Break the Cycle – Animation Project (Pt.1)

As a home project we were tasked with a couple of short character animations, such as a walk cycle, jumping etc. Much shorter animations than our idents but potentially more complex. The option was there to refine our idents too, however given I was lucky to piece together what I did last time after weeks of broken keyframes on badly setup rigs I’m happy to keep my current grade. Refining the ident would mean starting from scratch and there are other areas of this course I would rather give that time too, such as programming revision!

Breaking down the task looks like this:

animationtasks

  • Pick two animation tasks from the above table depending on how you feel about your own ability. Focus on quality over length.
  • Work in progress blog posts, showing animation blocking.
  • A final submission post with animations professionally rendered using three point lighting and soft shadows.

Given the issues I had with my ident, I opted to take the KISS approach (keep it simple stupid). I know animation isn’t my strongest area and would rather have some refined animations from the achievable list than terrible animations from the expert list. Given this will very much be an in the dark exercise as there has been no class time dedicated to learning the ropes of cycles and no theory in regards to things like ‘passing poses’ or ‘down positions’ (thanks Animator’s Survival Guide) I’m content in the decision not to push my luck too much.

Gary gave us a few recommendations on interesting pre-rigged characters and uploaded a bunch of them to the college shared drive to use. Matt also provided the Moom rig, however given nearly everyone would be using that I wanted something a little different. The controls on both rigs were almost identical so that didn’t factor in. So welcome to the star of this exercise, Bony!

Ultimate-Bony1

Deciding on a walk cycle to begin with, I spent some time digging up some research. First port of all (as already mentioned) The Animator’s Survival Guide.  Here is what I picked up, a walk cycle consists of:

  • Contact positons – The two points at which each foot make contact with the ground, these two frames will be mirror images of each other. Left foot forward with a straight leg, right arm back and right foot forward (straight leg), left arm back.
  • Passing position – This is the exact mid point between the two contact positions.
  • Down position – The leg takes the weight of the body, therefore bending before pushing off.
  • Up position – Pushing off briefly lifts the whole body and the other leg begins to come forward.

walkacyle

Now theory is all grand but putting it into practice is always the hard part, to give myself a kick start at this point I sat through a tutorial on Pluralsight that helped explain the timing in terms of frames and some of the more subtle nuances to implement (more on this later).

For now I just needed to get these give basic frames into Maya and to see what that looked like. After some positioning, subsequent issues of certain parts not moving, the realisation I didn’t have a character set and then further positioning, I had this to show for it:

There is still a long way to go, there doesn’t seem to be too much difference between the contact positions and the up and down which need to be fixed. I have tried adding a little bit of hip movement and head bob which was recommended from Pluralsight.

Many moons ago when I was doing similar things on a lightbox it was so easy to just copy what you say in a book and ‘think’ you understood what was going on. Doing this in 3D with no handy guide outside of theory is a whole different ball game and surprisingly difficult. Fingers crossed I come back with some positive results next time!

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