Animatronic modelling project

I am currently working on a personal project of making a 3D model on an animatronic in Maya. The animatronic that I am currently working on Circus Baby from Sister Location of the Five Night’s at Freddy’s series. I had made other projects after I first started college working on other animatronics from the series that was passable for the first attempt; however, they ended up looking flat, not very detailed and I didn’t know how some stuff worked so holes for the eyes ended up being a black cylinder at first.


This is currently how far I am into the modelling process. The eyes being coloured in doesn’t mean anything, it was just easier to colour them in before I started to combine everything plus it adds a bit of life to the model whilst working. I had imported an image of my drawing for reference so that I knew where to put the wires. If you are going to import images into Maya, select the view by pressing space then select and import it into the front, side or top view, not perspective as scaling will be problematic if you import in perspective mode. To import, just press on view under where you choose the polygons to make the model, select image plane then import image.

The next part is just trying to make the model look as close as the reference as you can make it. The eyes is where I started since it was the more complex part of the model. I used a sphere for the eye ball an used a cube for the eyelids. The cube was broken up into segments so that there was more edges that I could move the edges to make eyelids, the eyelashes and wires are both made out of cylinders. Extruding is required to make the model more realistic.

Circus Baby render

This is my current progress on the model. I still need to make the face plates more round as well as sort out the hair so that it fits the top face plate along with including the outer parts of the hair. The edges also need to made smooth to improve the model. I should also texture the model. Getting the hair to work on the face plate has proved challenging as I need to Booleans difference so I get the gaps but the models aren’t properly lined up. I will need to rotate the model around since rotating the camera isn’t really useful in this situation.

Low Polygon Models

Over the corresponding weeks, I have been practicing making low poly models for a Wacky Races style race track that my team was tasked with. We had to create a small part of a race track with at least one vehicle featured in it. Each model had to be under 1000 tris (triangle faces). My job was to work on the vehicles. I also worked on the trees for the environment. The environment wasn’t my main job but it was something that I assisted in. I started in making concept art for my vehicle designs before actually getting to work on the models.

Car render

The sports car was inspired by Sonic’s car in the Sonic & All Stars Racing games. I didn’t want it to look basic so I included some patterns to it with headlights acting as eyes. The model consists 474 verts, 1056 edges, 576 faces, 960 tris and 1020 UVs.  I used a fair amount of booleans, extrusions and triangulate/quadrangulate in making may model.

Monobile render

This vehicle was based on the monopoly car. I included the top hat as well a funny little moustache and eye glass on to the car to give it its own personality. I have also included some red and white lines as well as the words ‘Monobile’ on the sides (Unfortunately, I wrote Monobile backwards). This vehicle wasn’t as big as the other car with 398 verts, 855 edges, 470 faces, 778 tris and 918 UV’s.

Tree Render

The final piece of modelling that I worked on was the tree. I made this out of three shapes: two cylinders and a sphere with the amount of faces decreased. The design is rather basic, I mainly just moved the vertex’s out to make it an imperfect shape. I used a ramp shader on the leaves to make a cartoony look to the tree. The model contains 191 verts, 410 edges, 221 faces, 378 tris and 360 UV’s.



Bump Maps

I will be covering the different types of mapping available when modelling. Bump maps can create detail in the model that is actually fake. It doesn’t add any additional resolution to the model as bump maps are grayscale images that are limited to 8-bits of colour information.  The values in a bump map are used to tell the 3D modelling software up or down. If the values are close to 50% grey then there’s little to no detail that will show through on the surface. Turning the colour closer to white will make the details appear to be pulling out of the surface whereas turning it closer to black will do the opposite and make then appear to be pushing in. Wrinkles and pores are some examples of what bump mapping can be used to create. Bump mapping can be rather easy to create and edit in a 2D application such as Photoshop or Illustrator, however, bump maps can break if the camera views it at the wrong angle due to the detail being fake. The silhouette of the geometry that the bump map is applied to will remain unaffected the map.

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Normal maps can be referred as a better type of bump since it has essentially replaced it. like bump maps, the detail that they create is also fake. However, unlike a bump map, normal maps use RGB information that corresponds directly with the X, Y and Z axis as the information tells the application the exact direction that the surface normals are oriented in for every polygon. The orientation also tells the application how the polygon should be shaded. Normal maps can be rather difficult to create or edit within a 2D application such as Photoshop so a likely option would be to bake a normal map using a higher resolution model.

