Merlin Box Project

My last project for this month’s school assignment was a Project called “Merlin Box” project. It’s basically a rigged box and ball. The ball has to portray as if it’s alive and thinking. As I was starting the Merlin project, I decided to come up with a game plan. Few things I wanted to do. I wanted to try to start animating with stepped keys in the graph editor using Maya. Also wanted to try using blendshapes to help make poses the ball rig couldn’t itself create. I knew this was going to be challenging since I had little to know practice doing these techniques.

The first thing I needed to do was create my scene so there is a place for the animation to take place. I might have spent a little too much time making the cliff I modeled in Zbrush. I had a some issues with the displacement and normal maps not coming into Maya with the proper detail. I eventually made a bump map in Photoshop to replace and fix this issue.

Next, I wanted to go ahead and make a few blendshapes as a test and see if I can actually get it to work so I can avoid wasting my time later on. After a few successful tests, I went ahead a created 6 blendshapes, which later grew to 10 once I noticed I needed a few more to create the look I wanted. Below are the blendshapes I created to help drive the rig.


I starting my animation in stepped keys which work great in the beginning. I was just adding the major poses and timing, and not tweaking the curves just yet since I was in stepped keys. It was a great plus to be able to focus on poses and not the curves. Here is what it looked like in the stepped phase.

Once I converted the keys to something else other than stepped keys is when the headaches started to arise. Things I’ve learned about stepped keys is timing can be deceiving in stepped. Some areas the timing was way off, either being fast or too slow. Another issue I was having is when you don’t have enough keys to hold poses. For example, if you don’t want anything to happen in the translate Y for 15 frames, in stepped it seems to be holding until you convert the keys to a curve. Then your object starts moving when you don’t want the object to move because there need to be more holding keys.

Had a lot of great feedback from the students, instructors, and from the Facebook groups which greatly improved my own overall animation 10 fold. Here is the final result.

Some of the biggest things I’ve learned from this project is having a better feeling of timing and really understanding how to work with the graph editor. It was a great foundation and  I really look forward to adding on top of what I learned this month.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey Deacon! The last one makes me want to whip up a highball! Good work! Don’t ever tap! Have a cold helles at the Brauwastl for me! RW

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