Robot for "Action Animation" (updated 11-5-06)

I’ve been watching a lot of the Bionicle animations over at and I got inspired to make my own “robot.” I wanted something that didn’t have toes or fingers or eyes or mouths or even hands so that I could do large sweeping animations (jumps, flips, fights, that sort of thing) without worrying about the details of hands and facial expressions and such. While working on this, I got a bit of an idea for Private Bob #2. But the biggest problem that people had with Private Bob #1 is that the colors and textures were “boring” or “lacking.” So I tried just working it out on my own, and I’m not completely satisfied. I liked the color scheme for Private Bob, but I’d like to make this character look “real.” Perhaps not photo realistic, but like he’s actually there, and solid. The best example I can think of is most of Sago’s work. It doesn’t look photo realistic by a long shot (not apologizing) but it looks solid and real, almost as if it was scultped and photographed. So perhaps photo realistic in that sense. And so now I’ve decided to just start a WIP thread and ask for opinions and thoughts and just help in general in getting my character to look “more real.”

Here is a render so far:

It’s got a couple of ray-traced spot lights and two hemis.

Animated Turntable

I’d like to keep the render-times as low as possible since he is intended for animation, but I realize that “real” comes at long render times. My ideal is a sort of half-way compromise, I guess. I realize this a kind of general question, but if those out there that make these “real” photos (perhaps Sago) could reply had spill some of their secrets I’d be very appreciative.

Thanks for any thoughts and help,


that robot’s got attitude.

looking good bro! That walkcycle is pretty slick.

To add to realism try making the robots reflective (doesn’t need to be a mirror, just a little bit of reflection). Then map a photo to your background so that the reflections have more interesting things in them.

You could also go all out and use YafRay and image based lighting.


Thanks. Ha ha, I was going to put out an excuse for the walk cycle saying “I just through it together really quickly and didn’t work that hard on it.”

The robot already has a bit of reflection, not much, but some. You say “map a photo to your background,” but what does that mean? I’ve heard that phrase thrown out so many times, but I don’t know exactly what that means. Simply put an image texture in the world settings? Or is there a way to get the image to reflect in him without it rendering in the background?

MagicMyshu: That’s pretty funny. Yeah, I guess he does.

I might finally break down and get Yafray. I’ve been doing “pure blender” for so long, I’d hate to break it now. Besides, aren’t Yafray render times really high?


EDIT: Dang, just looked up a post where I asked Sago how he got his effect. AO and depth of focus. Now I just need to work on the material some more.

very cool - great idea just keeping it simple to work on the animation aspect…

i agree the only thing i would improve is the texturing…it doesn’t look quite like metal…of course u are compromising and focusing on animation.

i think he means to use an hdr map-texture-thingy…i have very little experience with them myself so maybe this will help:

Yup, thats what I mean.

There are some tricks to do this. I’ll email you an example later.

the depth of focus looks a little out of focus…maybe just not so drastic of a change

theblenderboy: huh, that’s funny. I purposely made the depth of focus really strong so that it would be really obvious. I kind of like it that way. I guess it’s a taste thing. I am compromising for the animation, but I wouldn’t say I’m focusing on the animation. I really want my animations to look better (I’ve done the “simple for animation” style as long as I’ve been using Blender) and I’m more patient now with render times, and I just want to get better at making a nice render. Textures, yyyyeeess, but mostly lighting and rendering and basic material settings right now, once I’ve got those under better control, then I’ll start looking into textures. (I have the least amount of fun with unique, “hand-drawn” textures, so I’m saving that for last.)

I’m trying to cut down on render times so I fiddled with my area lamps and did two animation tests, one with AO and one with AO faked. The one with AO took 2.5 minutes per frame on average, and the one with AO faked took 1.5 minutes per frame on average. I like 'em both different, which is a plus (since I don’t just like the AO version better outright), but I think I still need to work a little on the lighting.

sketchy, thanks for the method, but I don’t know when I could use that. I actually turned mirror off, and like it fine. (I’m trying to go for the plastic look of legos, or something very close. Not metal.)

