How-To by Geoff Beatty
When you’re creating an animated character there are many things you need to consider. 3D modeling and the animation process, by default, requires constant evaluation and decision-making. That’s why it’s helpful to group the thousands of visual choices you need to make into available into basic, fundamental principles. One of the most important elements is asymmetry.
The dictionary defines asymmetry as an inequality between two parts, and in the world of mathematics, this is usually not ideal. But in the context of design (and in 3D modeling and animation in particular) asymmetry is vitally important in establishing interest and believability. Asymmetry helps to establish believability because we live in a world where things are naturally assymetrical.
Asymmetry helps to establish variation from one thing to another, in this case left to right, and makes the subject look more interesting.
For a basic example of asymmetry look no further than the human face. Take a look at the image above, which face looks more natural? The image on the left is natural, while the one on the right is mirrored, or symmetrical.
Now how does this translate into the context of 3D modeling and animation? How do we achieve asymmetry while creating a character in a program like Maya? Don’t fret, there are some simple ways to do this:
1. Create, Mirror, then Modify
A common approach to modeling characters is to work on one half and then mirror the geometry to the other side. This is a smart way to work, as it resembles the rough symmetry of most characters and simultaneously cuts the work in half.
Still this leaves us with a completely symmetrical model when we want something more believable. It looks, for lack of a better word, “computer-ish.” You can avoid this by simply altering certain elements of one side of the model through scaling or sculpting or using lattice deformers.
Modifying small elements will help bring life and believability to your model.
2. Animate with Style
How do we incorporate asymmetry into animation? While posing a model consider a more dynamic, more readable pose. During animation, motion curves representing opposite sides of the body can be offset to provide a sort of temporal asymmetry. This creates a pleasant overlap and flexibility to a characters action, an important step in creating a believable sense of weight.
Asymmetry, is a vital step in making your characters believable. The presence of asymmetry not only brings your characters to life, but indicates to the viewer, you thought about the design, both as a modeler and animator. You can learn more about 3D modeling by going to a 3D art and computer graphics camp, with the latest animation and modeling tools at your disposal, you’ll be creating 3D art in no time.
By Geoff Beatty, Lead Maya Instructor – DMA @ UPENN
One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is opening doors for my students. At the beginning of each class, I literally unlock the door to the computer lab, turn the lights on, and lead my students in. But in a more meaningful sense, I enjoy being the one (or one of many) who introduces them to a new medium, a new set of tools for creating imagery and telling stories. The part of that experience that is especially gratifying is seeing my students making connections between their respective backgrounds (e.g. illustration, music, graphic design) and this newfound world of 3D modeling and animation.
Last year, during DMA’s Maya sessions at the University of Pennsylvania campus, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach an amazingly diverse group. Among that group, there was the middle-aged illustrator from the midwest, learning a new skill. There was the recent art school graduate with a graphic design degree. There was the home-schooled high-schooler with an interest in visualization. And there was the teenage musician and composer with a talent for digital imagery.
Each person brought a unique sensability and focus to their study of Maya. And I can truly say that by the end, there were just as many unique 3D creations. The characters, environments, and animations they made each reflected a personal vision. And this is what I consider the strength of both the software, Maya, and the type of course I was teaching at DMA. My duty as an instructor was two-fold. First, I introduced students to the basics of the software. This included both the explicit features and the implicit workflow, which is the proper process and sequence for using those features. Secondly, I attempted to build on that foundational and common knowledge by guiding each student to a point where they could begin to use that tool to fulfill a personal interest or vision.
This ends up being the point at which I grow too as a 3D artist and instructor. DMA courses bring together such a variety of students that it ends up being an antidote to the homogeneity common to most 3D classrooms. I learn new things every time I interact with my students. My experience last summer was so gratifying in that respect that I couldn’t turn up the chance to teach again. I look forward to opening doors, turning on lights, and having my students do the same for me.