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Arrow MMD Animation Video Finished in only Six Weeks!


A Feature Article by Reggie Dentmore on LearnMMD.comThe making of…
My new “Arrow” MMD Animation
and video!

About six weeks ago I was listening to Melanie’s “Freedom Knows My Name” CD and the “Arrow” song caught my imagination… “Wouldn’t that make a nice MMD animation… a “Diva” song… for an MMD model to sing?” … ?

The Process…

I created the animation following these steps…

The Soundtrack…

An MMD animation will often begin with a soundtrack... make it usnig Audacity software!

Audacity audio-editing software lets you make an MMD soundtrack. Easy to export the WAV file from Audacity.

I started the project by creating the soundtrack. I hard-wired the line-out from my stereo receiver to the line-in on my old Dell XP computer. I opened Audacity® audio editing software and recorded the song from my CD. … I wanted the song to be only about two-minutes long, so I cut out the central 2 verses from the song (my apologies to the song-writer Cheryl Wheeler!) … leaving me with the nice first verse and the final verse and song-ending as Melanie recorded it.

I dug into my old saved-WAVs folder and found an applause-track that I could add to my Arrow song… I did a Fade-in and Fade-out to both the beginning and the end of the applause tracks… worked-out very well.

As a final step in Audacity, I selected all tracks, Control-a, and chose Mix and Render from the Tracks menu. … then I did an Export As… to create my final WAV file.

The Stage Set-up…

I was able to assemble the stage and the model, Haku, to match my imagination. I wanted a simple “singer with her guitar” on a small stage. My old Auditorium stage is what I see in my mind’s eye. I used dummybones to hold and position the pink drapes to cover the stage’s normal red ones.

The model…

I chose to use the original Animasa Haku Yowane. I usually DO use the Animasa models… and Haku seems like the LEAST of them… something about the model seems less finished, less developed. I figured if ANYONE needed love… wished to fall in love… it was our Haku.

The Pose…

The actual pose of the model was the most important element of the composition. I used one of my “wooden stool” accessories… in the “wood” finish… and found that it was a bit too tall for Haku to sit upon comfortably. I set its size to 90%… perfect. I Googled guitar player on stool pose and worked with those images as I positioned Haku and her guitar “just so”.

Here's the raw stage set-up with Haku striknig the pose in my MMD animation.

Haku isn’t exactly human-proportioned… so ANY pose attempting to duplicate a human’s pose must be modified accordingly. I am happy with her pose. You may note that the guitar digs into her right leg, a little… but it looked better than having the guitar sitting on top of her leg. In “the real world” the guitar WOULD impress into your I had to make a capo in Sketchup and convert it to a .x model.leg, a little.

In doing my research, I found that the guitar needed to have a capo on its fourth fret. I went into Sketchup and, unable to FIND one, decided to make one…. pretty easy. I made it huge so I could reduce it to a tiny size with smooth curves.

The Camerawork…

Sure… the music and the model are important, but I feel the Camerawork really MAKES this MMD animation. In my works, I keep the camera moving; almost never does my camera sit still. … With the model sitting still on her stool, the only way to add “action” to the scene was with camera action. I had to be careful not to make it TOO active; Arrow is a quiet song!

The Effects…

I remembered that our Arizona had written a tutorial about the Spotlight Effect and I had always wanted to try it out. When The Spotlight Effect is powerful... and power-consuming! It slowed my computer to a crawl.I started using Spotlight, I discovered that OTHER shader effects were blown-away by Spotlight… even the standard MMD lighting controls were run-over by it. … “Well, that makes it easy.” No other effects to worry about. … Except I did add SvDOFSvDOF is a wonderful effect that controls the camera's depth of focus. to get a nice depth-of-focus effect. I changed the effect’s values with each camera-cut as dictated by the new scene’s requirements… softening the sharp folds of the drapes while keeping Haku in the focus.

I decided to be a little creative with the Spotlight effect and use it during the camera-cut/scene darkshadowtransitions. At each of those, I set the Spotlight at only 40% (dim light) and gave it 7 frames to come up to 100% (full brightness). It adds a softness to the abrupt camera-cut. Actually, I thought I’d use the Blackout effect for this… but Spotlight keeps Blackout from working.

A test video…

I made a Test Video at this point to see what I had created, I mean… it seemed, now, like I was mostly DONE with the project! Lights… Camera… Action! … Oh yeah, I didn’t have any “action” yet!

