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This article represents an overview of my students work put together as an 3d animation reel, advanced level with Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUas) from the Netherlands, Faculty of Creative Media and Game Technologies, Visual Arts specialization, 2022.

I taught with BUas in 2022, and it’s the 4th university where I’m teaching. Under the 4-year bachelor’s program of Creative Media and Game Technologies I designed and taught concept art and 3D animation for year 2 students. But this article is just a brief look over the animation course throughout a 8-week duration.

Grounds for an advanced animation course

This 3D animation course is an advanced character animation for games done entirely in Autodesk Maya. The main goal was to create dynamic and action 3D animation and to learn the specific workflows.

The course started with a project proposal. Each animation student had to create a benchmark like a personal point of reference. The benchmark was acting like “a manual” for the look and feel of the animation, technical solutions, quality, etc. And the course goal was to find the appropriate pipeline in achieving all that.

Indeed, there was a lot of freedom in choosing a game title as a benchmark and my job as the teacher was to first of all to validate that their benchmark is reasonable or not. Then to guide students one step at the time. There were some big ideas, some too large, some too complex, but nevertheless the class animation reel turnout was extremely pro and engaging.

Student benchmark

The project benchmarking was more than just highlighting a favorite game. It was literally an animation style analysis, looking for appropriate animated scenes, finding behind the scenes and even finding relevant video references.

Just to name a few game titles which were our benchmark:

  • Final Fantasy VII Remake – benchmark for advanced moves style
  • NieR: Automata – benchmark for combat
  • God of War – benchmark for weapons manipulation
  • Kena Bridge of Spirits – benchmark for body mechanics
  • Mortal Kombat 11 – benchmark for combat animations
  • Spiderman Combat Finishers – benchmark for combat

3D Animation student reel, advanced level

Throughout the entire course each student was expected to deliver 2-3 animation clips and to showcase their personal workflow.

And once again, the animation course was project-based oriented and there was an enormous amount of time spent as 1:1 feedback because each shot was unique and absolutely everyone was using a different rig. We also spent quite some time on pre-production aspects for an animation shot, like searching and analyzing a life reference, rig testing, sketching the shot.

My teaching workflow

I also worked on my own animation, I demonstrated an entire shot from the early research to the final 3D animation. I choose to animate a sword fighting known as Guillotine Slash, the reference is created by Motion Actor Inc. as a motion material for creators such as games and animation.

Regardless of the complexity, style or rig, the overall 3D animation workflow is based on 4 stages:

  • Step 1. Blocking or steps – setting the main keys as postures and the overall motion rhythm
  • Step 2. Splining or breakdowns – connecting and reinforcing the key moments
  • Step 3. Refine – smoothing and cleaning the motion
  • Step 4. Polish – small adjustments and nudges of the overall animation, is the spark of life

On my Artstation you can check out more behind the scenes for Croco Warrior, animation sword fighting.

Maya rigs for advanced game animation

As I mentioned, each course participant used their own rig appropriate for the benchmark, and of course some rigs were more suitable than others, but that’s what an animation course it’s all about. So here are the main rigs used in this animation course. We used 2-3 more rigs for some testing but these are the main ones:

  1. Thor rig
  2. Military Girl rig
  3. Spiderman rig
  4. Azri rig
  5. Zelda rig
  6. Mathilda rig
  7. Fantasy Crocodile rig

As a note, one student actually created his own custom rig for the Super Smash Bros model of Cloud and that’s super amazing. A few others created quadrupeds animation but I’ll leave that for a different post.

Check out my Artstation

Cristina Zoica Dumitru

I teach digital art courses online and on-location. My mission is to challenge students to reach their maximum potential for creativity and authenticity.

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