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This article represents an overview of my students work putted together as 3D animation students reels, beginner level with “Ion Creangă” State Pedagogical University (UPSC) from Chișinău, Moldova under Faculty of Fine Arts and Design (FAPD), Department of Animation and Game Design.

UPSC is the 5th university where I’m designing and teaching animation courses and it has been a great pleasure to be part of this creative fine arts environment. In fact, UPSC opened up the first  3-year animation bachelor study program from Moldova in 2023.

Throughout year 1 of study, animation students are being introduced to the fundamentals of both traditional and digital arts. During the 1st semester they are learning the basics of drawing, painting, storyboarding and 3D modeling; then the 2nd semester comes with two specialized 3D animation courses and here is where I’m kicking in 🙂

I designed and taught 3D animation for beginners, as a hybrid delivery in a combination of campus & online and I had a class of 15 amazing students. The teaching software was Autodesk Maya.

Beginner level in 3D animation

In simple terms, animation is the art of visual storytelling, the art of giving life to characters. When getting started with 3D character animation there’s a certain progression that needs to be followed, both artistically and technically. The complexity of the rig as the character’s appearance definitely sets up a learning path.

3D animation beginner learning path

Under the broad range of the animation industry, the character can be anything in terms of physical appearance, from an object to an animal, from a human to a creature; in essence the appearance doesn’t really matter. The animator’s job is to create the illusion of life in a way that the character appears to have its own personality and attitude.

A beginner 3D animation student must start with simple and anamorphic characters, non-human characters resembling basic forms. Our attention is focused on the motion itself in terms of physical believability such as speed vs acceleration, time vs space, weight vs force.

3D animation student reel Nr 1, The Ball and the Cube

I started the 3D animation path in Autodesk Maya as an Introduction to Animation, with a total of 60 hours class time.

Throughout this introductory course the main characters were a ball and a cube. The goal of the course is to understand the physics aspects of a motion but at the same time, to create the illusion of characters in motion, not moving objects.

We used the following Maya animation rigs:

  1. Basic Ball Rig by Mothman-TD
  2. Johnny the Box Rig by Raveen.R

As a beginner animation student the most important thing is to start to SEE and CONNECT the dots. Animation principles can explain and guide the animation artist how to make a character appear alive on the screen. Then, physics principles can explain how objects move in the real world based on cause and effect relationship. But together, they are a powerful observation skill!

Check out the UPSC students animation reel 2023 as a middle term, 1’st time ever animating in Autodesk Maya and first time ever animating anything. For more behind the scenes check out my Artstation page here. 

3D animation student reel Nr 2, Tailor and Piranha Plant

My 2nd introductory 3D animation course was designed as an Introduction to an Animation Workflow, the length of the course was 90 hours class time.

This course takes a beginner animation student to the next level of understanding, a level which I personally call the “confident beginner” . At this point all students are familiar with the software and I introduce the fundamentals of visual storytelling. The aim of the course is to present an entire shot workflow from idea generation, to research, to storyboard, to final animation.

I designed the course as a basic framework of an animation shot from a pre-production and production points of view. But also, it’s the first time when students are introduced to secondary actions and follow through, basically the first time practicing all the animation principles.

Throughout this 90 hours course students used the following two animation rigs:

  1. Basic Ball Rig with Tail by Mothman-TD
  2. Piranha Plant Rig by Rodrigo Lopez

Each animation student had to create an independent animation shot based on a given story pitch. The animation-shot was approximately 6-8 seconds long involving 2 characters: Tailor and Piranha Plant. The title is called  “One Day in the Jungle” and the theme is “adventure”.

At the end of the academic year, each student presented their personal work, visually and reflectively, they showcased the step-by-step learning process of creating a 3D animation scene. It was an event organized over two days full of emotions and exceptional results.

Maya rigs for beginner animation

A royalty-free 3D character or a Rig is required under the learning process in order to create your own animations. A rig’s features for a beginner-level needs to be easy-to-use as controls that allow students to focus on movement. But at the same time gives flexibility in adding personality into a character’s motion.

These are the Maya rigs that I used during my courses, all of them are free rigs:

  1. Basic Ball rig by Mothman-TD
  2. Johnny the Box rig by Raveen. R
  3. Ball with Tail rig by Mothman-TD
  4. Piranha Plant rig by Rodrigo Lopez
  5. Box rig by Rodrigo Lopez
  6. Lighting Bolt rig by Candy Rigs

Checkout 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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