Animation test with AO (.mov 1.6 megs)

Animation test with AO faked (.mov 1.6 megs)

Thanks for looking,


very cool…i like it

and i agree with u

Holy cow. I totally hope this thread doesn’t sink back into the depths of the forum. The design of this robot is HIGHLY awesome, and the animations are sweet, too.

Personally, I LOVE the animation with the real AO, IMO, the faked doesn’t come close, and it’s definitely worth the extra minute. It makes it feel kinda soft and tangible, if that makes any sense. Obviously up to you, though.

i like your robot, nice stuff, you should try to do a game with it to kill all the bad guys… :slight_smile:
and the walk cycle is cool, looks more like human walk then the robot walk whitch means you really done it well!
do some more stuff with “him” and post it!!

Can you post a tut on how you rigged it?

Wow, Mrdodobird! I’m glad you like the robot so much. Your excitment is inspiring. I know exactly what you mean by “soft and tangible” (at least I think I do) and yes it’s only an extra minute in that scene, but if I were to make a really nice environment the render times will go through the roof (I should probably learn compositing with nodes). That’s why I’m trying to fake the AO. Hey I looked at one of your threads (I think it was the one for the spaceship from SBFP) and I saw you explained your lighting set-up! And it was simple! So I’m going to try it out and see what I can learn from that.

spacestrudel: A game? Weeeeeelll, no. Heh, I’m not into computer games. I’ll be working on him, so yeah, you can expect to see some more animation tests and renders here. (Ideally he’ll be in my next short.)

cowdude: A tutorial on how I rigged him? Maybe. I don’t know if I have the time (or interest, unfortunately) to write a tutorial right now. It’s really simple. His legs are a direct copy from the ludwig rig. His arms are just a two bone chain with an IK solver at the end (which I turned off for the animation, I usually animate arms in FK, meaning first the bisep, then the forearm). His body is just a basic chain of three bones, and his neck and head is a chain of two bones all FK. Very very very simple. You can get a lot out of that simple rig. I’d like very much to explain it more, but I don’t have the time. I guess you could read my “Learning to Walk” tutorial. It uses the Ludwig rig and it explains how to use FK in the arms in more detail. It’s a very very very very useful technique that’s simple, easy, and gives great results.

Thanks for all your interest and help,


Very nice! The animation is smooth, the physics realistic, keep up the good work!
peace out

Thanks. I’m trying to learn character animation.

make him dance! I was wathcing that turntable walkcycle and there was a beat from downstairs and I thought, “omg he has to dance disco styleeeeee!!!”
its a sweet model by the way, you might want to look into environment maps for the reflections.

Huh, I guess this can sink pretty far in a week. Anyway, I set up a bit more complicated of an animation in order to learn compositing nodes. The robot moves in front of and behind stuff, and there’s two camera angles. Plus it’s a large scene, so I wanted to work on lighting it. Anyway, after a lot of trouble, I came up with this animation that has faked AO in it.

Animation Test 3 – faked AO (.mov 5.9 megs)

And for any dial-uppers (the animation is kind of cool, he now has “weapons,” no enemies, but weapons) at half-size:

Animation Test 3 --faked AO (.mov 1.5 megs)

I think I got a little carried away by the animation. The arm motion in the run is kinda messed up, but I didn’t want to render it again. To get this render at a reasonable time, I rendered the floor shadow seperately and alpha-overed it in the sequencer. This version was not done with the nodes, because I had trouble with the nodes.

So here’s my problem when I tried compositing with nodes:I get a border around the composited passes. I’m attaching a screenshot of my node set up, and the resulting render.

I have “convert premul” pressed in the alpha over nodes. I found that taking the world setting out of the robot and scenery passes I could get the line to be thinner, but it was still there. And without a world setting I couldn’t use AO. I found that I could get a 3 minute render (on average) by using AO on the robot and the scenery and the floor, but rendering them seperately from each other. (This frame was rendered in 3 1/2 minutes.)

So how can I get that white border to go away? I searched on the message boards but could only find that pressing “convert premul” helped. But that doesn’t get rid of it entirely in my case.

free_ality: I’m glad you like him!
tigger: Mmmm, I don’t think this is a dancing robot. Why do so many animations have dancing in them?

Thanks for looking and for any help.