Monday, November 29, 2010

Detect N-gons in Maya using MEL

I learned something really interesting today and I just had to share it.

I'm not much of an organic modeler, but sometimes I have to get my hands dirty. Someone asked something that I've been wondering for a while. Is there a way to select ngons, or polygons with more than 5 or more sides. Someone else responded with the following MEL script:

polySelectConstraint -mode 3 -type 0x0008 -size 3;
polySelectConstraint -disable;

After selecting your mesh, run this. All of your 5+ sided faces will be selected. Now you can do with them what you will...

If you're new to MEL like I am, this can look like a string of nonsense, but it's really pretty simple. Let's take a second and dissect this:

polySelectConstraint - "By using the polySelectConstraint command you can select connected components, components within a shell, or components on open borders." -source

-mode 3 - Mode 3 is "all and next", in other words it selects everything meeting the requirement of the constraint. But what is the requirement of the constraint? That's defined next.

-type 0x0008 - type 0x0008 is face. So the type of your selection will be a face, not an edge or vertex.

-size 3 - size 3 is nsided. (fyi, 0 is off, 1 is triangles and 2 is quads)

So the first line of this simple script is plainly read as "Create a polySelectConstraint for every face that is nsided". The second line is read, "disable the constraint". Once you have your selection, there's no need to keep it enabled.

Pretty useful, huh?


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Art Advice for Auditory Learners and the People Who Have to Deal with Them

I'm an auditory learner.

I've always needed things explained to me before I really understood them. I got a B in Physics without cracking open the book the entire semester to study. How? People explained the proper steps to figuring out a certain type of problem and I remembered. Elementary, Middle, and High School was simple for me. Teachers explained, I did the work, I got an A.

This all changed when I got to college and decided I wanted to be an animator.

The teachers were all visual, and so were 98% of the students. If I had a question, the teacher would butcher their attempt at an answer before they just gave up, went to the board and drew something. Everyone else but me would understand what the heck was going on. Not only that, but I was often ridiculed or chastised for needing steps to be verbalized in a clear manner.

"In the work place, no one is going to sit you down and hold your hand through this process."
"Figure it out for yourself."
"Look it up."

I don't know why it's so difficult for many artists to understand this concept:
Verbalizing a basic process is not the same as giving someone the answer!

2n + 7 = 21; solve for n.

How do I figure out what n is is not the same as asking "what is n"? When responding, don't treat these questions as if they are the same!

The first is a valid question to someone who has never come across a problem like this before. Some people can pull up Google, read up on basic algebra and boom, they know how to do everything. For others like me, you'll kind of get it, but you won't be sure until you can discuss it with someone. And don't treat us like we're idiots. A lot of people ask before reading, but there are people like me who pour over every available resource before asking a question.

I realize art can be a difficult thing to explain with words.

It's really something that needs to be demonstrated. However, I believe that art is the purest form of communication. Anything that is communicated from one person to another needs to be able to BE communicated from one person to another. Even great artist were taught the basics before they discovered their own personal style and developed their personal techniques.

To people like me: It's going to be rough, get over it now and save yourself the pain. You may never be able to sit down and brute force your way through something complicated and that's ok. Knowing how you learn is half the battle. There are resources available to you to make learning easier. I, for one, love forums. It's one of the closest ways you can get to speaking with someone. People explain things differently in forums than they would if they were writing a book. Read posts, watch video tutorials, recreate tests (I find this helps a LOT because I speak to myself when doing this) and things will start to fall into place. This process can be slow, so be patient.

Don't be put off by people who don't like to share or people who look down on your for needing things to be verbalized. Remember how this feels, and when you acquire the knowledge you're seeking, don't be afraid to share your basic workflow. Showing someone how to approach something is not the same as showing someone how to do something. (I swear that makes sense in my head, I hope it makes sense to you, heh).

Oh, and n = 7 by the way ^_^;


Second Nuke Test

So I realize up-resing your fluid tests when you're 3% sure of what you're doing is a big no-no, but I was just so curious.

