3D Obstacle Course Animation Evaluation

The beginning stages of the assignments consisted of mainly research, where we investigated various animation techniques, tools, and software packages. Tying in with those topics was research regarding the production pipeline of animated films and the jobs thereof, as well as a Pixar short film.

The analysis of the Pixar short film ‘Piper’, and the comparison to another one of their short films (‘For The Birds’), formed a basis for aforementioned research. Investigation into this topic was conducted both through online sources and a more traditional approach; book-based research.

Once the research had been completed we moved onto Development, where we began to plan and develop our animation, as well as the traits our character would possess. Initially, the intended character was meant to be the Fuse model we had modelled after ourselves, dressed in whatever attire we wished. However, the document we were provided with did not support the rig it was imported with and a replacement character was provided for us to use.

Before animating, storyboards and blocking sheets were created in my sketchbook, ensuring that I had a clear understanding of the main keyframes and movements within the obstacle course. Supplementing this are sketches detailing and expanding upon the Fuse character and his traits, of which were to influence his navigation of the course. Filmed references were also gathered and used to help create accurate animations.

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For the animation we had to set the frame rate to 25 (Television output), with renders exported at 1280×720.

Regarding the actual animating of the character through the course, I made use of various tools and techniques. For the manipulation of the character I used various movement and rotation tools, selecting areas on the rig/skeleton and moving them through space. Once I was happy with the placement and where it sat on the timeline (paying attention to the current frame in relation to the previous, in the context of the set framerate) I set a Keyframe using the shortcut ‘S’.

The Graph Editor allowed me to view the differences in position of the various joints on the character, allowing me a degree of manipulation over the timing of the movements even after keyframing them. However, there are diminishing returns regarding this functionality, especially once the graph editor becomes ‘crowded’ and ‘noisy’ due to the multitude of lines and keyframes present.

To ensure naturalistic movement, I made use of filmed reference, as well as acting out the movements in my room as I was animating them. Fine-tuning and careful manipulations of the joints helped to create more natural movement, with the character seemingly balancing themselves as they move through space.

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The animation quality improved as the time went on, with the beginning containing many errors that I was unable to fix later due to the graph editor containing a plethora of keyframes, all of which would have needed to be edited. Looking back, I could have vastly improved the animation quality if I had spent more time reviewing each movement and set of keyframes before moving onto the next.

To up the production quality, I found a free lava texture online (of which is referenced below), applying that to the ground. In addition, I added several light sources of varying warm colours, as well as adding a more metallic material (via editing the material properties of a Blinn shader) to the obstacles.

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For the tracking camera I added it via this method; ‘Create’ -> ‘Cameras’ -> ‘Camera and Aim’ -> ‘Create’ -> ‘Three Point Circular Arc’ -> ‘Constrain’ -> Attach camera to arc via ‘Attach to Motion Path’ -> ‘Constrain’ -> ‘Parent’ or ‘Point’ Camera’s Aim with character -> manually position Camera Aim on character using keyframes, utilising the graph editor to ensure the camera moved at a pace that matched the character’s movement.

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I initially used a regular Camera and a manually drawn Motion Path, however, the method described above was more efficient.

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When rendering I ensured that the ‘Renderable Camera’ was set to the one attached to the Motion Path, as well as changing the Frame/Animation extension to ‘name.#.ext’. After applying all the relevant settings, I moved onto exporting, trying out different export types before settling on Targa (tga). Before rendering all the frames, I rendered the first 10, ensuring time was not wasted. I then used FCheck to determine whether the frames were exported correctly, once satisfied I moved onto rendering the entire animation. To get these frames into a proper video format, I imported them into Adobe Premiere as an ‘Image Sequence’, and then finally exporting the final video before uploading to Youtube.

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Ideally, I would have spent more time on the overall animation, as well as experimented with each movement individually within a separate document to perfect them before moving onto the final animation. However, time was a constraint as the brief had been delivered late. Regardless, I managed to complete the animation in time for the intended deadline. We were then notified of us receiving an extension, however, as mentioned earlier editing of the completed animation would of taken up too much time and other assignments became priorities.


Area by Autodesk. (2007). Lava Shader Effect | Tutorials | AREA by Autodesk. [online] Available at: https://area.autodesk.com/tutorials/lava_shader_effect/ [Accessed 20 Jan. 2018].


3D Obstacle Assignment Treatment

Working Title: Unit 52 – Obstacle Challenge


Genre: 3D Animation


Duration: 30+ seconds


Outline: A character in military garb, created using Adobe Fuse, will be navigating an obstacle course in a 3D environment. He will traverse the obstacles before him, overcoming them with speed and agility as per his character traits.


Character Breakdown: The character is military-themed, created using Adobe Fuse, and possesses character traits such as; efficient, agile, fit, and precise etc.


Audio: There will be no audio for this animation.


Rationale: The military theme of the character will allow me to animate the character in a way that makes navigating the course seem easy, with the character quickly and efficiently overcoming the obstacles.


Research: Research is to be conducted into animations that have already been created, job roles, subject terminology, animation technology, motion, animation techniques, as well as animation tools and software.


Requirements and Resources: The resources required would be a sketchbook, stationery, a computer, Adobe Fuse, and Autodesk Maya.


Constraints and Contingency: Time constraint is a major factor, as the assignment begin date did not coincide with the date the brief was received. To resolve this, extra work and sacrifice of free time is required.


Legal and Ethical Considerations: I must assure that I do not infringe upon any copyright and/or plagiarism laws regarding my research.


Budget: Potential costs would include the items listed in ‘Requirements and Resources’, however, these items have already been previously acquired.


Schedule: The entire assignment should take one to two months to complete, however, due to time constraints it must be completed in under a month.

Pixar Animation Research – Unit 52

The Pixar animation pipeline is thus;


The Director of the film organises his/her team in order to fulfil their vision, initially a script is created, and then a storyboard. Story artists created a series of storyboards and conceptual drawings that they then pitch back to the Director, Writers, and Producers.


Editors are ever-present throughout the creation of the movie, however, at the beginning of the pipeline they work primarily upon creating an animatic utilising the storyboard panels.


Visual Development artists create, using whatever medium they desire, the look and feel of the film. Before the visual development artwork is pitched to the Director, the Art Director and Production Designer must approve the created work.


Here, the 3D artists build and create the models for characters, buildings, props, and various other elements within the film. They work under a modelling supervisor, working closely with the art department, utilising 3D artwork from the artists. For the characters, they create an armature and wireframe before moving onto sculpting.


Riggers (Character TDs) place the joints, muscles, and fat underneath the skin, allowing the animators to manipulate various nodes to create a believable performance.


Texture/Surface Artists use a material library to texture various objects within the environment, each different one interacting with the lighting in different ways.

Rough Layout:

The Director of Pre-Visualisation and their team use the pre-created animatic and storyboards to create a rough 3D animation, using a 3D camera to block out the cinematography and rough character positionings.

Final Layout:

The Final Layout Supervisor and their team prepare the shots for animation, positioning the start-points of all the characters in the scenes. The use a master-shot to co-ordinate this, replacing the rough character models with higher resolution versions. After the Animation Team has created the rough animations, the team that works on the Final Layout work upon Set Dressing, Stereo Pass, and Final Composition.


The Animation Department, with the Character Animators working under the Supervising Animator, begin working upon animating the characters, using the pre-created ‘puppets’/models that the Modelling, Rigging, and Surfacing Artists worked on. They utilise reference found online, and/or create their own, essentially acting for the characters and using that as a basis for their final animations. They figure out how the characters move in space and conduct themselves.


The Crowd Department, headed by the Crowds Supervisor, create the crowds seen in the film. This task is not handled by the Character Animators as the amount of characters on screen would be too much to individually animate. Several animations are created and then applied to a variety of characters, creating an algorithm that decides which animations to use and when.

Character FX:

The Character FX Department work on anything attached to a character that moves, such as hair, fur, prop and clothes (anything that a character interacts with). This Department is overseen by the Character Effects Supervisor.


FX Artists work on the effects present in the film, such as footprints, leaves rustling, colour changes, and explosions etc.

Technical Directors supervise and oversee the entire pipeline, stepping in to help fix any issues that may arise.

Matte Painting:

Matter Painters, led by the Lead Matte Painting, use colour keys created by the Art Department to help inform their paintings. These paintings, using digital paint, 3D models, and photographic images, form the many backgrounds of the film.


The CG Supervisor works with the Lighting Artists, using computer generated lights in combination with the other supplied artwork with the help of compositing software.

Image Finalling:

Image Finalling Artists clean up artifacting and various other visual errors in the final footage of the film, ensuring that there are no discrepancies in the final product.

Sound Design:

A Composer writes and records a score with an Orchestra, the goal of these musical pieces being to increase the emotional impact of the film. The Final Mix is created after the score has been created, with audio levels, equalisation, and various special treatments are added to the final version of the film.

Pixar Animated Short ‘Piper’ Analysis:

For the Animated Short ‘Piper’, by Pixar, various animation techniques and software programs were used to push technical and visual boundaries in the realm of computer generated animation.

Among the software used, such as; REYES, RIS, Mudbox and Autodesk Maya (Modelling), SideFX Houdini (animated FX), RenderMan Primvars and RenderMan Denoise (Final Rendered Images), and The Foundry’s Katana and Nuke (Look Development and Lighting) were several in-house software programs and packages that helped Pixar push the aforementioned boundaries, with them being; Pixar’s USD (Universal Scene Description), Pixar’s GIN, Presto (Rigging, Layout, and Animation), as well as the Presto Sculpting Brush (used to easily sculpt and manipulate models, helping the animators to create the multitude of feathers present on the characters’ bodies).

Both Forward and Inverse Kinematics have their uses, allowing the Animators to accomplish a variety of different tasks with the tools and software present.

The animation quality, as well as the visual look and feel of the short film, is several major leagues ahead of a previous animation Pixar had created, called ‘For The Birds’, with the many leaps in technical development (Software and Hardware) allowing Pixar to create visually stunning and technically astounding feats of animation, of which is furthered by the stories being depicted in these animations. These leaps are even more astounding when one reads about the history of Pixar, such as in the book ‘Creativity, Inc.’, a rather eye-opening read regarding the creation of Pixar, as well as the difficulties the company and its members faced.


Catmull, E. (2015). Creativity, inc. [Place of publication not identified]: Corgi.

Debruge, P. (2016). How ‘Finding Dory’ Pre-Show Short ‘Piper’ Bypassed the Pixar Pipeline. [online] Variety. Available at: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/pixar-piper-animated-short-film-finding-dory-1201807835/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].

O’Hara, H. (2016). How Pixar hatched Piper: the cutting-edge tech behind the cute Finding Dory short. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2016/06/18/how-pixar-hatched-piper-the-cutting-edge-tech-behind-their-cutes/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].

Pitzel, S. (2017). Character Animation: Skeletons and Inverse Kinematics | Intel® Software. [online] Software.intel.com. Available at: https://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/character-animation-skeletons-and-inverse-kinematics [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].

Pixar Animation Studios. (n.d.). Piper. [online] Available at: https://www.pixar.com/piper#short-films/sanjays-super-team-main-1 [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].

Seymour, M. and Pederson, L. (2017). The tech of PIXAR part 1: <em>Piper</em> – daring to be different. [online] fxguide. Available at: https://www.fxguide.com/featured/the-tech-of-pixar-part-1-piper-daring-to-be-different/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].

Trandafir, L. (2016). How LANDR Was Used to Make Pixar’s Best Short Film in Years | LANDR Blog. [online] LANDR Blog. Available at: https://blog.landr.com/landr-pixar-piper/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].

Wolfe, J. (2017). ‘Piper’ and the Development of Pixar’s Presto Sculpting Brush. [online] Animation World Network. Available at: https://www.awn.com/animationworld/piper-and-development-pixar-s-presto-sculpting-brush [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].