Get started in animation Part 1

While having the largest box of crayons in class may have been thrilling when you were a kid, it had little or nothing to do with the quality of the images you drew. Although we doubt that anyone would seriously argue with this, it's something people often forget when it comes to 3D. With the manuals of modern 3D applications weighing more than the contents of a school satchel, it's as easy to be dazzled by the number of features available as it was by the number of crayons. But the basics of 3D are exactly that - basic enough for anyone to follow.

During this four-part tutorial series, we'll introduce you to the fundamental concepts of 3D animation. While primarily aimed at newcomers, we also encourage more experienced users to drop by our 3D kindergarten; no matter how well you know your software, there's no substitute to an understanding of the principles of weight and timing. At the end of the day, animation is all about bringing things to life, not marvelling at the tools employed to do so.

There are few exercises that can be used to explain the basic principles of animation as efficiently as recreating the motion of a bouncing ball. The staple of many college courses, this simple-looking task actually involves all the elements that will make or break a much more complex animation. To add a new twist to the proceedings, we've replaced the ball with the '70s-style toy above. In the first of these tutorials, we'll simply concentrate on making it bounce in a realistic manner. In future issues, we'll tackle the slightly more complex challenge of injecting emotion into its movements.

For this tutorial, we'll be using Softimage|XSI. Although it has certain limitations, it will be more than adequate for the purpose. We've also provided a model of the toy itself, pre-built and ready to animate. And if this first taster of 3D animation is to your liking, be sure to check out issues 65-67 of 3D World for the next three parts.

Click here to download the PDF for free
Click here to download support files and hi-res screenshots

Download part two and three of this series:

Part 2 from Issue 65 (free to subscribers)
Part 3 from Issue 66 (free to subscribers)