“The Time at Which Something is Most Powerful or Successful”
This is the definition of the word “Zenith.” This is the biggest project in Freestyle, with the goal of exploring something you are passionate about, following all of the 21st-century skills, and making your most successful project.
My Zenith Project was developing a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate moveset for Heavy, one of 9 playable characters in Team Fortress 2, and is seen as the poster child for the game. This project was a passion for me, because TF2 is one of my favorite games, and to see it gain representation in one of my other favorite games would be amazing. Especially during the time I was making this project, the Smash Bros. community had constantly been passionate about new additions to the game, since it was revealed that 6 new fighters would be added over the next couple of years. A lot of people were asking for and giving suggestions on what characters they want to see in the game, such as Dante, Geno, Shadow, 2B, Waluigi, Sora, Master Chief, Steve (Minecraft), Shantee, Crash Bandicoot, Scorpion, Doomguy, and many more, and the character I wanted to see in the game more than any other was Heavy. Even before I got the game and started playing the game for myself, I was thinking about how he could be implemented. This was the time for me to not only be a part of that community, but take it a huge step further, and animate my entire vision for the character. A lot of what you saw people wanted was written out, or some high-quality art was made, with just a few animated ideas, but my plan for this project was to make a several minute long video showcasing every single part of his moveset, which I’m sure those who understand how the game works would get a kick out of. All of this was animated and rendered through Source Filmmaker, and all of the audio and post-editing, including most of the special effects, was done in After Effects.
This Zenith project was a new challenge for me because there were a lot of new things I put myself through. For one, I’ve already used SFM to make posters, which gave me some exposure to how SFM is used, but I’ve never animated with it prior to this project, which involved a huge load of new tools I hadn’t used before, including the different types of editors the program has. The animating is both similar and different from animating in Maya, as SFM makes some things a lot more convenient, such easily movable keyframes, multiple settings for filling frames between those keyframes, and auto lip-sync, but at the same time, a lot of what we did in Maya still has to be done here, but in a different way. The controls are different, the tools are a bit different, and the rendering is different. Luckily, there wasn’t anything I need to manually model for the video itself since I could use community made models or the models already in SFM, but making the video as spiritually accurate to Smash Bros. as possible involved a lot of precise animating and After Effects editing, down to the frame. This is also the first time I will be animating at 60 fps, so getting the right poses at the right time will feel a bit different at the start. This will definitely be a difficult process because I will needed to make at least 80 different animated loops, almost all of which are different from each other, but some did purposely blend into others.
I incorporated my Animation skills by using the pose-to-pose animation that I learned Senior year through 3D animating, as well as a bit of the After Effects stuff I learned Senior year, but I did need to learn a bunch of new things during the animating process. I also incorporated 2 computers in this process, so while I edited on one computer, I rendered on a second computer, and that way, I could multitask and backtrack to make changes if I wanted to.
If you read my Explorations page, I talked about my prior use of SFM, and the process I dealt with during that project. I did everything I did then during this project, plus a lot more because there were a lot more steps I had to take to get my finished results here. For example, back when I was making just the posters, I exclusively used the Motion editor, because that was the best one to use, and the only one I knew how to use. Now, I had to use all 3 editors in conjunction with each other to get good animations, especially the Graph editor. The clip editor was the editor I used the least, because it’s mainly used for audio and clip editing. While the clip editor did have a very useful auto lip-sync feature, which gave my character mouth movement, I did almost all of the audio and clip editing in After Effects.
The Motion and Graph editors have a lot of stuff to work with when it comes to making loops and sequences. The Motion Editor is what I used to position characters and copy/paste animation data to different parts of the timeline, and the Graph editor is what I used to keyframe certain important poses. Pose-to-pose is by far the best option when it comes to animating in SFM, and the 2 editors together allowed me to fine-tune the poses he had. The program does a good job filling the blank spaces between the keyframes.
Every project I had in animation during Junior year was done in 12 fps, and in Senior year, 24 fps. This is the first time I’ve done a video in 60 fps, which I saw as a must-have. Smash Ultimate constantly runs at 60 fps, and frame data is extremely important when digesting a character. I compared Heavy’s moves to the moves of several characters in Smash Ultimate, down to the exact frame, just so I could make his moves as accurate as possible. Editing at 60 fps also helped me get Heavy to match the universal attributes in Smash. For example, it takes exactly 11 frames for every character to go from shielding to just standing, and it takes exactly 3 frames for every character to jump off the ground. Keyframing in the Graph editor helped me get those values to their exact positions, so I could keep Heavy consistent with all of the other characters.
There was a lot of research into moves that went into this project. This project helped me gain a better understanding and appreciation for the detailing that went into making moves, as well as seeing what type of shortcuts were taken to make the gameplay look smoother. Not every move a character has is executed in a fashion that will let you see all of the windup and follow through. Nintendo took shortcuts, so I took some shortcuts as well. Making every move look at least decent was not easy. There were so many problems that came up during this process I had to solve, such as SFM crashing multiple times, weapons not sitting well in Heavy’s hands, scaling certain parts, weird-looking skyboxes, limbs that spin 3 times before resetting, and many, many, many more things that are very difficult to explain to those who have no experience with SFM, and if you’re a normal person who tries to use SFM on a Windows computer, you know, its intended platform, you won’t understand how painful it was getting Steam (The app SFM runs on) to consistently run on CrossOver (the program that allows Windows applications to run on Macs) without running into things just refusing to open and having to redownload everything several times. Describing the process of animating and keyframing and motion and just using the program the way I did is just difficult if you don’t use the program yourself. I would just end up restating a lot of what I said in the Explorations, and then adding to that by saying “do that, but a lot of times, and hope the spline tools do their job correctly.” At the end of the day, there were so many issues, so many nights I stayed up really late, and so many things in life that got in the way of this project, but it was worth it. If you don’t find this project very high quality, I’m sorry, just know that this is the best I could do.
This is it, the Zenith Project
There is some input of mine before the actual video starts. The 100% completed version is on the bottom of the page, so I recommend you watch that one.
Here’s a clip of me talking about the process for coming up with this idea, the things I learned, and some other stuff:
The Completed Video
Here is the completed version of the project:
I have some supplementary documents I made about this topic: