Introducing Stikmon: My Lil Test Dummy

I don’t know how other artists work or organize their projects, but I have two different methods. Neither of which is overly productive LOL! :)

How I work depends on whether or not there is a deadline. And quite honestly, deadlines are a rather subjective thing. Since I blend for my own enjoyment, not professionally, deadlines are self imposed. Well kind of. :P

With no deadlines, I meander along on a variety of projects as the mood takes me. Which more often than not, means a project can and will get set aside for any number of reasons. Generally time is the deciding factor, but needing to practice a technique or learn a new feature runs a close second. I love these often semi abandoned projects of mine. They may be collecting dust but they are not forgotten. I will eventually complete them all. Don’t look at me like that, I will, I promise. :P

Then there are my insane little deadline projects. They always start by me getting a “bright” idea, generally in the middle of the night, entirely too close to the occasion I want the project for. Case in point, a week before father’s day, I decide I want to do a little music animation for my husband.

Now a week is NOT near enough time, but this is exactly how my mind works. And once I get an idea, well I just have to give it all I got or go crazy trying. Poor me! :p

Ok, so I obviously need to move quick. The first thing I need is a good song about dads. After several hours of searching, I decide on “My Girl” by the Temptations. It’s not exactly a father’s day type of song but I really like it and it would work for what I had in mind.

So here is the general idea. I wanted to make a little dance video. I even found a video on youtube of the Temptations dancing to “My Girl”. I mistakenly thought that would help me quickly setup the animation. Next I needed a simple model so I could actually get this done on time. So I decided to make the “ball and stick guy” from Digital Character Animation by George Maestri. I figured this simple little guy would be easy to animate and with the new Bone heat thingy, easy to rig.

LOL! Nope, not even. For that model to animate the way it was designed, I had to manually set the vertex groups and weights. Inconvenient to be sure, but not a show stopper. Next up, I wanted a few simple constraints to ease my posing. I felt sure I was up to the task. I had Tony Mullen’s book (which I had actually worked through and completed up through the rigging chapter) and I had watched the Man Candy DVD numerous times. Yeah, sure, ok, that was very not funny. I spent two days messing with that rig, but I finally did get it figured out. YAY ME!

Okay, I have my idea, a rigged model, my reference video and song. I am good to go.

LOL, yeah you can probably guess from the way this adventure is already going, how that went. I am obviously no good at matching my poses to the video. In my defense they were turning around a lot and there were some odd camera angles. After two days of frustration, I admitted defeat. Which totally bummed me out. I had no video, but on the up side, I did have a fairly usable rigged character. Which actually brings me to the point of this overly long introduction. :P

Okay, so after a brief “whatever!” frustration fit about the video (which I got over fairly quickly since this wouldn’t be the first project that blew up in my face), all said and done, I decided that I kind of liked my little stick guy model. So I decided to refine the model and work on the rig some more. He would make a great test dummy for practicing animation and timing. And I find it rather funny to practice with a digital stick figure. Oh come on, you think it’s funny too, admit it.

While “Stikmon” is still based on the ball and stick model from Digital Character Animation by George Maestri, I couldn’t resist a little redesigning and refining of my little guy. I joined all the segments together to form one mesh and flowed/blended the ball pieces into the stick sections to give him a little more character. And since I recently figured out how to make some rather cool fur, I think he is going to eventually be a furry little stick figure. Right now he is still red and blue, a left over result of starting out as the ball and stick guy. I’m not too attached to those colors, so that will probably change when I fur him up.

The rig is still rather simple at this point, LOL!, in fact not only is the rig still really simple, but I think I need to go back and re-read the section on constraints (in Tony’s book) as well as watch the Mancandy dvd a few more times, because I don’t think I set up the constraints right. They work, but well, I don’t think this is the way it is supposed to work. Something doesn’t seem just quite right. On the up side, I figured out how to use bone shapes. That’s one pretty cool feature. And by joining all the separate segments together, the Bone Heat option worked much better than it did on the ball and stick guy. I really love that Bone Heat, what a time saver.

Once I get the rig into something resembling a useful state, I plan on starting some animation exercises. Okay, I semi-plan on starting some animation exercises. I haven’t set any deadlines, so it might happen eventually.

Well I’m gonna go glare at that rig some more, maybe if I glare enough, it will cooperate. I really doubt it, but it might work. :p

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One response to “Introducing Stikmon: My Lil Test Dummy

  • yavor

    I am giving my first steps in animation too but it isnt really as easy as I hoped it would be :) I am trying to make a walking animation for 2 days now :P

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