I’m finally able to write after a long two week stravaganza.
The rig is basically done! And this video can give testimony of that.
But let’s start from the beginning:
First thing I did was to start making me some custom shape controllers, to stop getting headaches every time I had to look for the bone that I would animate for my tests.
As I progressed in making these I had to go back and fix stuff that I would find odd, like the connections of the plane’s neck when it transforms, and also a very important part of this: What the hell happens to the pilot when the plane becomes a robot? Does he dissapear in a cloud of magic? Does he get crushed under plates and hydraulic mechanisms? I just had to look for a plausible solution, since the scenes I have planned for the final render involve the pilots POV during a transformation. So I started making a few tests here and there, which I didn’t even finish rendering because by the time the render was halfway through, I had already changed so many things it didn’t look like it was working anymore. But I compiled all those small tests in one video, in which you can see how did I solve the pilot’s dilemma.
The first video shows the mechanism. The seat is too large for it to rotate safely without intersecting the cockpit, so I made the floor a moving platform that opens and closes to allow the seat to rotate, and it does that during the moment of the nose coming out and lowering down. Since I was using the colored version I could easily see intersections and fix them on the spot, so it was a matter of making a video, seeing the mistakes and then go back and fix them, one by one.
Among the many things I had to solve for this transformation were the feet. The skeleton jumps from the GERWALK to the Battroid mode and the leg configuration is very different, but I made sure the bones matched each other so the transition ran smoothly. But the hierarchy had to be changed, and the feet controllers rethought. I ended up making a double set of controllers for the feet, so I could animate one set during plane mode and another different one that acted as IK feet for the GERWALK and Battroid.
I carved the missile bay doors too, adding a control slider to the fighter mode panel. Next thing was to customize the control panel for the transformation. So I decided I wanted the sliders to look like the VF-1 from the original Macross series, with three letters, G for GERWALK, F for Fighter and B for Battroid, that would slide up and down when you dragged the sliders.
Then I made the drivers for the plane to roll, yaw and pitch so you don’t have to touch the actual aleiron bones. That way it’s faster and cleaner, and the control panel can be attached to the plane or to the origin so it can be animated in a different window, whatever the animator prefers.
I had previously learned how to make the wheels of a car stick to the ground. That was going to be implemented in this bad boy, but I had to go back and re-do the whole thing, then make a test with a cilinder and a wheel to make it work, then re-do the whole thing when I realized three wheels needed a different behaviour. This took time and effort but it was worth it!
Finally, some more fixes with the inner mechanisms, added struts, sliders and pivots for it to rotate realistically. I made yet another video I’m still thinking if I’ll render or not of the plane landing and the wheels turning correctly. But it looks so cool!! Maybe I’ll just render it with the wild colours.
Ok, so what’s next?
I have two options: I can call it a day on this part of the project and go learn how to UV-map and texture it. Ooooor. I can stick around a bit longer and refine the whole model to be as spectacular as it can be. I mean making the mechanisms look good, powerful and filled with pivot points, hydraulic pistons and the like. Add the geo for strobe lights and navigation lights. Add little pieces of geo to break the toy look and make it look bigger and meaner.
Yeah. I think I’ll go with that. It won’t be a lot more geo though. I want my computer to be able to render it! But I’ll make sure it looks awesome up close and the mesh is nice and sharp. Then the normal and bump maps should take care of the rest.
So stay tuned for the Mark V! the Hi-res model 😉