ARTC312 Introduction to 3-D Digital Animation, Esperanza Guevara, Fall 2019 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTC312 Introduction to 3-D Digital Animation, Esperanza Guevara, Fall 2019

Course Description

Introduction to 3-D Digital Animation will provide students with a further understanding of character performance through multiple short assignments through out the semester, as well as one monologue piece and one dialogue piece. Each assignment is meant to build up the student’s knowledge and confidence in using Maya and character rigs, while also providing an expanded understanding of timing, staging, lip-sync and character performance.

Course Notes

Attendance to class is very important for course completion. Students are expected to keep up with all assignments. It is imperative that students complete their assignments on time due to the complexity and time needed for each assignment as the semester progresses. Students are also expected to participate in class by giving constructive feedback to their classmates.


Students are expected to use a sketchbook for thumbnails of their monologue and dialogue pieces as well as gesture drawings for their weekly assignments.

Required Software

Assignments are expected to be completed in Autodesk Maya.

Grading Criteria

Attendance and Participation 15%
Weekly Assignments 20%
Midterm 20%
Final 40%
Sketchbook 5%

Evaluation of Student Work

Punctuality: Late assignments will be marked down.
Topic: Did the student stick to the subject matter of the assignment?
Execution: Did the student clearly communicate their intent?
Skill: Did the student apply what was taught in lecture and class to their assignment?

Graduate Students
Students in MFA, MA, and Post-Bac programs are expected to complete additional assignments and to produce work at a level appropriate for students in a graduate program. They are graded accordingly and, if they successfully complete all course requirements for graduate students, receive graduate-level credit for the course.

Course Schedule

This is a rough outline of the assignments for the semester. They may be subject to change. Please keep up with the weekly assignments and homework as they will increase up in difficulty and time needed in order to complete them.

Week 1 Class 1 (9/10): Introduction and Maya Refresher
Review of Maya software.
Assignment: Using two objects, animate one of the following scenarios:

  • One scares the other
  • One chases the other
  • Hide and seek
  • Volleyball Match

Minimum 4 seconds, maximum of 7 seconds.
Bring in a playblast of your completed object assignment. Due 9/17

Week 1 Class 2 (9/12): Working in the Graph Editor
Review how to use the graph editor.
Lab: Continue to work on object animation.
Bring in a playblast of your completed object assignment.

Week 2 Class 3 (9/17): Monologue Selections and Recording Reference
Critique object character animation. Focus on acting, character performance, pantomime, and narrative.
Assignment: Full Body Reach (100 frames) Due 9/24
Bring in three possible selections for your monologue piece. Each selection should be 5-8 seconds long. Record reference of yourself or a classmate acting out your three selections. We will review them in class and pick one. Due 9/24

Week 2 Class 4 (9/19): Monologue Selections and Recording Reference
In class practice on recording reference to a prerecorded piece of audio. Bringing something new and creative to a prerecorded piece.
Lab: If time permits, work on reach or continue to research/edit monologue clips in class.

Week 3 Class 5 (9/24): Previz and Bringing in Reference into Maya
Critique reach assignment. We will review each student’s three selections and vote on the best one to reference. How to bring in video reference and audio into Maya and getting to know bipedal rigs. In class, get to know the rig you will use for your monologue.
Assignment: Stair Climb (120 frames) Due 10/01
Using your reference, block out six key poses for your piece. Bring in playblasts of your work in progress. Due 10/01

Week 3 Class 6 (9/26): Previz Continued
Bring in your work in progress of your previz to lab. There will be individual critiques for each student at their station.

Week 4 Class 7 (10/01): Linear Pass and Phonemes
Critique stair climb. In class, practice blocking out phonemes. Learn to make phoneme shelves.
Homework: Continue to add breakdowns to your piece. Begin to focus on facial animation. Bring in a playblast of your work in progress. Due 10/08

Week 4 Class 8 (10/03): Linear Pass and Phonemes Continued
Bring a mirror to class to view yourself making the phoneme shapes. In lab assignment, pose your rig expressing 12 phonemes. Due at the end of class.

Week 5 Class 9 (10/08): Spline, Timing and Hands
Review of the importance of hands and their expressiveness. Learn to create shelves for hand poses.
Assignment: Pick six hand pose reference images and pose a rig. Due 10/15
Continue to work on your monologue piece. Bring in a playblast of your work in progress. Due 10/15

Week 5 Class 10 (10/10): Spline, Timing and Hands Continued
: Continue to work on hand poses and/or spline of your monologue.

