Meet My Ex-Wife, Maya

“Design is inherently a process of wrestling with constraint…”

“… so let’s think of our knowledge of this field as just another constraint. Rather than thinking of how we’re limited by the realities of current technology, we might instead think about how knowing the rules of a given system allow us to find ways of working around them or flat out exploiting them.”

~Matthew Ragan

“Your mind is your prison when you focus on fear”
~Tim Fargo

My introduction into motion graphics was through the class, “Digital Motion”. Our paintbrushes were substituted with clicky mice, palettes with keyboards, and canvases were placed inside a software called Maya. Our professor introduced us to Maya as if it were his ex wife:

“Never trust Maya with unsaved work. If you decide to play Russian roulette with Maya, you will lose. She can sense fear so don’t procrastinate. And always remember, Maya has the ability to make your time in this class absolute hell, so listen closely… “

I apparently didn’t listen closely enough and before I knew it, I was bombarding my professor’s inbox with messages of distress:

Subject: S.O.S. - ADN HEEELP 

Hi Marc,
 I have been going at this animation all break and am currently on the verge of tears due to the relentless flow of confusion and errors: 
-The cache memory keeps randomly saying that it is full and will not let me key anything.
 -When I open up my files, there are always random things missing for mysterious reasons (I am not messing with file locations)
 -The render sequence will not render from the camera I desire (I have looked up many tutorials and have done everything recommended for this one, yet it is still not working)
 -The lighting in the render is way too overexposed with default lights on (Skydome)
 -I have attempted to create a diffuse preset for attributes of a layer, but NONE of the presets are showing up. I don’t even know what this means, and neither does google. 
Please help, I am so frustrated and overwhelmed because I was determined to figure this program out over break, yet I have made barely any progress due to all these obstacles ,and I am more confused than ever. I have been watching your videos on Vimeo, but there are way too many obstacles right now for me to proceed. Is there any way we could sit down and go over this “Render flow”? I am struggling A LOT but I am really determined to learn. 
~Aitch Hunt 

Subject: S.O.S. - ADN HEEELP 
Please step back. You only need to have your story in After Effects as a moving storyboard on Tuesday. Do not fight with Maya anymore on your own. Bring your laptop to class and we will work through all of these errors. 
Your questions are important, but you are a step ahead right now and I would like to focus on getting the story into After Effects. If you would like me to go through your questions now though, I can. Please just let me know. 
 I hope that helps, 

I had gone to battle with Maya and lost. She spared no mercy on my soul and validated her ability to instill a profound sense of helplessness at any given moment.

3D animation proved to be exponentially more involved than I could have imagined. To put it simply, one assignment was to create a 5 minute animation using a sphere with 2 legs and a ball.

A breakdown of what a 5 minute animation entails:

  • 1 minute = 60 seconds
  • 5 minutes = 300 seconds
  • There are 24 frames per second
  • 24 fps x 300 sec = 7,200 frames

This means that every single movement and interaction of and between every 3D object, camera, light on scene was to be mapped and “keyed” for each frame. Not to mention that all of these keyed poses should progress between frames as smoothly as possible.

When I say “every movement”, this means, every twist of the wrist on the x, y, and z, axis. It means each individual finger can be translated, rotated, and sized on every axis. Not just the entire finger either, but each section (there are 3) can be adjusted in this manner as well.

And by the way, the amount of energy one can spend manipulating facial expressions of a sphere with 2 legs in Maya is disturbing. I had this revelation the moment I found myself attempting to decipher the correct gradient in eyebrow bulge across three sections of one eyebrow.

Implementing technology into art has its benefits, but the gold hides under LAYERS of crashed software, missing files, and thousands of rendered surprises such as character eyeballs popping out for no apparent reason.

In digital animation, it’s not the learning curve that’s steep, but rather the curve measuring one’s ability to keep their shit together after working all night on a project that “quits unexpectedly”. This curve is sehr steep. It takes a lot of patience to resist the urge to smash the computer into a million pieces after losing hours of work to a “bug” in the system. It also takes a ton of failing to recognize which projects are worth saving and which ones are worth leaving behind in a roadside ditch. The only way to get past the test of patience is to keep at it, to respond to Maya’s passive aggressive temper with humor, and to ALWAYS PRESS THAT SAVE BUTTON.

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