The making of:

Nature's calling


February 2021
Dean Rig by Long Winter Studios
Environment models by
Responsible for: Animation and set dress in Autodesk Maya
I animated this for my ANIM 323 [3D Character Animation: Expressive Character Acting] class at SCAD. The assignment was to understand the wave principle and how we can incorporate it into our character's body movement. There was a lot of challenging but fun moments animating this shot! Here's a quick progression reel:
From the beginning, I wanted to animate a person pulling a rope. I was inspired by tarik tambang, or tug-of-war, one of many games/competitions often played during Indonesia's independence day. It brought back many childhood memories! But it would be too complex to animate more than one person for this assignment, so I needed to find a different idea with just one person with similar setup. After talking with my professor, James Crossley, I landed on the idea that a character enters the frame while holding a leash and then being stopped and pulled back by the stationary 'thing' that is off-screen (whether it's a dog, a big dog, a rock, a goat? It's all up to you!). 
This idea, of course, raised another bit of challenge: rigging the rope/leash. I tend to get excited when given a new problem to solve, especially those that will tickle my brain. I talked my idea out with my professor and discussed with him the possible ways to approach rigging this rope. I'm heavily inspired by my professor's love for delving into the technical aspects of animation, like deformers, basic rigging, and constraints. He showed me the wire deformer and splineIK to tackle the rope, and I decided to use the wire deformer as it feels more intuitive for the shot I'm working on. Dealing with the hand being attached to the rope is another level of challenge we needed to figure out. I thought I could get away with point-on-poly constraint, but that would lock my hand in one specific point in the rope and would have less freedom to move. Professor came up with the idea (on the spot!) of using the attach-to-motion-path feature so I can still move the hand along the rope for adjustments. I was mindblown! This is exactly what I needed! Here is a quick sneak peek at my rope/leash rig setup and how I animate it interacting with the hand.
I used SyncSketch to analyze my reference, anotate and mark the extremes and breakdown actions so I can transfer them into my blocking pass.  As you can tell, I cheated a lot of the ending in my final animation. Firstly, my reference didn't capture the pulling bits well enough and certainly not the let-go moment (there's a wall behind me and I didn't want to hurt myself). I could've taken a separate video for that and combine them, but I wanted to experiment directly in 3D to animate that to have a bit more freedom. Secondly, I also wanted my character to first enter the frame from screen-left and exit screen-right (inspired by Rowan Atkinson's documentary of Laughing Mattersshown by my professor). But if I threw my character off to exit screen-right after his grip got loose from where he was, he would need to fly back super far to be off-screen. My professor suggested to cheat it and just hide my character with bushes in the foreground so he doesn't need fly off screen, but still 'exit' the frame. Here, I put together a more in-depth breakdown of my process: