Animating a car with a cartoon face

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Animating a car with a cartoon face

Postby MBelinkie on 12/12/2012, 9:09 am

Guys -

I've used element for extruded text and logos, but a client wants to know if I can do an animated car. There are plenty of car models for free or cheap online. But to make this work, I need to figure out how to bring the car to life:

1. The tires need to spin. I guess this means getting a model that allows me to separate the car from the wheels, and make each of the wheels a separate layer. The rotation will be controlled by a "Speed" slider on a null layer (increase the speed, and all four tires spin faster). But unfortunately, I don't have (or know how to use) a true 3D program. Is there a way to break apart a model (isolating just a wheel, for instance) within Element?

2. The front tires need to rotate when the car turns. This should be doable by connecting the front tires y-axis to the direction of motion.

3. Here's where it gets tricky. I want to give the car a face. I think an easy way to do this would be to put eyes on the windshield, a la the Pixar movie Cars. I've seen Andrew's iPhone 5 tutorial which shows how to use an animated layer as a texture. So I'm thinking that I can do the animated eyes as a separate windshield-shaped comp, and use that as the texture for that part of the car.

4. They DON'T need the car to talk, but it does need to express some simple emotion (smiling and frowning, basically). I think I could do this by distorting the bumper, making it curve up or down. But once again, I would need to isolate the bumper and make that its own layer.

If I can get all this rigged up, I should have a car with spinning wheels that can make simple faces. But I'm not sure how to start. Any guidance would be appreciated! Thanks.

- Matt
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Re: Animating a car with a cartoon face

Postby Maxweel on 12/12/2012, 12:58 pm

You could give it a try with a free car model first. Try several and try to find one that has material well allocated so that each wheel has it's own material (so that they can spin independently of the body).
Then arrange your groups this way:
Group 1 - body of the car
Group 2 - front left wheel
Group 3 - front right wheel
Group 4 - back wheels
Group 5 - cartoon eyes

Use Elementary to create anchors for each group. Parent the anchors of Group 2 to 5 to the anchor of Group 1 so that all the different group follow the body of the car.
Move the anchor point of group 1 so that it is above the back wheel, and in Auto-Orient set this group to be oriented along its path.
This should already give you a car easy to animate.

You can get the wheels to spin by themselves but it requires a couple expressions:
1) you need to calculate the distance seen by each wheel. For that use a slider with an expression that loops through the frames to calculate that.
2) you need to use this to calculate the angle of the wheel
I attached a quick example, I couldn't find the full example I had made so the expressions in this one aren't really correct. At least it should give you an idea of the rigging.
Attachments
Car.aep
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Re: Animating a car with a cartoon face

Postby bennybrady on 03/16/2013, 1:47 pm

Hey guys,

the duik tools have an expression generator for wheels! http://duduf.net/
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Re: Animating a car with a cartoon face

Postby klaus brandenburg on 03/16/2013, 4:18 pm

bennybrady wrote:Hey guys,

the duik tools have an expression generator for wheels! http://duduf.net/


This tool is for exact measuring. With a moving car you rather might eyeball the speed until it looks right with motion blur.
too many clowns - not enough circuses
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Re: Animating a car with a cartoon face

Postby bennybrady on 03/16/2013, 10:33 pm

It's true that it isn't always necessary, but with slow movement - which is often the case if the car will be acting - then it's absolutely necessary to make sure the wheels are rolling correctly, and it'll save a ton of work. I do cars all the time, and this has saved me hours - maybe days of **** around.
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Re: Animating a car with a cartoon face

Postby Maxweel on 03/17/2013, 12:38 pm

The problem is that the DuIK expression is for a 2D car and is limited to a wheel that moves on a horizontal line along the X axis ... This question was about a 3D car and for that you need to calculate the distance travelled by the wheel.
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Re: Animating a car with a cartoon face

Postby bennybrady on 03/17/2013, 6:46 pm

When you're right, you're right. I've been cutting and pasting that duik stuff and editing them to make them work, which is a huge pain.

But now I say thanks a ton, because holyshiznit, your car rig is fantastic. I was about half-way through trying to do what you posted before i checked your file - Amazing.

Here's something I threw together with it. I'd be happy to credit you with the template on my vimeo page. Do you have a contact you'd like me to include in the description??

https://vimeo.com/62034663
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Re: Animating a car with a cartoon face

Postby Maxweel on 03/18/2013, 1:53 am

Thanks Mike, I just liked your video so you'll find my Vimeo account, I'm Kevin.
If you insist you could add a mention to Elementary from AEScripts since that's what I used back then for the rigging, and you should probably put a link to my post with the AE project so that people can find it easily.
You should try to use Elementary for your car shadow too actually.
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Re: Animating a car with a cartoon face

Postby bennybrady on 03/18/2013, 12:03 pm

will do Kevin,

I actually tried to use elementary but couldn't quite work out how to make multiple anchors and still get the wheels to work! Thought that's probably more to do with my tiny little brain than anything else.

And yes - the shadows are shit... I thought of using Elementary but wouldn't creating the car shadow conflict with the controllers? Man, i hate having to "understand" stuff! haha. I'll experiment.
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Re: Animating a car with a cartoon face

Postby Maxweel on 04/16/2013, 1:16 pm

Well I was somewhat disappointed by the "rig" tutorial, I wouldn't call rigging something where you have to keyframe everything, so I looked for my original car project and found this one.

It's using an extruded mask for the car but there are sliders that control the whole shape of the car, you just need to load model for the body of the car and one for the wheel and then adjust the sliders so that everything has the right scale/position.

Everything seems controlled by the "Car controller" Null, and in this example there are only 3 keyframes: just the path of the Null. I checked and even though there are basic expressions for the wheel rotation and suspensions, you can still keyframe the rotations in addition to the expressions to fine-tune the animation.

There a couple limitations though: because AE orients the car following the path it can't really know the orientation once the car stops, so you'll have to keyframe this or make sure the car stops with the right angle (like in this project).
Attachments
Car.aep
CS4 Car rig
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