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Animating Four-Legged Beasts
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Animating Four-Legged Beasts


May 2, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next
 

Animating A Walk

To illustrate this locomotion in 3D animation, I've roughed in a slow 40-frame walk cycle. Cycles must be symmetrical, or there will be a visible hitch in the walk, like a limp, or a hit in the animation.


JoJo character, courtesy of Rocket 5 Studios. Watch the animation by clicking here.

There are almost as many methods of animating as there are animators, but I prefer to approach posing as I would with 2D, or classical, animation. Posing out the whole character, rather than starting with the hips or isolating the lower body, and working on the entire character at once when creating the four major poses.

Details like toes and tails can be ignored or turned off at this stage. I create the four major keys or poses of the walk: two stride and two passing. I make them as symmetrical as possible, but they don't have to be mathematically the same.

There is an advantage to keying all major elements on the same frame. At this point, the keys can be slid around easily to change the timing of the walk. It is quick and easy to adapt and manipulate your cycle by figuring out your basic timing to the point where you start to add finishing details like overlap and follow-through. Keys arranged in an orderly fashion are really easy to manipulate in your 3D software package (here I am using the dope sheet in Maya 2011).


Four key poses, JoJo walk, property of Rocket 5 Studios (Click for larger image)

This is also the break off point where different kinds of walk cycles can be created now that the feet have been appropriately positioned. Variety can be added, like floppy overlap or stealthy sneak. The four basic poses can also be used as a starting point for other walks. You don't have to recreate the four basic key poses; you only have to adapt them to your specific purposes. Use the graph editor or tweak by hand, but remember to have each opposite pose match each other.


JoJo walk cycle, four keys only, with smooth spline interpolation. Watch the animation by clicking here.

It is important that your software has a great graph editor. When animating cycles, I spend a fair amount of time cleaning up the graph to get symmetrical movement. Don't forget to check all channels! The above video has been carefully tweaked to remove all hits and holds. The stage just prior to this revealed a few errors with the arms:


JoJo with wonky arm movement. Watch the animation by clicking here.

There are several ways to fix errors like this but the easiest for me at this stage is to look at the graph editor and find out where there is a problem with the curve.


Note: flat tangents causing slowdown at apex of movement. (Click for larger image)

The highlighted motion trail shows other problems that can be solved by the graph editor, such as the linear movement of the arm in the air. Arcs always look more natural than linear paths of action. The solution for the slowdown in the forward progression of the arm is to fix the curve so that it can cycle smoothly, as seen below.


Grab spline handles and move them so that curve looks like it can cycle or repeat. (Click for larger image)

The next step is to flesh in the walk, adding overlap and follow-through, offsetting the head and making sure there is enough weight in the up and down movements of the hips and chest. When you are pretty sure the cycle is working the way you want it to, animate the feet, hands, fingers and toes. I usually animate the tail last, one rotational axis at a time.


JoJo walk from side view, tail and toes added. Watch the animation by clicking here.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

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