This is my second nuke test, done using Maya Fluids in Maya 2011
Container size - 50 90 50
Resolution - 200 360 200
Playblast time - ~4.5 Hours (174 frames)

I did this before I got a lot of really good advice from the people in the Ka-boom thread in the CGTalk Forums.

By the way, this thread is AWESOME. There's a lot of great information and people willing to help you improve. I really suggest reading every post, doing a few tests, looking at the sample file hidden in the thread, and asking for ways to improve once you've got a basic understanding of what you're doing.

Anyway, I've gone back to testing at a modest resolution (50, 90, 50), the computer I use can handle this really well and I can get tests out pretty quickly. From now on, I think I'll combine three or four tests in one video, and I can talk about them here.

Thanks everyone!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Maya nuke explosion! My first one!!

What have I been up to lately...

I got a freelance job, doing what I did this summer. Animating cubes to music. Sweet.

I also started learning/teaching myself how to create nukes/nuke like explosions in Maya. I'm having a blast pun intended. I think this is the most fun I've had doing something in Maya since I started really getting into Cloth simulation. After a few hours of reading and struggling, I got a presentable result, which I've posted here:

1 emitter, 1 volume axis field. When I get the hang of this, I'll try 2, then 3 and so on until I get the look I want.

I realize this is a WIP but it's WAY smaller than I want it to be. This explosion doesn't FEEL big at all. I think it's going to fast from the middle to the end. I need to figure that out.

Anyway, I'll post more tests as I go. If someone in the know happens across this, PLEASE offer your suggestions and criticisms. I'm just here to learn ^^;


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is great art great if no one gets it?

I went on a trip to New York about two years ago, and I had an interesting conversation with someone about art.  A fellow classmate asked me, what is art to you?  Talk about a loaded question.  I can't remember what his personal definition was, but I do remember mine.  Over time, I've come to edit and refine my personal definition, and in time I hope it becomes polished to the point where I can explain it and people don't look at me like I'm insane.

What is art [to me]?

I think art is expression that has, does or will resonate with someone at some point in time.

I've never been the type to think that just because someone created something, it becomes art by default.  I also don't believe that anything created as a direct result of a strong emotion becomes art by default.


I'm mad so I drew this red line across the wall.  This is my art!!  Self expression in and of itself isn't art to me, it's a journal entry.

I also think art is relative.  Did that just negate everything I said?  Maybe...  Are there holes in this?  Probably.  I can go on and on about this forever, but I won't in this entry.

I said all of that to say this: I'm a huge fan of comics mainly: American, Japanese and Korean (in that order).  I love sequential art so much, and there are so many talented artists out there.  It's so disheartening to see images that are so beautiful and detailed that is becomes impossible to tell what's going on.  I hate reading books that are so full of convoluted symbolism that the book is impossible to understand, much less finish.

Is great art great is no one gets it?

As far as I'm concerned, the jury is out.  Half of me says, "take the meat, leave the bones."  Appreciate what you're able to appreciate and leave the rest alone.  The other half says great art is great only when it's appreciated.  If no one sticks around to observe it, it may as well be that 9th color that the Human eye can't see.  Or this professional blog that no one reads, heh.

What do you think?


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My First MEL Script - isn't it cute?!

So apparently it's in my best interest to learn MEL and Python.

Thanks for telling me this with 6 months 'til graduation, folks!  I've been cramming for a while and though I'm still intimidated by MEL, I don't hide in a corner and quiver with fear when I come face to face with it.  At least not all the time.

Anyway, I was watching a rigging tutorial and the guy made a Renaming Script.  I thought it was pretty nifty, but I could never remember what order he selected things in and so I'd make a mistake and rename things in the wrong order.  I thought to myself, "Self, why don't you just make a renaming script where all the fields are labeled 'rename ___ to:'?"  Plus, I wanted to see if I could do it on my own, without looking at the tutorial again.

