Animating in Maya

Continuing on from the basics of the previous lesson we were given a pre-rigged character to animate. There were two choices on offer, a lamp similar to Pixar’s Luxo Jnr and a flour sack. For more opportunities for exaggerated squash and stretch I chose to use the sack.


Sack with control curves.

Animating the sack used the same timeline controls we learnt last time. S to add a keyframe onto the timeline along with the keyframe slider and the usual array of translate tools within Maya. However this week we were introduced to a few new extras.

  • Character Set – This is a way of grouping all your characters control curves so when you generate a keyframe it adds a keyframe for everything.
  • Auto Key – A quick toggle button that automatically creates a keyframe whenever you move anything. We were told of its existence but advised it can be a little bit destructive if you’re not used to it.
  • Dope Sheet – Very much a more advanced version of the standard Maya timeline with far more options for modifying your keyframes.

I’ll post what I have so far and comment.


Here’s a playblast of the work so far. Password nextgen.

While the animation is at an early stage I have tried to show a few principles of animation already:

  • Pose to Pose – The back stretch and the jump were mapped out over minimal keyframes and I went back in afterwards to tweak them. This is why the back stretch is far smoother than the jump. Just lack of progress.
  • Arc – Both the stretch and the jump are simple examples of movement in an arc.
  • Follow through – During the stretch the tassels on the top of bag move independently swinging in whatever direction gravity would take them.
  • Appeal – While I didn’t make the bag, it is adorable and our job as animators is to provide the rig with charisma and turn it from a sack to an actual character full of emotion.
  • Squash & Stretch – During the stretch the sack elongates slightly then returns to normal as he pulls forward. During the height of the jump he stretches up and on landing he compresses down as all the contents of the sack hit the ground with force.

It has a long way to go before being a finished piece of animation. For now I’m reasonably content with the stretch however I may go back later and stretch out the climax of the stretch a little longer, I’m also debating if the feet (lower tassels) should move a little as they’re very static during this moment.

The jump I barely got started on this time around. It looks rough and has very little timing worked out currently making it look far too quick and rigid. It’ll just take more time and some fiddling. Matt recommended I spend some time online looking at other jump animations, hopefully this will help give me a better idea of how to setup the timing and keyframes of the jump.


You do spend a lot of time staring at the animation on loop trying to figure out how and where things need to be, I feel like most of the lesson was spent doing this. As a class we were reassured this is normal.



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