15-465 and 60-414 Assignments


Each student will pitch a story. You will need to create 5-10 essential storyboard images. You may use any software (or pencil and paper) to create them. But they must be numbered and in jpeg format. The first image should be a title card and include the name of the person who made it. Put the images in the storyboard folder on afs. Come to class prepared to pitch your story.

After the initial pitch storyboards will be narrowed and students will be partnered to develop the ideas further.

There is a storyboard folder in the class afs space for your completed storyboard projects. Name your file firstname_lastname.ppt.

Assignment 1: Animating in Maya

In Maya help these paths will be useful

Additional paths in Maya help that apply to this lesson for more advanced users:

Handouts: See the blackboard system under course documents.

For this project you will have to render your files out for playback in fcheck. Below are instructions for rendering so that your images will play back correctly. When you are looking at your files be sure to have the playback set to '30fps realtime', rather than 'play every frame', while working on your animation. Otherwise your animations will played back too fast in class.

To render frames for viewing in fcheck:

1) Go to the "Render Global Settings" Window (Window->Rendering Editors->Render Globals)

2) Go to the "Image File Output" tab (should be open already) and verify/Change the following settings:

File Name Prefix: (not set; using filename)
Frame/Animation Ext: name.###.ext
Image Format: Maya image format (iff) or tif

Frame Padding should be set as follows:

If you have 1-9 frames in your animation - Frame Padding = 1
If you have 10-99 frames in your animation - Frame Padding = 2
If you have 100-999 frames in your animation - Frame Padding = 3
If you have 1000-9999 frames in your animation - Frame Padding = 4 (etc.)

3) Go to the "Resolution" tab (should be open already) and goto the "Presets" pulldown and select "640x480".

4) Set any other settings, such as quality, etc. Then goto the "Rendering" menu set and select Render->Batch Render. 5) Test your frames in fcheck to make sure that you are happy with the speed of your animation.

Assignment 2: Modeling in Maya

Create a fully articulated character model of your own design and animate it using a skeleton and IK output to rendered images that will play back in fcheck. Your character should convey personality through his/her/its gait in 150 to 300 frames.

For assistance the LEARNING AUTODESK MAYA text book has tutorials:
for building skeletons and skinning pp 229 - 259
for animating using IK and trax editor pp. 275 -331

For assistance from online tutorials:
Go to Maya help
In the Search box type "Walking"
Animation, Character Setup, and Deformers
43. Examples: Working with full body IK

There are three examples in this exercise for humanlike body movement

Handouts: See the blackboard system under course documents.

Assignment 3: Technical Element

Create a short animation (150-300 frames) that focuses on a technical element. That technical element could be one of those included with Maya complete: fluid, fur, cloth, or hair. Alternatively, it could be implementing new functionality in C++ such as a grouping behavior, experimenting with motion capture data, or programmable shaders. You should discuss your 3rd assignment with your group and see if you can use it as a way to test out a potential method for creating a technical element for your group's animation.

Maya Complete is available in both clusters with the various special packages for Maya 2008. Code written in Maya Learning Edition (the free version) can be ported to Maya Complete and Unlimited (this is not true for Maya binaries and other files).


The animatic should be done entirely within Maya (no hand drawn scenes or video). It should block out all of the scenes and give you a fairly precise sense of the timing of the piece. You can create the animatic by moving unrigged preliminary versions of your models (blocky characters) and coarsely animating the key actions. Choose the camera angles and animate the camera moves that you expect to have appear in the final piece. Put in cubes or other simple shapes to represent the static elements of the scene. Make sure that the characters move at approximately the right pace so that the timing of the piece is realistic. For example, you might not animate a walking cycle but make sure that your character slides along the ground at a reasonable walking pace. If sound is critical you should have at least an initial soundtrack to use as an editing reference. Your animatic should become a "living document" where you add in scenes and characters as they reach a more complete state for each critique during the rest of the semester.


Each team will put together a web page for their project that will serve as an archival record of your progress. At a minimum, the web page should include: The webpage must be turned in on a DVD at the final crit in a form that can be copied to the web (links should be relative, not global).

Final Project:

demos during the final exam slot in May.

The final projects will incorporate technical elements. We will collect ideas for elements of the animations that might be enhanced in this way throughout the semester. Here is a preliminary list:

Setting Things Up

Instructions on logging in
Note: if you make these dot files from a PC you MUST make sure that each line has a carriage return and doesn't have the ^M character.

The keys are different under linux than under windows. You can fix some of these problems by following the instructions here:

go to help/library menu in maya
click installing/linux
go to User notes
go to Linux desktop configuration
follow the instructions from there

We have set up a prefs file to give you most of the menus normally present under windows when you log in to linux. To set this up:

Disk Space on Linux boxes

We've created two directories of scratch space on the linux boxes: /usr0/15-465 and /usr0/60-414
Feel free to store things temporarily in those directories. They are not backed up however, so do not leave your source files there long term without making backup copies.

You can also write to

Here are complete instructions on how to do that from the CFA cluster. Here are alternative instructions for how to place an icon on your desktop that will allow you to access afs without following the procedure described above. If you have trouble with kerberos tokens timing out while you are rendering on linux, use "krenew" to keep them current for a month.

Jessica Hodgins