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Cartoon-Style Character Animation

Cartoon-Style Character Animation

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Published by Roikan Soekartun

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Published by: Roikan Soekartun on Dec 31, 2010
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By Jim ArmstrongContributing Writer
Cartoon-style character animation involves more than just toon shading. Characters often haveexaggerated features and motions. Many exaggerations do not seem to fit the structure imposed byCharacter Studio Bipeds. Biped structure and dynamics, although flexible, are based upon realistichumanoid motion. This tutorial illustrates how to combine Physique with other MAX modifiers to bend(and in some cases break) that reality.3DS MAX 4.2™ and Character Studio 3™ are used for this tutorial. An intermediate-level understandingof MAX is required. You should understand the basics of working with Character Studio, including how tocreate/modify Bipeds and use facilities in the Motion panel to set keys. You should understand the basicsof the Physique modifier.Important terms and MAX interface elements are
highlighted in bold type
 3D Stickmanclick to enlargeOne of the hottest animations in the Flash industry (at the time of writing) isthe Stickman fighting movies by XiaoXiao. The fast motion and slapstick action is both entertaining and comical. The original movies were drawn byhand, frame-by-frame, with light tweening applied in Flash. The latestversions (installment #8 is the most current at time of writing) employ amixture of rendered 3D objects and hand-drawn stick-figure characters.As a martial arts action fan, I decided to take this concept to the next logicallevel -- 3D sets AND 3D characters. Although a 3D stick-figure characterpresents no modeling challenge, the style of animation involves someexaggerations outside the normal application of Character Studio.Cartoons often exaggerate reality to extreme levels in an attempt to generatemaximum humor from the animation. Characters flex muscles that are tentimes larger than normal proportions or have limbs stretch to highlyunrealistic limits. Eyes will bulge to twice the size of the head. Of course,we all get a good laugh out of these situations -- that is the purpose of theeffect.The 3D Stickman character is introduced in the context of a short fightsequence. In the middle of the screen, 3D Stickman is rushed by two otherfighters, one from each side. The fighter to his right has a lead pipe in handand is met with a solid right side kick. As soon as 3D Stickman pulls out of the side kick, he rapidly turns to execute a right spin kick to the head of thefighter approaching from the other side. In the process, he knocks thefighter's head off into the air. The head goes one direction while the bodyspins down to the ground. 3D Stickman bobbles the head in the air, thencatches and balances it in his right hand.This tutorial deconstructs the latter part of the animation. The application of 
to the simple stick character is discussed. The character is riggedwith animation in mind. Two approaches are discussed to rigging thecharacter's arms, one of which produces natural squash at the joints, toenhance the cartoon effect.The 3D Stickman character is extremely basic, comprised of a collection of boxes. For animation purposes, each limb is a separate object. The boxrepresenting the torso has a large number of height segments. This was doneto allow for some modest bending and twisting during animation.The head is a box instead of a sphere for technical reasons related to file sizein Flash. These are discussed in the popup associated with the adjacentthumbnail image. 1 |2|3|4|5|6 next >>
© 2002 Platinum Pictures Multimedia, Inc.
Introducing 3D Stickmanclose Well, this guy won't be winning any character modeling awards :) The head is modeled as a box since that object renders to .SWF format with fewer edges. Aperspective view of a sphere renders as a circle that requires more 'curves' in Flash to represent than a box. The difference in file size is small, but at 18fpsover the course of a several-minute animation, it really adds up. Since the animation is destined to be web-based, anything that can be reasonably done toreduce file size is helpful.The torso box has a higher poly count so that the Biped Spine links can be used to bend and twist this bodypart.
By Jim ArmstrongContributing Writer
Physique Part I
 At first, it seems that the discussion of the
modifier for such a simple character is a waste of time. For beginners, going through this exercise provides a fully articulated character that can be used totest the application of mocap and .BIP motion files, motion flow editing, and other advanced CharacterStudio features without the tedium of rigging more complex characters.We will also see how to exploit limb disparity in the character vs. the rig to enhance the comic appearanceof the character.To begin, a
was created that matched the height of the character. The following
settingswere used:
Neck Links
: 1
Spine Links
: 4
Leg Links
: 3
Ponytail 1 Links
: 0
Ponytail 2 Links
: 0
: 1
Finger Links
: 1
: 1
Toe Links
: 1Four
Links were used to apply bending and twisting to the torso geometry. While part of thecharacter appears very rigid, the torso section can exhibit some element of flexibility. This apparentcontradiction can be used to enhance the cartoonish behavior of the character.
links were added to allow for minor motion at the hand/foot extremities. If you do notwish to add such capability, the
could be created with no fingers/toes and no finger/toe links.This character is comprised of fourteen independent bodyparts -- a head, two segments per arm, twohands, a torso, two segments per leg, and two feet.It is tempting to select all the boxes, then apply
in one step. This can cause problems inenvelope settings at a later point. It's similar to applying
to a group. We don't want to group theobjects into a 'single' character. Instead, each object is to be independently controlled with no linking orinfluence from any of the other body objects.The collection of boxes is held together in a form representing a character by applying
to eachbox and initializing the modifier with the same
Physique Part II
 3D Stickmanclick to enlarge Link/Envelope Settingsclick to enlargeEach box representing a bodypart was individually selected. The
 modifier was applied, using the same
for initialization. Normally,
blending is applied during
initialization. For this character,most often only one link is relevant. For certain effects, it may be useful toemploy two links. You may wish to change the number of links to two atmost.
envelopes were used for every bodypart. For each box, the link mostdirectly in line with the bodypart was activated. All other links whosedefault envelopes have any influence over that bodypart were turned off. Forexample, the only link active for the box representing the right forearm is the
Biped R ForeArm
link. Its envelop setting is
.Many of these settings can be handled during initialization, as illustrated inthe upper thumbnail image to the left.The lower thumbnail image illustrates the envelope settings for the rightforearm. Notice in the split display that the hand and upper arm links areturned off. All other links are not relevant as their default envelopes havezero overlap with the right forearm vertices. You may wish to turn them off for the sake of completeness.This general approach was followed for all the individual characterbodyparts. Two notable exceptions were the torso segment and the upperarms. These are discussed in the next section. 1| 2 |3|4|5|6 next >>
© 2002 Platinum Pictures Multimedia, Inc.

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