Imagine yourself in a dream like room. Nothing but a table sits in front of you, on it, stacks of paper lie scattered. Suddenly, your imagination comes to life. This was the premise of a semester long project taking the focus of seven group members and myself.
The idea came first as a simple animation to be done in a simplistic, high-key format, in the attempt to create something beautiful and joyous to watch. We decided to play with the subject of origami. Origami is taking something plain, such as a piece of paper, and creating a piece of intricate and delicate artwork. How would you replicate this in CG? We found the subject unique and intriguing enough for us to develop something that would challenge our skills and thought process. We constructed a sequence where a bird would entice other natural instances in hope to capture a sense of beauty and wonder.
After the idea was pitched to professors and fellow students, the concept of virtual reality was introduced. As the world of VR is expanding in general, professors pushed for as many groups as possible to dip into it... and so we did! We were all very aware and comfortable with the systems maya allowed, but we were now tasked to bring such assets and their animations into a real-time engine. None of us had ever worked with such an engine, so it was a bit of a learning curve. More on the matter regarding my personal tasks is discussed below.
The following is a breakdown of my tasks and assignments throughout this project.
The process of searching for our bird subject began. We found one of intriguing shape and form in a book titled "Advanced Origami" by Michael LaFosse.
My first task of the project was to model our main subject. Using the above as reference, I questioned... How in the heck do I go about modeling something made of paper? My answer was, though maybe not ideal, one that I went about using... and it worked! I would model it, as paper. Paper is flat, much like a plane in maya. Each fold on the bird, is meant to be a flat area of paper. My process, though extensive, was to take a plane and, using the merge vertex tool, construct the bird plane by plane, much like an intricate puzzle.
I then turned to rig the bird. While I did so I kept in mind how we would want him to move, a mix between how both a bird would move and how paper would move in air. I wanted to make sure the rig for the bird in flight was done first so that it could pass down the pipeline.
Next I turned to rigging the folding paper via blend shapes. As origami animation is often not seen, finding references and tutorials on how to "fold" such a mesh would occur. The mesh had to increase in the number of edges as it progressed as to reflect the "creases" of paper. Three series of blend shapes were used. When animated, the first series would occur, then be replaced with the second series, which contained the additional edges. The final result simulated paper folding.
I finished the project helping implement all of our assets, with designated textures and animation, into the Unreal Engine. The process allowed me to learn about prioritizing UV sets for textures and light maps. Importing animated sequences done in Maya also proved to be challenging. A focus in the Unreal Blueprints (and helpful teammates) allowed for proper timing of different sequences.
The final product was an animated sequence, on loop, experienced in the Oculus VR headset.
Thank you to an extraordinary group, one I will always remember for years to come:
Ashley St John
Special Thanks to Carol LaFayette, Eric Ragan, and Joshua Seal for their input throughout the production's stages.