Underwater School Of Fish

This is the final group project in my Intro to Maya class, taught by Neil Owen, I worked in a group together with Martin Karlsson. We were given free reign with Maya 1.0 and the gained knowledge from our Intro class. After a couple of long brainstorming sessions we decided to go for an underwater scene. We story-boarded out our animation after extensive image research…

The piece got an award for Best Character Animation in our graphics department’s semesterly student contest.

We encountered several challenging problems during the course of this project which made it a great learning experience. The underwater scene demanded caustics and this was achieved with the help of a set up with a brownian texture and utility nodes.

We had story-boarded a school of fish and before the advent of instanced particles this required an insane work ethic to get that done. This is definitely not so much a technical solution or advice as much as it is a display of the work ethic and determination :-) .

One fish was first animated on a path and it’s motion was tweaked until I was satisfied with it. I then duplicated the curve upstream graph and manually tweaked the shape of the curve to get the motion randomness of a school. Additionally, each fish’s animation was manually changed and tweaked until I reached my final result.

Knowing practically nothing about MEL at this time (Intro to Maya) this is the way I went about doing it and today one can only smile at the insanity I went through. Image is how the scene looked near completion with all the paths visible…

The general approach to creature animation was using path animation with nonlinear deformers and for the first time touching on skeletal setups.
The final piece ended up being rendered in several passes for efficiency and control in post and, actually, to be able to render it at all in time for the presentation. Luckily, I took a Digital Video class taught by Jeff Morris alongside Intro Maya.  Below is a movie of the final piece.