The Animation…

The Lip-sync was my first step in the animation. Haku would be on-camera with close-ups for every second of the animation… the I do my lip-sync work as a separate PMM dance... so I am not distracted by camera motions or stage elements.lip-sync had to be “nice”. I did the lip-sync as a new PMM file… a new animation… so as to have no distractions as I worked on the mouth motions. Haku Yowane has only a few mouth-slider options and I found myself using several sliders at a time to get the shapes I wanted. I spent about five or six hours on the lip-sync, being able to tolerate only an hour or so, a night.  I posted a video of just the lip-sync and soundtrack. You can DOWNLOAD the lip-sync and Soundtrack zip for your OWN use. That download includes the soundtrack as an Mp3… two are included: with and I used an OP, Outside Parent, settnig to join the guitar's dummybone to Haku's right wrist.without applause.

The first thing I realized as I considered the animation was that I needed the guitar to stay with Haku’s hands as her body moved. I decided to attach the guitar to Haku’s right wrist bone with OP, Outside Parent. … I knew I wanted to have Haku hold the guitar with the third- and little-fingers of her right hand firmly planted onto the guitar’s pic-shield… so that her thumb. index- and middle-fingers would be free to pluck and strum the guitar. That OP-bond is solid… the guitar stuck to her right wrist like it was glued there! ( I used OP to attach the capo’s dummybone to that right wrist, too, so it would stay in place on the moving guitar.)

I watched several videos of guitarists on stools to see how their body’s swayed as they played. My first action was to set Haku’s right leg to moving slightly left/right with the beat… a very slight motion. I next rolled her lower-body a little left and a little right with the beat… rolled her upper-body with a little MORE motion as the main motion… and set her head and neck into action, as well … all slight motions… I copy/pasted a few frames at a time to fill out the length of the entire 3900-frame animation. … a test video I made for my own use was astounding… Haku was looking very-much alive and “natural” in that test!

My "Arrow" folder became full of files!

My “Arrow” folder was accumulating files as I worked. ALL of what you see there is inside my Arrow folder… including several PMM’s that I used like scratch-paper to build motions which I then copy/pasted into my main saved file.

I found that the Spotlight Effect overwhelmed my computer… it was tough to open the dance and scroll-through the frames… very laggish! … It was easier to have another dance with no effects in which I created my various motions and then paste those back into the Main dance. So, as I said, I had my MAIN dance, with all the camera and effects in-place,  into which I pasted my added-touches as I created them in other PMM’s.

The Guitar Chords…

A fingered-chord... and the capo!Haku is holding a guitar… and needed to look like she could PLAY it. THIS was a project, by itself. Online I found this guitar tablature... a list of the chords and the lyrics.I wanted her action to look realistic… and I wanted her to be fingering the proper chords! A quick search found me the guitar tablature for the song. I wished for actual “sheet music” but THIS is what I could find… and… armed with that information, I set about looking-up an image for each Reference for an A7-chord.of those chords and then making a saved-pose for Haku as she fingered each of those chords! With that done, I could simply advance the frames up to each required chord-change and paste the appropriate chord-pose into place.

A few of the chords, in order to newbonebe fingered properly by my inhuman Haku, required me to move her arm, elbow, and shoulder as I got her fingers to the proper frets and her wrist rolled into a realistic position. I was careful not to over-twist wrist, arm, shoulder or elbow as I worked the wrist into the required positions. (It seems that another joint in the hand was needed… a bone with which you could realistically fold the palm of the hand between the thumb-line and the row of knuckles… ) … The result of these moves is that the pasted chord-pose change make her arms “flap” a little. I decided it was not too objectionable as I couldn’t FIX it without over-stressing her wrist, and such, or accidentally moving her fingers into the wrong frets. So… flap-away!

Finger-pickin’ good!

NOW I had this MMD animation almost complete… the sound, the stage, the set, the model… the swaying… the chord-fingering… NOW it was time to think about the right-hand fingering action.

thumbI started with the right thumb… getting it to hit that bass string as per the song. The visual oscilloscope we can see was a big help…. but often that bass note is soft and I had to listen to the piece as I found the correct place to drop-in the visual action. As with the finger-chords operation, I did not have to “do” the entire song… just those moments when the guitar was actually in-scene/on-screen.

After making the thumb motions, I created a Index/middle-finger scratching-motion that I could copy/paste to create that nice fine-finger action. ALL of the finger motions have an interpolation S-curve… as do almost ALL of Haku’s motions. But the thumb-action curve has a cane-shaped curve for a quick-action at the beginning of each thumb motion.

FINALLY…

With everything in place… all of the motions, the fingering, the effects… Halu sings Cheryl Wheeler's "Arrow" in my new MMD animation.everything… I made a final pass, or two… or three!… to make fine adjustments to Haku’s motions… eyes, head… looking up. looking down… all gentle motions.

I added that free-standing microphone that I had made from a Sketchup model by “Paul”.

and… I decided “I’m through!” … Fini!… That’s it!

I did my final Render to AVI and watched it, like twenty times, before deciding to upload it to YouTube.

Enjoy “Arrow”!

 


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