Category Archives: JB Manatee

My dad works for Save The Manatee club and he has been wanting to do some more animated PSA’s and other little shorts. So I have started building him a 3d animatable manatee.

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JB Manatee 2014

I have started working on a new sculpt and rig for my animated manatee.

Here is an early turntable render.

JB Manatee Poses

Here are some images from his current rigging. I have focused mainly on his head and arms at this point. So for now he can’t swim. He now has FK and IK hands with the ability to blend between them.

pose_1

Showing some hand movements.
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His neck and head have been moved to a more upward motion. The joints there stack so the neck will move first then the head as the necks limit is reached.
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This would be more like a pose where he was coming up for air. His mouth is also closed.
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A little happy pose, he has a slight head twist he picked up from my dog Leeloo when she is concentrating hard and trying to figure out what you are saying.
pose_5

JB Manatee Version 2

Buddy the manatee has been put on hold for a while so I decided to go back and improve JB.
Most of the work is in his rigging as I have moved Buddy’s rig over to JB. I modified it slightly to take into account JB’s features and the main differences in his eye structures.

Here are some pictures of JB manatee version 2 with his new skeleton.

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jb2_2

You can see here is eye is much more manatee like now. The rig is setup to eventually be able to close it in a similar way to a real manatee.
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jb2_4

I fixed the topology issues in his tail that were there in version 1.
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Here you can see his skeleton. The little manatee above him there is a reference object that contains some animatable parameters that control his functionality.
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Final Thoughts Version 1

So this was a good attempt initially but is lacking in several areas.
But I haven’t given up yet. At this point I actually jumped and started working on Buddy.
Also as an added benefit we had a animation/rigger start at work so I got to pick her brain on rigging etc.
She has done some real world work and also been through fullsails animation program.

So the rig I end up using with buddy and later on with JB is much improved. Not to mention I get to write expressions, utility code and even a plugin in the process of building his rig.

The upcoming posts will continue with Version 2 of JB, or you can jump over and check out some of the work on Buddy the Manatee.

Turntable

So here is more detailed basic turntable animation just using a flat global illumination etc lighting of the more detailed sculpt I did.


In this video you can see some of the flaws in the original poly topology. I believe I manually fixed the nose at this point but the tail is still screwed up.
Not to mention the random dimple I accidentally gave him at some point.

Initial Animation Eating

Manatees have lots of dexterity in there gums and lips and use them almost like hands to guide food and other objects into their mouths.
So the rig has to support this ability.


It actually doesn’t look to bad.

Initial Animations Swiming

With the model and rig from the previous post I did some basic animation tests to test out the weighting and bone layout.

Here are a couple of swim tests.


You can really see where the rig really comes up short.

Initial Character Creation

When starting this character I knew that I wanted it to be as detailed as possible. I have played with modeling other organic objects in maya before using polygons, and sub d surfaces but never could get what I wanted.

Starting with human heads was probably an overly ambitious starting point. And so I figured that maybe thats just as good of an artist that I can be.

Which is ok, because I am really more interested and much better at the technical side of the art process. Ill let the artists make it look pretty, ill just make it easier for them to do what they do best.

But at work our artist was showing me some of his stuff he created in ZBrush so I decided to give it a try and I can say I really like it. I no longer feel like such a bad artist :)

 

I started initally with doing a rough polygon model of JB in maya using the basic polygon tools. The first model I had too much detail in the mesh and my edge structure wasn’t spaced very evenly.

I also started from a cylinder primitive which gave me headaches later on with the nose and tail caps.

jb-initial-base

I then added some detail in for his arms and jaw. I also split the model in half and just worked with one side, later mirroring it.

jb-initial-base-with-jaw-and-arm

Here he is before I send him to zbrush.

jb-initial-base-ready-for-zbrush

And here his is after an initial sculpt in zbrush.

jb-initial-base-back-from-zbrush

He looks ok, but just not manatee enough.

After getting feedback from my Dad and some other reference images he is starting to look much more manatee like.

jb-initial-base-more-zbrush-initial-rigging

Here you can see the initial bone structure I built for him.

jb-initial-base-more-zbrush-initial-rigging-w-bones

Some more zbrush work, I started to play with Mayas skinning tools to see how to best go about rigging a low res model and then connecting it to a higher res version.

I also believe I was told he was to skinny, so I gave him a little bit more pudge.

jb-initial-base-more-zbrush-initial-rigging-w-bones-fat

Here is a shot of the initial bone structure again, Not sure what i was thinking here but (spoiler alert ) it sucked.

His center of mass/root bone was all off not to mention the alignment etc was not very good.

Not sure why I thought his center of mass/root should be in the tail area. (orange-ish bones)

jb-initial-base-more-zbrush-initial-rigging-w-bones-fat-bad-bones

Here is a image from a more detailed sculpt that I did a turntable animation with.

jb-initial-base-turntable

I like the detail Zbrush allows you to paint in but my initial structures weren’t that great so at this sub div level I could get finer detail in the face but the body(belly) was still too large.

And I you know much about manatees, his eyes are really wrong :)

 

JB the Manatee

My father works for Save the Manatee club which works to protect manatees and their environment as well as the other animals that share that same environment.

You can find out more about them here www.SaveTheManatee.org

My dad would like to start creating some animated shorts and public service announcements featuring animated manatees.

This gave a me good reason to start fleshing out some of my 3d portfolio, so my first 3d character is JB the Manatee.

Having used 3ds Max and currently Maya I have tinkered and experimented with lots of aspects of the 3d pipeline but never really dedicated to taking a character through the full pipeline from creation, modeling, rigging animating etc.

Upcoming posts will show some of the progression of JB over the last serveral months.