KPU instructor hosts workshop animating a model catwalk

Amanda Li shared how she created the body movements and positions for her character, Alia Rig

Screenshots of the animated model, Alia Rig model during the workshop. (Suneet Gill)

Screenshots of the animated model, Alia Rig, during the workshop. (Suneet Gill/Austin Kelly)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University entertainment arts lab instructor Amanda Li hosted a virtual workshop earlier this month creating an animation of a female model’s catwalk.

For the intermediate-level workshop, Li used the 3D computer graphics software Maya to form key body positions of the animated woman during her walk.

“I studied fashion design previously, so I am a fan of fashion shows,” Li says. “Since I do have interests in simulating clothing, I want to use my own rig character, which I modeled in a fashion model character, and have it animate.”

Rigs are the virtual bones, muscles, and joints that allow animated characters to move, according to the Museum of Science, Boston. Li says riggers are the people who place controls on a model to strategically move it.

She worked on her character Alia Rig during the hour-long session. Li calls the model Alia Rig because it is short and starts with the letter A to reflect her own first name.

Li began by informing attendees of the research she used, such as analyzing videos of real runway catwalks and referring to Canadian-British animator Richard Williams’s walk cycle, which is a guide on characters’ step-by-step positions.

To create a female catwalk, an animator must keep in mind the feminine way of walking and rely heavily on references, Li says.

She had two objectives for the session — introducing her model to students for the first time and showing how to use the different controllers available for character movements.

“For the movie industry, they will have very stylized character rigs for action animation, for lip syncing, and for different types of movies,” Li says.

“Mine, however, is more for a fashion show. So I wanted to show them you have finger controllers to relax the hand, you have a facial control panel to control the eyelids and the mouth.” 

The workshop also involved rigging leg, hip, head, arm, chest, and shoulder movements, as well as adding a spotlight to shine on the model.

Li says she uses Maya because she is knowledgeable in that software.

“I’m not like other artists who might want to use the latest [supplies] because they have to learn it for a studio. I just want to use whatever’s available in my hands,” Li says.

“If I was a watercolour artist, … even if I was not able to afford the most expensive watercolours, I would use whatever I have because art is about using your resources, and it’s about yourself. So I want to express this is what I know, this is what I have, [and] this is what I’m going to use.”

In terms of next steps, Li says she wants to design the model’s clothing and make a movie out of the fashion show. Later on, she also wants to make a fashion animation with a male model, which she hopes will be a faster process after creating Alia Rig.

KPU students interested in learning how the animation works can email to access a copy of Alia Rig.