Research and create a Rube Goldberg-type machine in three-dimensions using Autodesk Maya and compile it in Adobe Premiere or After Effects. The sky's the limit on this assignment. We did not have any requirements as to what the machine would do or look like or any shapes we had to start with.


I wasn't sure, at first, how I was going to approach this assignment. As I have written before, I really like clear parameters. Sometimes left to my own devices, I can fall down a rabbit hole. But I kept my head and thought of things around my house and around my neighborhood.
I decided I wanted the machine to be like a children's room. My son is very much into Hot Wheels, so the spiral track was one of the first things I drew. While my son is too small to really play basketball, he always wants to try to throw the ball into the hoops at the park and at local fairs. So I added a basketball hoop and ball into the mix. My son also loves slides of every kind, so I had to put a slide in there. The rest of the objects kind of came about as I tried to figure out how I could get each object to trigger the next. I just kept drawing different items until I was happy enough with the results.
Then it was time to turn my drawing into a 3D world. I fired up Maya and set to work modeling each object. After I was happy with the models, I unwrapped them to prepare them for textures. I wanted this again to feel playful but not be garish, so I was careful in the colors and textures I chose.
Next, I created some simple rigs for some of the objects so they would be easier to animate. Once that was completed, it was finally time to start testing out some animations. The animation process is hands down the longest part of the process. It's a bit of trial and error and whole lot of tweaking until the animation is believable. None of these items really have any weight. It is up to the animator to determine their weight and relationship to each other in the 3D space.
And with that, I created many test renders (playblasts - low-res versions of the final render) to check that the animations are working and tweak where needed. Then, I rendered out the animation as individual PNG files (image files).
Since each camera angle was rendered separately (5 in total), I brought each one into Adobe Premiere.
I used the main camera angle to start laying in sound effects. Some of the effects I had as part of a library of sounds I have created and/or purchased over the years. The rest were newly created sounds for the piece. I cleaned up and modified the sound effects I recorded in Adobe Audition.
Back in Premiere, I imported all of the individual sound files and carefully placed them on the timeline to correspond with the actions taking place in the video. Next, I used Premiere's multi-camera feature to switch back and forth between the different cameras so I could capture the action at the best camera angles. It's a wonderful tool and records the changes in real-time as you are switching through them. Once I was happy with the camera angles, I rendered out the final video.


I'm very happy with the final result (otherwise I wouldn't be showcasing it here). Of course, there are things that could use improving, like cleaning up some secondary animations and improving the "physics" of some of the animations. But the overall experience is exactly as I had hoped it would be. And most importantly, my son loves it! He likes to watch it over and over again.