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Displacement maps are king when it comes to creating additional detail for low-resolution meshes. In order for detail to be created based on a displacement map, the mesh must be subdivided or tessellated  so real geometry is created. Displacement maps can be painted by hand or baked from a high resolution model and it consists of greyscale values like bump maps. 8-bit displacements are available although they aren’t the best option as using 16 or 18-bit will provide a better result since 8-bit displacements may look good in a 2D space but can sometimes cause banding or other artifacts when they are in 3D due to insufficient range in value.

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Source of information:


Ident Animation

Over the weeks, I have been working on my ident animation in Maya. My animation needed to be created within six weeks (class weeks, lessons that weren’t on didn’t count). My animation is complete; however, there was some issues during development. Firstly, I ended up losing my work a couple of times, once due to the location of where it was saved deleted by the college (the X drive was removed and I forgot to make an extra copy). The second and third occasion was due to my files corrupted due to not having enough memory on my G drive. After modelling 3 times, I managed to get the animation to work even the rotations on the boomerang which was annoying to get right since it would rotate 360 degrees one way then rotate the other way and back.

My current ident models looks a lot better than when I first created it as my first attempt since I used images of the actual logos, then made my model around them so that the edges was all lined up and the models looked close to what they are meant to look like. The ‘S’ is a lot smoother around the edges, the ‘H’ is more improved and looks closer to the Batman symbol from the Arkham games with the wings going up a bit. The ‘O’ is more round in the edges and the ‘R’ and ‘T’  are slightly improved but they were already how I wanted them to look. ‘GAMES’ didn’t get much of an improvement since I gave the same design on my last two attempts (didn’t get to the part on my first attempt.

From an animation stand point, I think that it could be improved immensely since it is rather rough as it chugs a bit plus it really doesn’t feel that smooth. The ‘O’ does a 360 degree rotation mostly off screen and doesn’t finish till it just gets on screen. The ‘T’ doesn’t connect with the ‘R’ as I would like. When the Batarang hits the ‘S’ they are both meant to move up to show that the ‘S’ was hit and the ‘H’ is stuck on it. Unfortunately, they both sort of disconnect then reconnect at that point so it looks a bit odd. I also wanted the top half of the ‘S’ to lean forward when moving in to make the sense of the ‘S’ is moving itself in place.

12 Principles of animation

Timing is the amount of frames that an animation will last. It is when an object moves. The standard frame-rate used in movies is 24 frames per second. This is how fast that the animation is as well as how smooth it is. If you want a ball to move from one side of the other, then how many frames that you have from the start of the animation to the end then that is how long the animation lasts. The amount of frames in between the start key frame and the end key frame is how fast that the animation will be. The more frames in between, the slower the animation will be and the less frames, the faster the animation. Spacing the key frames will create a smoother, more realistic animation which is very important.

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Squash and stretch gives flexibility to an object and helps give an idea of what material that object might be  made of. If you are making a bouncing ball animation then it is required  to have squash and stretch as it shows the force from landing on a surface then pushing it back. The volume needs to be the same when using squash and stretch meaning when you shrink the height of the ball, you need to increase the width of it. Squash and stretch can also be used in exaggerating facial expressions like a shocked face.

Anticipation allows the audience to know that an action will happen before the action is performed as well as create the sense that more force is being used. For example, when someone slams a hammer into the ground, they always lift up the hammer over their heads before slamming it into the ground and in some instances jump in the air after the slam.   If the character just quickly hits the other then there is no sense of force or impact within the animation.

Ease in, Ease out makes character movement look more realistic as with out it, it will make the character movement seem very robotic. It is when an object starts moving it accelerates then when it is going to stop, it decelerates. Vehicles don’t go from 0-60 straight away and 60-0 in real life as that will cause some issues from the driver such as bashing their head on the seat or wheel which may lead to having to go to the hospital pr worse. When a person is running, the frames should be close together so it starts slow then spread out the frames in the middle to make the character build up speed then close the space of frames at the end so that the character is slowing down when they are about to stop.

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Follow through and overlapping action can be considered as two different principles; however, they are rather closely related. Follow through is when separate body  parts of a character continue to move even though the main action has stopped. For example, when someone is walking. When people walk, their arms will swing back and forth as part of the movement. When people stop walking, their arms will still swing as part of finishing then settle in the center as a basic standing pose. Overlapping is when more than one body part moves as part of an action. Let’s say when someone is waving. Their shoulder will move first before the arm and the elbow  with the hand being slightly behind.

