Uniblab, and parenting questions

Quick animation test

I have been working at Amazon part time recently, and I started thinking about robots, and how robots were imagined in the 1960s and 70s, especially the Jetsons. I decided to model Uniblab from the Jetsons and put him in an Amazon warehouse.

I started off by looking to see if anyone else had modeled Uniblab. I found one version as an STL model for 3D printing, so I used that as a starting point, but I ended up almost completely remodeling it because I noticed it didn’t look exactly like the character from the cartoon. This may have caused some of the problems I had, looking back at it. The model had been separated into pieces for printing, so I had to put it back together. Nothing was centered, there were no origin points, or pivot points, no materials, and the scale was huge. I remodeled it, looking at the cartoon for reference. I found that the cartoon was drawn a little bit differently in each scene, and the joints did things they looked like they shouldn’t be able to do, so I had to take some liberties with my modeling.

I used to use Lightwave 3D in my career. I had done some characters in Lightwave, but Blender is a bit different. When I was started setting up parenting, I ran into some really weird, unexpected problems. There’s a lot more to think about in Blender. I had used the mirror modifier on a few things, and that got messed up. But things started moving around when I tried to animate the head. The eyes rotated around the head, parts flew off the head. I figured some of this out, but in some cases I just joined things to the head instead of parenting.
One of the problems I had was with the head’s position. I had moved it into place, but when I applied transforms, the head shifted to the right. There was this distance that I couldn’t get rid of. I wanted to zero everything out, but that distance on the X axis just wouldn’t go away. I managed to get everything to zero by using deltas, but it was still there.

I finally managed to fix this by moving the head in Edit mode, but it was very frustrating. Is there a way to easily fix this? set everything to zero?

One thing I was especially pleased with is the sound wave monitor in his chest. I did this with an animated grease pencil stroke tied to the voiceover track. It’s not an actual soundwave, but it’s a cartoon character, and it reacts to the sound. I tried to find a way to visualize the actual sound, but couldn’t find one. I used the time offset modifier. Why don’t grease pencil strokes have shape keys? I was disappointed to find that I can’t keyframe the points in the stroke either.

Any helpful tips would be appreciated.

First and, in my humble opinion, probably most important point: apply transformations to your objects whenever possible if you want to avoid problems with objects that have complex dependencies.

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Yes, that’s what was trying to do, but doing that caused problems. This was probably because I positioned the parts in Object mode instead of Edit mode which made the origin points all wrong. But I just couldn’t figure out why some things went haywire. I was saying “why is that happening?” all night.

Your problems are difficult to clarify from the pictures alone. You probably should upload a trimmed down version of your blend file here, so that someone can take a look at it and give you more specific help.

I worked on this a bit more, made it toon shaded with outlines, and uploaded it to Blend Swap: https://blendswap.com/blend/30665

Originally, I wanted to see what Uniblab would look like in real life, with realistic materials, but I also wanted to mess around with toon shading, line art, and Freestyle lines.

Here’s another test animation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjLDb0ZzRL4
I just added some noise to some of the rotation channels, so the animation isn’t great, but it demonstrates the how it works.
I haven’t done too much character animation in Blender. I couldn’t figure out how to display the waveform of the voice track in sync with the graph editor so that I could visually place keyframes in sync with the audio. Also, I wasn’t able to get smooth playback in the viewport in sync with the audio, so my noise ended up being way too much. Any tips on that?


A quick note, sadly you seems quite advanced …
It’s really not simple to do character animation with regular object.
The best practice is to make an armature and have a bone hierarchy inside.
Finally each objects can be parented to their coresponding bones.

Then it’s much easier to reset animation if needed, and work with animation on the overall.

It’s manageable by parenting objects, but next time try making an armature and things will get better !

Yeah, blender doesn’t allow for that yet, but you might use this addon, if the sequencer display isn’t enough.

Good luck !

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Thanks for letting me know about that add-on. I’ll check it out.

I didn’t see any reason to add bones to this since it’s not an organic character. Setting up a skeleton with all the constraints necessary to keep parts from bending where they shouldn’t seems like a whole lot of work for no reason. Why would I do that? That’s not something I had a problem with.

The problem was the objects’ origin points not being right. The original stl model that I started with was arranged for 3D printing, not animating, so nothing was where it should have been. I moved them into place in object mode instead of Edit mode, and then tried to parent them. Even changing the origin points didn’t help. I managed to figure it out and fix it in Edit mode.

I’ve been working on the toon shaded version of this. I recreated the conference room from Spacely Sprockets in 3D with flat toon shading using all procedural textures. The two high rise buildings seen in the window are also 3D, but look like painted background art. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.