So, after a lot of trial and error (and help from a guy on CGTalk) I did.  Yay!

Behold, my first MEL Script!


//Renaming Script

//Creates a window

string $RenameWindow = `window -widthHeight 450 200 -rtf true -title "Rename Selected Objects"`;

//Makes the window able to scroll

            -horizontalScrollBarThickness 16
            -verticalScrollBarThickness   16;

//Makes the window a row column layout
        -numberOfColumns 2 -columnAttach 1 "right" 0
        -columnWidth 1 150 -columnWidth 2 250;

//Queries selections

string $sel[] = `ls -sl`;

//For loop - so we can access and apply the command to each selected object individually

for ($each in $sel) {

    //Name Field Label - Acquires and lists the original name of the selected objects
     text -label ("Rename " + $each + " to:");
    //Renaming Field - Allow the selected object to be renamed
    nameField -o $each;

//Button on the window for closing the Renaming Window

button -l "RENAME!" -c "deleteUI -window $RenameWindow";

//This shows the Renaming Window
showWindow $RenameWindow;


Have I done something that hasn't already been done 530950394208539 times before?  Nope.  But I did it, and I understand what it does and I can recreate it if I need to.  That's the fun thing ^^;


Cloth Tutorial... kind of

This was my first run with CamStudio or whatever, and the results are stinky.  The audio starts to lag after about 3 minutes and it just gets worse.  I wonder why.  Anyway, I'm not exactly treading new ground with this one, but I thought I'd test the waters by posting something easy.

I wish I had a nice speaking voice, I really do.  Just ignore it and let your eyes glaze over as you watch this ^^;


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A guide to Cloth Simulation - by me!

I've always grumbled about the lack of documentation on cloth simulation.  Why won't people take the time to write things out?!  Well, it's time for me to put up or shut up.  I'm in the process of making a novice friendly guide to cloth simulation using Maya nCloth.  Since it's aimed at complete novices, it won't be full of technical mumbo-jumbo.  It's just as well.  I hate that (see one of my earlier entries).  If you write something, everyone should be able to understand it, that's what I think.  Anyway, someone asked me if I was going to put it online.  I hadn't thought about it until he asked me.

I think I will.

When it's done, I hope people benefit from it, and understand my insane ramblings.  I'm always up for critiques.  For the one random person who wanders into this blog: if you see my "tutorial", check it out and give me some tips on how to improve it.

In the meantime... feel free to stare at this page and, I dunno, wait for it?


Friday, June 11, 2010


Today started off horribly.

Already laden with shots to work on, two of the shots I'd finished a couple of weeks ago were sent back to me.  In and of itself, that's not a problem.  Some times the bigwigs catch something everyone else missed.  The thing that made it awful were WHAT shots came back.  Two beastly, pain in the butt, God-why-was-I-born shots that REFUSE TO STAY FINISHED where thrown into my lap... again.  I just had to stare at the screen for ten minutes and cry internally.  I had to mentally prepare myself the hell I'd have to go through to fix the problem.

During these ten minutes of praying for an easy button, I couldn't help but think about my job.  Is this all really worth it?  Do I like what I do?  Do I really want to put up with this for the next 45 years of my life?  I surprised myself when I answered all of those questions with one word:


When the animators break the rig, when heads make 360 degree turns on all three axis' within .3 seconds of each other, when elbows go through the torso and stay there for 300 frames, when Maya crashes when I try to save after 10 minutes of back breaking work, when someone deletes all of my cloth caches on the worst cloth shot in the animated short, when someone doesn't cache at all, when the hair explodes on the last frame, I still thank God that I have the best dern job in the world.  I look forward to coming in every day and figuring out my shots.

I love my ghetto fixes.

I love hand animating random verticies.

I love that feeling when devil shots are finished and they look awesome.

I love knowing that everything I do will go completely unnoticed by everyone who doesn't do cloth/hair work.  That just means I did my job well.

