Initially, we were introduced to the basic animation interface and default timeline. We were shown how to set up the camera/output preferences - I'd been having great frustration with previous exports where all my stuff came out skewed no matter what I did so it was a relief to find out what I'd been doing wrong!
File -> Preferences -> Output Format
There are a number of preset output formats - however, these will be optimized for TV display, i.e. NOT square pixels. Best to use a custom preset!
Ensure 'Maintain Picture Ratio' is UNCHECKED.
Pixel ratio: 1
Resolution: 1024 x 576 (widescreen)
Remember to double-check frame settings - should be working at 25fps.
Hit 'Apply settings' to... well, apply the settings!
After setting up, we started by animating a simple object using basic keyframes on the default timeline. No fancy timing adjustments or dope sheet witchcraft here.
I, rather uncreatively, picked a sphere. And made it fly uncreatively across the screen. Hey, this was a technical exercise! Achieved simply by keyframing the scale and position values of a primitive sphere object.
We were then introduced to the dope sheet which allows for much more refined animation by providing greater control over keyframes. The dope sheet can be accessed by View -> General -> Dope Sheet, or alternatively by opening the Animation Editor (shortcut 0) and then clicking Editor -> Dope Sheet.
The dope sheet is, effectively, an expanded version of Softimage's default timeline. It displays all keyframes for all parameters of the selected object all at once - far more intuitive than the regular timeline, which simply displays all keyframes on one row which can cause a lot of really unnecessary confusion.
You can select and move all keyframes for all parameters by clicking the giant green square in the topmost row - very useful for making quick timing adjustments! Alternatively, you can select one or more keyframes for specific parameters simply by clicking the corresponding coloured square for each parameter. (Hold CTRL + click to select multiple keyframes)
We were provided with a premade scene file with a croquet mallet and ball. Using the dope sheet, we basically had to use the mallet to knock the ball from A to B, using the dope sheet to adjust timings where appropriate.
Only really had 15 minutes to do this, so it's pretty unpolished at this stage and the timing's really squiffy. I tried to delay the hammer slightly before it comes swinging down to give it a little more character, though it still needs work. I'm thinking I may hold it at the furthest position for a little bit to add some anticipation. The ball is very static too - there's no feeling of contact or weight when the mallet strikes the ball and it moves very uniformly. I'm going to try and alter the timing so the ball decelerates before coming to a stop. I'm not entirely sure how to improve the impression of power when the mallet connects with the ball; I'm going to simply need to experiment with it a little bit. Maybe if the hammer swings a little faster it would help?
I've also gone over Jon's awesome exporting tutorial which, again, solves a lot of problems I'd previously encountered with exporting, so expect a post on that soon!