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Arcs are used to make more realistic animation since everything (except for robots) will move in an arc. When a character throws a punch, their arm will be pulled around in an arc fashion before connecting. Or when someone rotates their head, their head will dip down a bit before turning to create an arc motion.

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Exaggeration can be used to create a more cartoony feel to the animation or create a restrain to the realistic animations. Exaggeration can be used to make the  realistic animation more readable and fun. If you have a character standing on a diving board, have the edge where the character is standing bend down slightly to show the weight of the character.

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Solid drawing is about making an accurate drawing that shows volume and weight whilst thinking about the balance and anatomy in a pose. In 3D animation, the drawings aren’t really relied on that much; however, an idea of a solid drawing can be just as important. Solid drawings can help with the posing by knowing where they need to put certain parts of the model so it matches up with the drawing. It can be also useful when creating the pose from an angle such as the side view as it helps them give an idea of how to make the back look.

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Appeal is important as it will create a character that the audience can connect or relate to.  It is important not to give the character a confusing design as it can remove the appeal. You need to make the character stick out as how they would look and how they would move. Exaggerating how they look by giving them a large chin or make there movements exaggerated can also make them memorable and more appealing.

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Straight ahead and pose to pose are two different techniques that are used in animating. Straight ahead is rather linear as you will create each pose, one after the other. So a character jumping would have a frame where they are standing still then the next would have the character start to kneel down in preparation for the jump, etc. Pose to pose is the preferred option as you start with working on the main poses of the animation (going back to the jumping animation) you would have the character stand still in the start and end frame then have the character in the air in the middle frame. This makes animating simpler as you can work on the posing on the frames to make the timing more accurate as well as save time from working on each individual frame.

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Secondary action is something that a character would do that doesn’t break away from the main action. It creates more life in the character. Say if you have to characters having a conversation, the characters talking will be the main action but you can have a character tapping their foot, pacing back and forth, looking around or even folding their arms.

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Staging is how you set up the scene in the animation. It can vary from the scene location, the characters in the foreground and background, and even the camera angle. The camera angle is important as it lets the audience know what they need to focus on. If you have an animation with two characters, set up the camera set up for the audience to expect something so if something is going to happen in front of one of the characters then zoom out the camera so the audience can see in front of that character and if something is happening behind that character then zoom out so that they can see behind them. Don’t focus the camera on something then have the main action on something else as the audience might miss what happened. So if you have one person in the foreground then have someone trip over in the distance then the audience might not have seen it.


Lighting and rendering

This blog will cover the various different lighting and rendering types that will be used in making games, films, TV shows, etc. Each light type will be available in various other modelling and game engine programs such as Maya and Unity.

The first light type that I will cover is directional light. Directional light is light that goes in a specific direction (obviously) but it works a bit like sunlight. The position of where you place the light icon won’t affect it , the rotation does. Directional light will never fade off and the direction of the light will go all around hence why the position doesn’t matter.


Point lights work often like light bulbs, they spread light in various directions unlike the directional light which spreads light in one direction. Another thing that makes them different to directional light is that point lights do fade so the closer an object is to the light source, the brighter the object will be.


Up next is ambient light. Ambient light is a more secondary light as it casts soft light rays which doesn’t cast any shadows or shading to the object due to not having a specific directionality . It mostly fills in areas that don’t have enough illumination and creates more cartoony  light effects on the object.


Area light works almost exactly like directional light only within a set boundary, a circle or rectangle. It’s often used as a light illuminating a room by shining through a window or florescent ceiling lighting. There can be multiple lighting points in a scene to make it more realistic; however, it does come at a cost as this will take longer to render a scene.


Spotlights work exactly as you would expect them to. They are also referred  to as flashlights. In terms of modelling, the light can be edited to make the overall size of the light to be larger, . allowing the player to be able to see further around them. The intensity of the light can also be edited so that they can  see further a head of them. Spotlights are also often used in three point lighting. Three point lighting is used to show of aspects of a character or object. The first light is the key light, it is used to show off the important aspects of a character or object and is the main light. It lights up the area that the audience is most likely to see and has the highest intensity. The second light is the fill light, it is used to show off the highlights of any object. The third light is the back light, it lights up the back of an object but not as much as the key light nor the fill light due to having the lowest intensity. It creates a sense of realism as there is light coming from behind that object even though the audience may not see it.


Volume light is rather similar to a point light as they both emit  directional rays from a single point. However; volume lights have a specific shape and size which affects it’s falloff. Volume light can changed into either a cube, sphere, cylinder or cone. If you plan on using a volume light to light up an object then you need to have the light placed close to the object.

Information about light types was found at this link:


Some settings in these light options can be changed. As you may have noticed in three point lighting, that I have mentioned light intensity. Light intensity is basically how bright that you want the light to be. It can be changed in the light settings as well the light colour (rather self explanatory).

Light linking allows you to set a specific light or group of lights to illuminate a specific object or letting a specific object to only be illuminated by a particular light or group of lights.


Cookies are often used to create an impression that something is there when, in reality, there isn’t. It is often used in movies when they have people in a jungle when there isn’t any trees yet they still make the shadow. They are used for atmosphere and created by putting a mask between the light source and the action. More information on cookies can be found on this link:


Naturally, light doesn’t generate any shadows in the modeling software’s such as Maya unless you manually turn on the depth map or ray traced shadows option in the light options. They generally produce similar results although depth map takes less time to render and is the more preferable option. Depth map represents the distance from the light to the surface that it is illuminating. Ray traced shadows are more transparent with softer edges to make the shadows seem more realistic as how they would look in the real world. It works better on coloured surfaces as the shadows are often a darker shade of the colour of the surface that shadow is on. Ray tracing is more time consuming and takes more time to render than depth map. Source:


Maya software renderer supports all of the entity types that can be found within Maya. Examples of these entity types include: particles, various geometry and paint effects along with fluid effects. Maya software renderer also features a tool called IPR (Interactive Photo Realistic rendering), this tool allows you to make interactive adjustments to the final render of your image. It also allows complex interconnections such as procedural textures and ramps. Source:

Image converted using ifftoany

Mental ray renderer is general-purpose renderer that generates physically correct simulations of lighting effects which includes ray traced reflections and refractions, caustics, and global illumination.  Source of information:


Finally, I will be covering the Arnold renderer. Arnold is a ray tracing renderer developed to meet the demands of feature-length animations and visual effects. Arnold was the primary renderer of various movies such as Monster House, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Gravity and Pacific Rim. Source:



Spaceship completion and reflection

My spaceship is finally in the completion stage. Now that the texturing is finished, all that remains is lighting and rendering the ship. There are various different lighting affects (which will be covered in another blog) which can be used; however, I will use the spotlight tool to create a three point lighting on my ship. You need to go onto the ‘Rendering’ menu and select the spotlight (or flashlight) icon in the menu. The icon is just under the left half of the ‘Polygons’ menu.maya-menu

Now you will need to move the spotlight into the position that you want the light to shine in and since the spotlight will be selected, a menu should appear in the left side of the screen.


This is the menu that allows you to edit the spotlight that you are using. The ‘cone angle’ allows the spotlight’slight to be wider enabling  the spotlight to light more of the ship (I wouldn’t recommend having shadows turned on).  The first light is the ‘Key light’, This light is used to show the object/character and is placed at the front of the  model. This light is the brightest out of the three that will be set so the light intensity should be as high as you would like it to be.

The second light is the ‘Back Light’, this brightens up the background or the back of the model. Since this light is mostly going to be used when viewing the ship from various camera angles, the light intensity should be the lowest out of the three spotlights. The third and final light is the fill light. This is used to show the highlights of the model and will be placed far at the side, aimed at the object with a medium light intensity as it is used to show the rest of the model that the main light doesn’t light up so it isn’t just a black shadow that is hard to see.


Here are the screenshots of the final product of my spaceship model. The large circle closest to the camera on the top image is the ‘Key Light’, as you can see, it lights up most of the model along with it being brighter than the other areas of the model. The circle towards the left of the ship is the ‘Fill Light’, it’s slightly darker than the light emitting from the ‘Key Light’ as it’s purpose is to make light to where the ‘Key Light’ doesn’t.


This screenshot focuses on the back of the ship so that you can get a better idea on how the ‘Back Light’ works. It is a lot darker than the other two lights which makes it a little difficult to see the textures on the back of the ship. Realistically, this is how shadows would work since they block light but don’t make things pitch black to the point where you couldn’t see textures on an object. There are other light options that will be covered in another blog post.

I think that the texturing of my ship could be a little better as not all of the lines match each other on the roof of my ship. Also the design of my ship is rather basic from the model to the textures. I will try to work on other designs for spaceships and various textures for my ship; however, this model was mainly to get a hang on how to model in Maya as well as texturing and rendering.