The 18 ulcers that are developing in my stomach as I type will kill me by age 29, and still, I love my job.  How awesome is that?


Friday, April 16, 2010

Demo reel creation

Of course the basic idea of a demo reel is this: show off your cool work, land a cooler job.  I wish it were as simple as throwing your work into a movie file, typing your name in the lower right hand corner and pressing submit.  It's not.  Like anything else dealing with art, you have to be mindful of how a demo reel is constructed and how one element interacts with another.

I've had to learn this the hard way.

Even though many employers will admit they only pay attention to the first :45 seconds of the reel, and that they mute the sound when watching them, you still have to create a two minute reel.  It has to start AND end strong.  Music should be included, it shouldn't be obnoxious, and it should say something about you as an artist.  Are you fun, serious, abstract, contemporary.  How does the first clip you decided to show relate the the one that follows it?  How are your transitions?  Do you have any?  Should each major section be labeled (Effects shots, illustrations, fine arts), or should your work flow from one piece to another?

I've been putting together my reel and I've been faced with all of these questions and then some.



Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tangled - BAH HUMBUG

Yes this is my professional blog.  I REALIZE that potential employers could stumble across this blog by clicking the link on my site.  I KNOW that they could realize I'm insane and run far, far away.  I know this, and yet I am compelled to jump on the Don't-you-dare-rename-Rapunzel bandwagon.

Princess and the Frog generated a lot of buzz, but it didn't get a lot of males in the seats, unless the males were bringing their daughters to see the movie.  To avoid this problem with their upcoming feature, the powers that be at Disney have decided that Rapunzel should be renamed "Tangled".  With a name like Tangled, no man would dare miss it!  You know, until they saw a PREVIEW revealing the premise -- a princess with hair drama.

Beauty and the Beast did well.  The Little Mermaid did well.  Cinderella did well.  A title doesn't make the movie.  If it did, no one wouldn't have seen anything Pixar has done.

Up.  Really?  What kind of title is that?!!  It's two letters.  But the movie was inspirational to me as an animator, and women, children AND MEN loved it.

I can't think of a blessed soul who would shell out $10 to see a movie based solely on it's title, and I'm willing to bet you don't either.  Make a good movie and the people will come.  Gimics are the actions of desperate men.  Play it straight, Disney.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Plain speakin'

In the industry, or even in the classroom, people seem to have a collective habit of complicating their speech when explaining things to other people.  This is especially true of teachers and higher ups.  I hate this.  If someone is asking for help, especially if they're asking for help with something BASIC, there's a pretty good chance that they don't know a lot of technical jargon.  There's nothing wrong with keeping it simple and explaining what "industry terms" mean along the way.

Granted, you can't escape professional terms, but you don't have to present yourself like a condescending, pretentious know-it-all either. I hope if I'm ever in the position to teach or explain something, that I'll stick to my guns and keep it simple.

Simple is the way to go!


Monday, February 1, 2010

Lofting Dynamic Curves

So I ran across an interesting technique using Maya Hair that I thought I'd go over (VAGUELY) here.

You can create a series of curves, make them dynamic (or for more control, create a hair system using these curves), loft these curves, create a wind field and presto, you have something like a cape, curtains or linen blowing in the wind.  Try it out!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Fluid, Particles and Maya

So my first post in this blog is random.

Go figure.

I've come to the conclusion that Maya is too versatile for it's own good.  It's my opinion that's it's grown to the point where no single person knows everything there is to know about the program anymore, including the people who programmed it.

A fellow student (who is 100x more amazing than I can ever hope to be) introduced me to Peter Shipkov and his awesome awesomeness.  Using his presets as a guide (as well as other sources online), I'm starting to experiment with particles being shaded/driven/AAAAAH by fluids and WOW.  Two steps in and I'm lost like a blind women in a forest of shadows.

Why is nothing easy?!  And why am I so excited to get my first test up?!  I might be insane, but this is just so much fun!