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Creating a crowd of gingerbread men.

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Carey Pagan
Creating a crowd of gingerbread men.
on Dec 5, 2011 at 12:49:11 am

Hi I'm new to Maya and trying to find an easy way to make a gingerbread man. Actually it's bit different but four ease of explanation, the gingerbread man is a good analogy. I have an image of a figure I painted and I want to animate him, and eventually many of them as instanced particles. He is flat, doesn't need any depth, just a flat 2D surface I can bend. If I were doing stop motion, I would cut him out of paper and bend his legs and arms etc.

In 3D max I would have taken this route.

-Import the image to the background
-Draw a very basic bezier curve around the figure
-Extrude the curve with 1 side segment, which would cap and tesselate the 'gingerbread man'.
-Apply PNG with alpha to the front face.
-Animate by bending legs / arms or maybe a bone structure.
-Create a particle cloud and choose my gingerbread man as the particle mesh.

So in maya, I can't find a quick simple way to make the 'gingerbread man' to map my RGBA-image to.

if I create a curve and extrude, there are no caps, so no front face to map my image to.

If I use bevel or bevel plus, it creates caps but it's not a real mesh. i.e. I can't see the tessellated front and If I bend him it all goes crazy like maya is making thousands of long thin triangles for the front and they get screwed up.

I could box model him but his edges are very uneven and its very time consuming for something that should be quite simple. There are actually 10 different type of 'dude' so i need a quick way to may a cookie cutter but out for each one.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.


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Steve Sayer
Re: Creating a crowd of gingerbread men.
on Dec 5, 2011 at 4:44:39 pm

One method could be:

1. Draw the curve with your CV curve tool and close it.
2. Use Surfaces > Planar to create your surface. Choose 'polygons' for the output type, and tweak the settings to get the appropriate number of faces. You probably want to increase the number of divisions in U and V quite a bit to get smooth deformations.

Hope that helps,

-Steve


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Carey Pagan
Re: Creating a crowd of gingerbread men.
on Dec 6, 2011 at 1:44:23 am

Great thanks that what I was looking for! In the meantime I found a quick box modelling worked well, though I tad more time consuming than expected.

Now that I have my guy, I want to turn him into many guys with the particle instancer. He has a 24 frame walk cycle which I've turned into snapshots and loaded into the instancer which works great. The original also had a expression on his eyes to make them blink at a random interval.
It's very simple but works a treat.

if (noise(time) > 0.9)
eyes.scaleY = 0.1;
else
eyes.scaleY = 1;

It would be great if the 'crowd' could maintain the same functionality. Is there a way to apply expressions to the particle instances such that the randomness is unique to each particle? It would be far to regular if it were hardcoded into the walk cycle.

Thanks.


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Steve Sayer
Re: Creating a crowd of gingerbread men.
on Dec 6, 2011 at 2:07:38 pm

Unfortunately there are limitations to Maya's particle instancing, and this is one of them. It is not possible to directly offset the animation timing of an animated, instanced character.

Two workarounds are:

1. Bake out your walk cycle into 24 separate copies of the character. Then have your instancer cycle through those objects; with this you can have each instance start walking at a different time, so they're not all in sync.

2. Animate three or four (or as many as you like) different versions of your character, and have your instancer 'choose' a random one for each particle.

Each method has its drawbacks and its advantages. Experiment.

You should check out the page 'Instance geometry to particles' in the Maya docs.

-Steve


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