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Alien Assault

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Final year animation done in Maya. Mainly looking for feedback from animators, but I welcome all reviews, as they will help my project evaluation.
If you leave comments, please tell me if you are an animator, or a casual viewer. What did you like, hate and why? How could I improve it in the future? This will all help me in my evaluation.

Two soldiers attempt to flank aliens who have taken up defensive positions and are readying their own counter strike.

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Heyoop mate. Really good effort. Better than stuff I did at University!

First of all, it's very dark. Did you use linear workflow? You should look that up, if not. It'll help.

I'd expect to hear more background noise, it's cheap to add and would give you more of a war-zone feel.

From a staging perspective, it's a little hard to tell where the characters are in relation to one another. You could have used a wider, establishing shot to start with and set out the players and the set. It's not clear if there's two alien enemies, or if you've cut in time but stayed with the same alien. It's not clear where the crawling alien is, what spatial relationship he bears to the hero characters, and therefore what danger he's putting them in. I'd have introduced the weapon earlier, as the aliens don't look like they pose any danger.

The voices are distracting - not a knock on your voice, it's as much that without a decent audio mix they don't sound like they're part of the scene. Unless it was a submission requirement, you could have left them out and heightened the drama with hand signals.

Animation-wise, one thing to watch for is locked holds on both characters and cameras. When you have to be keyframe-efficient to get something done quickly, a camera is a very easy thing to add ambient motion to, and reduces the impact of "locked" characters. Also breaking up the animation, even if you keep the locks, so that not every part of the body locks at once, is a good idea when trying to work quickly and efficiently. You're missing breakdowns too, like when he turns his head and says he needs to change position, that looks like a straight slide across one axis (the turn axis, usually y), so it needs at least one other axis involved, usually x or the "nod" axis with a breakdown - see the Richard Williams' head turn examples. I'd involve all three axes and then break their timings up. Watch out for the alien's knee as he jumps, too, it breaks. You need a pole vector or leg roll control to keep that in check.

I hope that helps man, tried to be as constructive as possible! All the best.

Chitch responds:

Thanks! Some excellent points in there. I had set my Output profile to Linear sRGB. I guess I had just not fully understood what I was doing there. I've made a note of that, and that'll be some good reading to do and implement into my other project I'm working on.
The ambient noise, I was trying to get it so these soldiers were in a section where the main battle had already moved from, so the war-zone sounds would be further in the distance, but meta story doesn't really carry. Possibly an establishing shot showing a larger area of the city, with the battle raging elsewhere?
Regards to the staging, on another watch, I see what you mean. I was blinded by having been working on it in the viewport and knew where everything was, forgetting that people who will watch this will not know the layout and spacing, which will also point out flaws in my storyboard, then.
For the alien weapon, something along the lines of the alien tinkers with it before moving into it's final position? So the audience is aware of this item on it's wrist?
Breaking up the animation is a great idea, too. Again, it's something I'll be implementing into my other project now.
Thanks for the excellent feedback, it's going to help my evaluation massively

I'm an animator who also uses Maya.

Overall, this was pretty neat. The designs and textures were pretty good and the lighting was appropriate. If I had to offer a suggestion, it would be to add more subtle movements to the character animations. For example, when someone's head turns, what does the rest of their body do? You could add slight motion in each spine joint to make it feel more natural. Try not to leave a character completely still for any period of time; even the slightest idle motion will make it look better.

Chitch responds:

Thank you, this is exactly what I'm after!
I don't know how I missed that! I had been trying to add secondary motion into the M60 when the character lowers the weapon. The weight of the weapon pulling down and the soldier trying to correct his balance of it, so I don't know how I didn't realise I hadn't done that.
Thank you for pointing that out. I have another project I am currently working on and I'm ensuring that there is no static moments on the characters. Doubly so, now!