This animation shows where (and when) a certain kind of plant grows its buds for flowers and new stalks, over the course of several years.

This animation was mocked up, tweaked, discussed, and completed within roughly three weeks.

hand drawn
line art of several stages at once

The instructor, Neil Bell, met with us and offered a single simple line drawing of a typical broadleaved, woody plant’s growth over several years, from a PowerPoint presentation in his class. Neil hoped we could create an animation to better convey several of these overlapping growth stages.

One developer, Warren Blyth, started a Flash version, but found it hard to modify the timing (and he accidentally set it up with nested movieClips, which makes it impossible to export as a movie in the end).

maya screenshot
the Maya workspace

Luckily, another developer, Nick Harper, was fluent in the magic of Autodesk Maya and created the animation you see above. Maya is a very complicated program (you might say it offers the complications of 6 different Photoshop programs in one), which is used by high end movie studios and video game developers. For example, much of this year’s hit movie The Avengers (from the streets of New York to The Hulk character), were modeled, textured, and animated within Maya (by teams with hundreds of contributors, with many custom add-on tools).

Making it all seem simple

After Nick explained his idea though a simple storyboard (pdf), and one meeting with the instructor to nail down some of the timing (which parts happen during which season, and how long he’d like the years to last in seconds), we were all very impressed that Nick was able to generate this animation in just a couple weeks.

If you would like us to tackle an animation from your simple drawing, please let us know!

For fun, here is an early test animation.

So many different features were explored in the making of this video that I hope to post a separate blog post which will deep dives into the crazy world of Maya. Just to see if any of you dear readers are interested.

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