The project for the summer of 2004 was to complete animations of an ontology of events for video analysis of UAV videos. The author was to create the videos using the animation program Maya. Research into the area of animation was done to learn how to use the program Maya and to make a series of short videos that depicted the primitive events the computer vision researchers were trying to detect in a series of UAV videos. There was to be a video for each primitive event using the detection methods the rest of the team was working on. An example of a primitive event would be a vehicle turning left or a vehicle coming to a stop.
The authorís interest in the field of animations comes from playing video games as a child and more recently from seeing animated movies such as Shrek and Finding Nemo. She has wanted to learn more about animation ever since then. She was given the opportunity to learn more about animation this summer when her mentor discovered her interest in the field and allowed her to use it as the topic of her research project.
In order to get acquainted with Maya the first thing to be done was to spend a few hours going over the program with the animation lab assistant. They went over the basics of the interface and demonstrated how to build a model. It was fascinating to watch but hard to follow without any background prior to the demonstration.
For the most part the summer was spent attempting to learn how to use the program Maya by working with Learning Maya 5 . This book contained five different practice projects with step by step instructions on how to complete each project. As per the recommendation of the animation lab assistant the first two projects in the book were completed. By doing this, the interface of Maya and a few of the basic principles of animation, such as things need to have "weight" in order to appear realistic were learned.
Unfortunately, although this book was teaching the interface of Maya, it was not explaining the process of animation itself. Therefore, it would be difficult to implement the project with out first learning about animation and how to make something look realistic. When asked where one could learn such information, the book called the The Illusion of Life was recommended. It was written by two men who worked for Walt Disney and were some of the founding fathers of the principles of animation. This book explained animation principles such as squash and stretch. Squash and stretch is the idea that when something moves in parts it is made smaller and in parts it is made larger, such as when one smiles their lips stretch and thin out.
Another helpful book was Maya 5 , that offered another approach to learning Maya. Its approach was more thorough and taught all the basics of Maya from the bottom up. This book explained things in more detail as well as demonstrating how to use Maya's interface and put primitive shapes together. Unfortunately the time allotted did not allow for completion of this book.
The first several tries at creating a model were done using the NURBS format. Several attempts were made to create a viable model; however none were successful. The failure of these undertakings was due to the fact that the research and the attempt at creating a model did not coincide. The examples in the Learning Maya 5 were useful for creating the specific projects in the book, but they did not translate into practical application in anything other than the specific project.
The second set of attempts at making a model were done using polygons. Again several endevors were made with each of the failing for similar reasons to the first. The book gave detailed instructions on how to manipulate a set of basic shapes into a complex model, without that instruction, no other experience at model making, and no available assistance it proved impossible to create any type of working model.
What was made sufficiently clear in the book that could be translated into other projects was how to make the actual video. In order to attempt to complete the project the internet was searched in an attempt to procure a useable model. Unfortunately the search failed to yield anything of use. The models were either not appropriate to the video that was being created or they cost money. Any instructions on how to create a model were far to advanced for the level of understanding gained at this point in time.
Without any model it became impossible to create the desired videos. In order to work further on the project the book Maya 5 was obtained in an attempt to learn Maya and be able to create a model. This attempt appeared as though it could have worked, however time ran out on the project before anything significant could be accomplished.
If given more time on this project the author would finish the second book on Maya in order to learn as much as possible and improve technical knowledge. More than that the author would like a chance to consult with someone who is proficient in Maya again. It would be more useful to be able to consult with someone proficient in Maya after having some technical understanding than prior to having learned anything. One could obtain a basic understanding from a book and having done so could ask intelligent questions which would serve better to further their understanding of the project.
If given the chance to start over the author would chose an entirely different project in the field in which her mentor and the other people around her were proficient. Going into this she knew nothing about either field, but after having completed her mentorship she now feels that it is extremely important to have people around who can assist you and give you direction when one is having difficulty. The author learned quite a bit this summer despite the fact that her project was unsuccessful, though she feels she could have learned more and worked more effectively if she had chosen a project in the field of computer vision. She appreciates that she was given a chance to work on a project that she was interested in as opposed to one she knew nothing about, though looking back on it she thinks that perhaps it would have been wiser to try the new field and possibly discover that she liked it.
In the process of this project the author learned a great deal about research and how it's done, and about herself. The author had never had a chance to do this kind of research before and she learned a great deal about how it's done and how she feels about it. It was an especially important experience to her because she got the chance to meet and work with other female students, and this was a rare to non-existent experience prior to the mentorship. Despite the fact that these women were not working on the same project as the author, she still had a chance to be around them, talk to them, and learn from them and that was one of the most valuable experiences gained. Despite the project being unsuccessful the author also learned about animation as well.
 Gibbs-Kundert, John et al., Maya 5. SYBEX Inc., San Fransisco, CA. Copyright 2004.
 Johnston, Ollie & Thomas, Frank, Illusion of Life, The. Walt Disney Productions, New York, NY. Copyright 1981.
 Learning Maya. SYBEX Inc., Toronto, Canada. Copyright 2003.