preset scenes and samples that come bundled with the software), allowing you to hop back and forth between projects and open different assets from each. As more and more project files are created and accessed, the list on the right can grow to astronomical proportions, so fortunately Softimage's "Project Manager" can help us to manage and clean it up a bit.

You can add or remove projects from the list at your leisure. This won't physically remove them from your hard drive, it will simply add or remove them from the list for quick access. It's probably worth going through and doing a bit of housekeeping to remove complete or deprecated projects from the list every now and again, to keep things tidy.

Softimage XSI: Camera memos

Slowly but surely progressing with Softimage. Came across something really really cool just now: camera memos!

Essentially, these record the current position of your camera. So, for instance, if you've lined up a shot perfectly for rendering, you can basically 'bookmark' the position of the camera and jump back to it at any point.

Say for instance that this framing of my cube is absolutely perfect and I want to remember this for later, so I can jump straight back to it after I'm done making adjustments to the other side of my object. At the top of the view port are four small boxes:

Middle clicking one of the boxes creates a camera memo, remembering the exact position of the camera. If you pan/rotate/zoom around a lot, you can simply left click the camera memo to be taken back the recorded position.

 What's really great, though, is that you can have multiple memos on all the different view ports. Up to four memos per view port, so if you've got a nice framing of your object on the 'top' viewport you can create a new memo just for that.

Amazingly useful really, I could certainly have used this when I was trying to line up the model of the Macbook Pro with the desk on my previous project!

Getting started with Softimage XSI

Decided to get a bit of a head start with some new software in preparation for the next Digital Skills project, so I've managed to cram Softimage XSI onto my computer and have proceeded to try and get to know the program over a romantic candlelit dinner.

Or, rather, the excellent beginner tutorials over at

I've not gotten much further than learning how to navigate through the 3D workspace just yet, but that's a start! I'm going to make a note of all the shortcuts and things as I learn them, as a bit of a reference.

Camera controls

While holding S

Left mouse button: pan/track around
Scroll wheel/middle mouse button:  zoom/"dolly" in and out
Right mouse button: rotate/orbit camera

Keyboard shortcuts
F: centers ("frame") selected object
A: centers everything in the scene

Monday, 19 December 2011

"Window Pain" completed sequence

After a brief period of no blog updates, here's a bit of a bombshell: I've finished the animation!

I really should have continued updating with posts during the process showing what I'd been doing but I got so wrapped up in the essay and Animation Principles that I didn't really have any brain cells to spare. Working has, these past two weeks, become like a primary bodily function; I sleep, eat, breathe and work with very little room left in my brain to process much beyond that. To be honest though, making it was just repeating bits of what I've already been doing with different pictures.

The one big thing to note is that I ended up cutting the third "window scene" (the fairground) from the animation. I'd been working on the graphics for the roller coaster for about a week and was really struggling to animate it convincingly. I was still concerned about staying within the timescale, so I decided instead to leave it until the rest of the animation was finished to see whether I had enough screen time left to accommodate the scene. As it turns out I had already hit the max 40 seconds without it, so it worked out quite nicely and saved me a lot of stress!

I'm disappointed at having to cut the scene as I quite liked the flow of it but I don't think the animation suffers too much for it. I'm not entirely pleased with certain parts — mostly the typing sequences. He kinda looks like he's karate chopping the keyboard but it has a certain quirkyness to it I suppose. I could have done more with it but to be honest I'm feeling completely burned out — there are certainly things with it I could fix but I think there comes a point at which you have to take a step back and say "I'm done with this." When I've recovered a little more (and Animation Principles is done) I may return to it and make some minor tweaks, but for now, I'm relatively satisfied. Feels good to have it complete at any rate ;]

Next I think I'm going to produce an amended storyboard and animatic to show the cut down sequence. But first, back to Flash...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Magical dancing eyebrows

This is the highlight of my animation career

New puppet and updated backdrop

I took some better pictures of Craig and updated my puppet with the new head. I'm much, much happier with how this looks. It's a lot cleaner now! I'm hoping to find a way to get the eyebrows neatly onto a separate layer so I can animate some better facial expressions. Cutting the eyebrow out is no problem — it's repairing the skin underneath that's proving tricky...

I also tweaked the background some more, adding a few more posters to make it a little less bare. I'm not sure I like it — seems a bit cluttered — but it's got a bit more flavour to it now. The poster on the far left was a happy accident — it just so happened to contain Craig's most used word! There was one that said "Hello, how are you?" in a multitude of different languages but it was really badly designed. I may make one of my own and put it there instead. Then at least I've still got his quote in there if the chat bubble doesn't work out.