Week 6 Class 11 (10/15): Polish Spline
Critique hand poses. In class we will go over your work in progress of your monologue piece.
Assignment: Character Sneak (200 frames) Due 10/22
Be prepared to turn in your final version of your monologue piece. Also, have a progress reel of all assignments. Due 10/24

Week 6 Class 12 (10/17): Polish Spline
Continue to work on your monologue piece and other assignments in order to assemble your mid term demo reel. Due 10/24

Week 7 Class 13 (10/22): Midterm Preparation
Critique character sneak. In class critique of monologues and one on one time.
Homework: Have your progress reel and monologue ready to present and turn in to me at the beginning of class. DUE 10/24

Week 7 Class 14 (10/24): MIDTERM
Presentation of student’s progress reels and finished monologue pieces.

Week 8 MIDTERM BREAK (October 26 - November 3)
Homework: Over the break, pick three selections, 6-10 seconds long each, for a dialogue piece. You will need to have two visible characters.

Week 9 Class 15 (11/05): Selecting Your Dialogue Piece and Eyes
In class we will review your selections and vote on the best selection for your dialogue. We will also review eyes and their importance to performance.
Assignment: Animate a close up of eyes. Find reference 3-5 seconds long. Due 11/07
Record reference of either yourself or a classmate acting out your dialogue piece. Bring in a list of assets you will need for your piece. Due 11/07

Week 9 Class 16 (11/07): Reviewing Reference Video
Critique assignment and review your reference footage and give feedback for areas of improvement.

Week 10 Class 17 (11/12): Previz and Staging
In class we will review staging and learn how to use the camera sequencer in Maya.
Homework: Using your reference, block out six key poses for each character including a minimum of two to a maximum of five shot changes. Due 11/19

Week 10 Class 18 (11/14): Previz and Staging
In class we will continue to work on blocking and give feedback on your progress.

Week 11 Class 19 (11/19): Pushing Poses and Blocking
We will have in class critique and feed back of your blocked poses. Is there any room to push any of your poses?
Assignment: Animate a push, pull or lift. (240 frames) Due 11/26
Continue to breakdown your poses. Focus on body.

Week 11 Class 20 (11/21)
Work on the push, pull or lift assignment or refine blocking on your dialogue piece.

Week 12 Class 21 (11/26): Linear Pass
We will critique your push, pull or lift animation as well as look at your work in progress for your blocking.
Homework: Continue to refine your dialogue piece. Begin to focus on facial animation. Be prepared to show progress on 12/03.

Week 12 Class 22 (11/28): Linear Pass and Facial Shelves
Demo on how to do facial shelves.
In class make facial shelves for each character of your dialogue piece.

Week 13 Class 23 (12/03): Spline First Pass
Bring in your Maya files to work in class. We will have one on one meetings for feedback and help.
Homework: Continue to refine your piece. Due 12/10

Week 13 Class 24 (12/05): Spline First Pass
Continue to work on the first spline pass in class.

Week 14 Class 25 (12/10): Spline Polish
Continue to work on your spline polish in class.
Optional Assignment: Go back to an older assignment and improve it to elevate your grade.
Homework: Continue to refine your dialogue piece. Bring in a playlist and your Maya file to lab for feedback. Bring in for 12/12

Week 14 Class 26 (12/12): Spline Polish Continued
In class we will look at everyone’s work in progress and give feedback on everyone’s progress.

Week 15 Class 27 (12/17): Final Prep
We will have one on one meetings to go over anything else you need to prepare for the final.
Homework: For the final, have playblasts of your polished dialogue piece ready to turn in. In addition, have a progress reel of ALL animation completed this semester.
DUE 12/19

Week 15 Class 28 (12/19): FINAL 4:30-7:15 PM, Jules Maidoff Palazzo
Final project presentations!

Recommended Texts

In compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act Textbook Provision, SACI provides, when possible, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and retail price of required and recommended reading. Note: Many required and recommended texts are available for loan or can be consulted in the SACI Worthington Library.

The Illusion of Life: Ollie Johnston, Frank Tomas, Walt Disney Productions, 1981
ISBN: 9780896594982 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Thinking Animation: Bridging the Gap Between 2D and CG: Angie Jones (Author) and Jaime Oliff, Cengage Learning PTR, 2006
ISBN: 9781598632606 (Retail price: $39.99)

Timing for Animation: Harold Whitaker, John Halas, Focal Press, 2009
ISBN: 9780240521602 (Retail price: $35.95)

Character Animation Crash Course!: Eric Goldberg, Silman-James Press, 2008
ISBN: 9781879505971 (Retail price: $35)


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