Animating A Walk Cycle

I've made a new video tutorial about animating a 3D walk cycle. There so much to consider when animating walks, both from a software perspective and in terms of the animation principles employed (pretty much all of them). But I've had a stab at covering my process and the principles employed along the way. I'll add it to the Walks and Runs reference section of the ARC where you can also find lots of other great information on this topic.


frank said...

Hi Ian

Just watching Part 1 and was thinking about a comment from an "Idleworm" turorial about walk cycles that I wanted to get your opinion on.

Dermot pointed out that the personality of the walk is determined on the key poses when both feet are in contact with the ground.

That is to say, in my understanding, that there is a heirachy of importance in determining the attitude and thoughts of the character in a walk. The top of the heirachy, the most important, is in the extreme contact poses first.

Then, having done a playblast (set on stepped tangents), or a line test to make sure the timing matches the story being told in the contact poses, working on the other keys, such as the passing position and then the break-downs, where the character isn't in total control of their balance but being propelled by the forces from the contact poses.

That is, the forces governing the secondary break down poses underneath the contact/extreme poses in the heirachy, is split between physical laws and the force of emotional states. These 'secondary poses' can have adjustments made to reinforce the attitude determined by the extreme/contact poses but need to be mindful of physics and weight. And, in fact, probably are important to demonstrate the effects of physics and weight on the walk. Where as the thoughts and emotions of the character are more powerfully told with both feet on the ground.

It all comes together as a whole and the job of each key pose isn't exclusive to any other. But thinking like this might help beginner animators like me understand how to combine clear character emotion and personality (contact poses and timing)and believability (weight and force) into a walk, if I'm on the right track.

As an example, to try and articulate more clearly, that would mean working hard to get the poses clear on the contacts and be confident that the emotional story is being told right there on those key poses. Then add to the story telling in the breakdowns. But be aware that the character is as much governed by laws of physics, like gravity (subconciously catching themselves from falling on their face), as they are by the thoughts that are driving the attitude of their walk.

It is taking what you have described so well but defining it further by highlighting the importance of the story of the emotions of the character being shown mostly through the contact poses, primarily.

Are these observations on track?

I'll probably find out as I progress throught the tutes. But I just had to clear some space in my brain for more lovely knowledge.

Ian said...

Hey Frank

Didn't notice this comment for a while so I'm sorry for the late reply.

I think this is great, the basic rule of thumb is that the less you can do to tell the emotional story the better.

If you can tell the story with less poses then that means you are more likely to experiment and explore posibilities before you get bogged down in all the physical and technical stuff.

As a teacher you will find that 95% of students don't want to experiment with the performance at all. They just want to put something (anything) down and get on with it. Its because they are under the false impression that the "getting on with it" part is what animation is.

Anything you can do to keep them in that early part where they are asking, "why is the character doing what it is doing?" the better. So breaking down the importance of the major keys sounds like a great idea. :)

One footnote I might add is that the amount of change between the extreems and contacts is important to the attitude in the walk too. This is why I like to have the passing points there with the extreems, but I can see how that could still be done as a separate layer in the process.

frank said...

Change equals impact. Is it the pace of the change (the spacing) that tells the story of the character's emotional state?
Rather than the pose on the passing position.

I'm thinking the pose on the passing position would still be telling or enhancing the story of the character's attitude. So would have a similar power centre and maybe similar line of action.

That is, the line of action is expressing to the audience the energy and emotion within the character.

I think even discussing these things is a great motivator to hit the drawing board.

Thanks Ian.

frank said...

OK, I read your footnote again. The change between the 'extremes' and the 'contacts'.

That would be the furthest extent of the step up and out, and the furthest extent of the weight coming down = 'extremes'?

I think Jason Ryan calls them the 'up' position and the 'down' position, in relation to the position of the hip/body height, and thus the head height (unless you are a vulture or a villain like Anton Ego).

Just has a quick look in Richard Williams' text. He uses 'up' and 'down' for those important keys as well.

Please post more 'walk' tutes.

Ian said...

Sorry that should have been Extremes and Passing points. Just typing with my brain turned off.

You are right that you wouldn't put in too drastic a change in the character attitude between the Extremes and Passing Points, that would just look wierd. You are also right that the spacing between these ponts will be crucial in communicating the characters attitude. But you have to be mindful of how you are going to use these variables when building your Passing Pos Pose. Do you need a lot of space so that you can communicate the speed at which the feet slam down or do you need less space to that you can keep things subtle?

In all key frame animation I consider the "change=impact" rule both at the key frame stage and the spacing stage. They have to work together. You can't use spacing alone to squeeze a high impact change into a tiny subtle movement and vica versa.

Ups and downs are not such a big deal for me (maybe they should be?). I get the Extremes and Passing points right then set to work on the bouncing action in the pelvis and thats where the up and down points are really worked out. As I do in the tutorial, in 3D getting the push off pont and contacts for the legs is something I consider separately so as to get that frame where the leg is nicely extended. I couldn't even tell you for sure if it ends up on the same frame as the high or low point in the pelvis movement, so I guess I don't really have a designed pose as such on those frames at all.