This initial Klanky the Robot short is a spoof of the AutoTrader.com "Whoosh" TV ad. In this film, Klanky is shopping for a replacement arm. The ad itself is pretty straightforward, with a humorous twist at the end. But the real fun starts as the credits roll, with hilarious Pixar-style "outtakes" that reveal Klanky's not-so-robust constitution during the making of the ad!
The short is not yet complete, but here are some
NOTE: You may need the DivX codec to view these clips.
This short was driven by the need to get the 3D model of Klanky built and rigged for character animation. I came up with the idea soon after the AutoTrader.com ad appeared on TV.
With a voice-over by veteran California actor Jack Powell and a musical score by Wisconsin composer S. Christian Collins, "Armed and Dangerous" sets the tone for upcoming work with Klanky, a home-made robot who isn't always as well-built as he should be.
One of the challenges I've faced on the "A&D" project is that Klanky, while being a biped like normal humans, really is unlike humans in a lot of important ways. For example, he is rigid from his pelvis to his neck, and doesn't bend along the spine like a human being. Also, a human's shoulders can shift around as the collarbones move. Not Klanky's!
This has led to some exploration into just how I can animate him with commercially available software without fighting the rig! Most of the available character animation software wants to bend the spine or move the shoulders in order to maintain a realistic balance in the character, but when that happens to Klanky, his torso gets out of alignment with his belt and intersects it horribly.
I needed an animation system for 3ds Max that would allow me to control all aspects of the animation without a lot of post-work fixing inappropriate movement of the rig.
A second issue I've had with other character animation systems is that they tend to be awkward to work with, in that you need to click in the viewport to animate various components of the character. In a complex scene, clicking on a certain finger or bone can be difficult.
I found the solution to these problems in a new character animation system called Automatron. It has been developed by professional animator Andy Murdock, who, like me, is working on his own big solo project, called LOR.
Automatron has walk-cycle generation tools that allow any kind of bipedal character, from human to robot, and you can control every aspect of the cycle. It has incredible forward- and inverse-kinematic controls that are fine-tuned to provide efficient animation of characters and props, and a fantastic control panel with controls for every joint on your character so you can animate without having to worry about picking the proper bone in the viewport.
Here's one of my early tests using Automatron, where Klanky walks up to a set of gymnastics rings and does a simple routine:
The animators out there will appreciate the fact that the walk up to the rings is done procedurally with Automatron's "Walkatron" walk-cycle generator, then I go to hand animation for the leap to the rings. This clip was mainly to practice with switching between forward- and inverse kinematic animation in Automatron, and was done in a couple of hours (this included time to refer to the video tutorials, since it was my first attempt at this kind of animation!). The digital frame readout is there so I could look for mistakes and know what frame they were on! That was done with my "Displays" plug-in for Max.
I can highly recommend Automatron, so please go check it out at the Lots Of Robots website!
Getting Klanky to talk has been an interesting challenge. Originally, Klanky's mouth was just a painted-on smile, which tended to creep out most people who saw him. This evolved into an actual mouth with movable teeth, but anyone who has ever done cartoon lip-sync will tell you that this really isn't enough to get good quality lip-sync animation. As a result, I added "lip devices" to Klanky, which amount to sliding shutters over his teeth. Here's the first test of Klanky talking for "Armed and Dangerous", using a voice processed through Propellerhead's "Reason" synthesizer:
Klanky the Robot® TM & Copyright 1975-2007 Tom Hudson