• "For someone who can perceive interconnecting patterns, it is easy to be a systemic thinker" - Fritjof Capra paraphrasing Leonardo da Vinci's famous quote "For a man who knows how, it is easy to become universal...", from The Science of Leonardo.

Topher's Web Pages:


Digital Arts MFA...


Martial Arts...

Facebook Page...


Topher's Bio:

My full name is Christopher Maraffi, but I go by Topher. I’m an artist-animator, educator, and technical author. For over 10 years I lectured on the topic of 3D character creation, and have written three popular books on the subject that were on Disney's suggested reading list. I’m also a Swing and Tango dance instructor, and one of the principal developers of the Swango (Swing+Tango) fusion partner dance style.

In June 2010 I completed a Digital Arts & New Media (DANM) MFA at UCSC. My thesis, Mimesis & Mocap, consisted of an interdisciplinary performance study on portraying believable interaction between live and virtual performers in a stage show. I am using my two performances, The Avatar Dance and The Magic Mirror Game, as proof-of-concept for more formal AI research as a PhD candidate in Arnav Jhala's Computational Cinematics Studio: Performatology.

Mimesis & Mocap MFA Performance Study:

Over a hundred years ago Edward Gordon Craig predicted the future invention of a theatrical medium that would create more believable stage characters, which he called the Uber-Marionette. Since then animated 3D characters have been designed in digital media, but have yet to be fully realized as interactive performers.

My Mimesis & Mocap MFA thesis was a cross-disciplinary performance study in creating expressive and improvisational interaction between human performers and 3D characters, using motion capture technology, in a shared performance space.

Here is a short preview video that shows excerpts from both my performances:


Click here for a PDF of the... Show Program

The Magic Mirror Game (High-Res Director's Cut):

The Magic Mirror Game shows video documentation of my one-man (two-actor) live show, which concluded my UCSC DANM MFA thesis performances. The Magic Mirror Game explores a virtual rendition of the classic Marx Brothers Mirror Gag in a backstage dressing room between performances of our group production, Stop the Press!

The Magic Mirror Game was performed live in the UCSC Dark Lab from April 29th-May 9th, 2010, with video documentation shot for 13 performances. Concept, design, animation, and performance by Chris 'Topher' Maraffi. Background music excerpts: The Avatar Dance Theme by Chris Molla, Sweet Georgia Brown by Harry Connick Jr, and Videotape by Radiohead. The artist wishes to warmly thank his thesis committee members from UCSC’s Theater Arts and Computer Science departments for their inspiring guidance: Kathy Foley, Ted Warburton, and Michael Mateas. Special thanks to Ricardo Tobon for his mocap expertise. Additional thnks to John Lingemann, Jim Bierman, David Cuthbert, Kimberly Jannarone, Eric Mack, and Joe Weiss. Also thanks to UCSC DANM faculty, staff, and students, including Soraya Murray, Lyle Troxell, Felicia Rice, Christine Imai, and fellow DANMites.


Awarded Honors at UCSC Graduate Research Symposium:

On May 14th I was awarded the Graduate Dean's Award for the presentation of my Mimesis & Mocap performance study. Here I am receiving the award from UCSC's Chancellor Blumenthal:

2010 Graduate Symposium results...


Interviewed on Artists On Art KZSC Radio Show:

I was interviewed by Nada Miljkovic on her radio show Artists on Art, where we talked about my work in the DANM MFA show Things That Are Possible. Here is a link to the interview: Artists On Art


Stop the Press! Performances and Video of The Avatar Dance:

My Avatar Dance live performance was inspired by classic pantomime, vaudeville, and dance movements. The routine included variations of the Mirror Gag, Rope Pull and Ladder Climb Mime, Breakdancing Battle, and a Juggling Toss. To my knowledge, this was one of the first times, if not the first time, that these gestural classics have been done on stage between a human performer and a virtual 3D character in front of a live audience. The routine featured the Organic Originator dancing with his Digital Doppelganger, and was the first performances completed for my Mimesis & Mocap MFA thesis in 2010.

Concept, design, choreography, realtime animation, and performance by Chris (Topher) Maraffi. The Avatar Dance was part of UCSC Theater Arts-DANM Performative Technologies Group co-production of "Stop the Press!", an experimental play about technological change and progress, which was performed at UCSC XSpace Theater on Feb 26-March 7, 2010. Production directed by Kimberly Jannarone, music by Chris Molla, lighting by Erik Ladue, set by Matt Kedzie, and costume by Olivia Warner. Ray Kurzweil played by Petey Donatello, MC played by Alexander Henriquez, and Bill Joy played by Patrick Young. Special thanks to Ricardo Tobon for his motion capture expertise and to Kathy Foley for her Ubermarionette knowledge. Additional thanks to Jim Bierman, David Cuthbert, performative DANMites, and all the Theater Arts STP crew and cast. Handheld camera by Leland Moriarty. Video edited from multiple live camera documentation footage.


Latest Autodesk Maya 3D MEL Coding Book:

My latest technical rigging book, MEL Scripting a Character Rig in Maya began shipping from New Riders in December 2008. Update: All the book scripts at the publisher download site, www.peachpit.com/melscripting , work in Maya versions 2008-2010 (must register to download files). Use the 2009 files for both Maya 2009 and 2010.




Preview video of the rig and scripts taught in the book:








Book Cover:





Book Info:


  • Book Summary (from back cover):
    Whether for big budget film and game productions or lower budget TV and Internet content, creating flexible and believable character rigs is one of the essential skills needed to bring any 3D animation to life. Maya is the leading software program used in such cutting-edge animation, and has an established rigging toolset for creating realistic character controls. Rigging has traditionally been very expensive due to the time consuming process of manually building custom rigs in the software interface. This book by the author of the best-seller Maya Character Creation shows you how the pros are using MEL (Maya Embedded Language) scripting to streamline and automate the rigging process to build custom character rigs in a matter of seconds, as apposed to days or weeks. The concepts, techniques, and Maya tools used to build a complex character rig in the software interface are presented in each chapter, followed by how to write the equivalent MEL code to script the entire process. In addition to standard MEL commands, important coding techniques such as using conditional statements, loops, variables, and procedures, are covered in detail. Once the character is fully rigged, MEL is also used to create a character animation GUI that makes animating the character easy and fast.  
  • Author Bio (from back cover):
    Chris Maraffi has been teaching 3D computer graphics for over 10 years, most recently as the Course Director of the scripting and character rigging classes at Full Sail University in Orlando. He has also authored two popular books*; Maya Character Creation published by New Riders, and Softimage XSI Character Animation FX and Design published by Coriolis. In addition, he has lectured internationally at numerous conferences and universities, including SIGGRAPH, Animex, Red Stick, UNM Arts Lab, NYU CADA, Parsons School of Design, School of Visual Arts, NYIT, Academy of Art, Mesmer Animation Labs, and The Master's Institute.




*Previous 3D Animation Books:

Maya Character Creation Book Review:

Note! Both of my previous books were placed on Walt Disney Animation Studios suggested reading list...

"What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents... Invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is positive and composed, knows no dicouragement... Waiting patiently, waiting its time." - Walt Whitman.