Individual Research Project Blog Post – Maya Bone Skeleton Systems

I signed up for the Maya Bone Skeleton System research topic because none of us had heard of this before and were interested in learning more. We had been learning and using the Maya modeling program in class for the installation project but I understood that we weren’t reaching the full extents of the software at hand and I wanted to delve into the more complicated parts of Maya. This research topic proved to be very interesting and exactly what I was looking for.

We first began to research what opportunities this software created for designers and weren’t disappointed. We found that the Comedy Central show South Park uses Maya Bone Skeleton systems for their animating. However, that show is primarily a 2D show that doesn’t incorporate very much 3D animation (if any at all) into each episode. Eventually we found an Academy Award winning short film that used Maya Bone Skeleton Systems to generate the entire short film. The film is The ChubbChubbs! and spawned a sequel as well, due to its success, titled The ChubbChubbs save Xmas! The film itself runs only 6 min long but showed us the true capabilities of the software we were researching.

Maya Bone Skeleton Systems allow designers to create realistic movements of human and other living things as they walk, run, and interact within the world around them. In order to accomplish something as intuitive as someone walking however, takes some patience and knowhow. The designer has to start at the hips to create a parent joint that will later control the rest of the legs. The left leg is generated first with another joint at the knee, another at the top of the foot, another in the middle of the foot where the toes begin, and then another 5 (one for each toe). When the parent join is moved, the child joints (knee, foot and toe joints) will move with it. If the knee is rotated, the parent joint of the hip stays in place, but the lower joints move accordingly to the knee’s movement. This occurs accordingly as one moves farther and farther down the joint chain. Normal movement is forward kinematics and those follow the rules that I’ve just described. However, these pose a problem with animating when creating more complex movements. When one is picking up something or walking, the child joints shouldn’t always move in accordance to the parent joint. To solve this problem Inverse Kinematics is used. For example, when a foot is planted and the hip moves to generate momentum for the next leg to take another step, Inverse Kinematics keeps the plant leg in place while the hip rotates and moves the other leg.

Maya Bone Skeleton Systems seemed to be extremely complex when we first began researching the process but we soon realized it is very intuitive and fairly straightforward once you know the software. The only problem we found with the software was that the average architect will have no use of this. Unless someone was going to create a walk-through of a building using animated characters, this software is practically useless to the architect, and much more valuable in a graphic design, video game animator or movie animator.

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