When I was a kid, Star Wars blew my mind and set me off on a lifetime of loving science-fiction. I thought the 1977 blockbuster was amazing, but I was thrilled when I heard there would be something called a "sequel" -- a novel idea in 1980. The Empire Strikes Back is still my favorite of all Star Wars movies, and the iconic AT-AT "Imperial Walker" was a feat of special effects.
These days, we don't have to do painstaking stop-motion photography on models constructed and painted by hand -- we have software and the Internet! For this "May The Fourth Be With You" blog, I searched on the Internet and found no shortage of Star Wars -themed 3D models, ready to download. The AT-AT captured by attention, and in short order I had it loaded into SOLIDWORKS Composer.
The great thing about SOLIDWORKS Composer is that you do animation very much like you would with stop-motion models, only it's much faster. I set keys for everything to start, then I moved the head, body and hips forward in one group. Then, I reattached the legs to the hips, and finally I rotated the portions of the legs to make one "step." Repeating that process gave me another step, and my short walk was complete.
I added a laser blast during the walk by animating the cannon in a reciprocating motion (start key, move backward for a second key, and copy the first key to immediately follow). The laser bolt itself (they ARE bolts -- Google it!) is simply an Arrow Geometry Actor without an arrowhead.
The final bit of the motion was moving the head and firing two more laser blasts as before. We can't bend the neck itself, but that's where camera angle hides the issue; one of the more important tricks in effective and speedy animation is not to sweat the small stuff people can't see anyway.
The message "May The Fourth Be With You" was done in Composer itself; the Graphics Systems logo was done in post because it was already a resource I could readily use, although I could certainly have made a BMP with a transparent background if I wanted to.
So enjoy this little bit of Star Wars Day fun, and if you're so inspired, make some animations of your own and send me a link -- I'd love to write a followup blog featuring your work!
By: Jeff Setzer, SOLIDWORKS / Composer Product Manager