Scale Your Curves Up

Lately I've been working on some animation with a more realistic feel. It means there is a lot of time spent examining subtleties, and one thing you become painfully aware of is that when you're working on a piece that has lots of over lapping movement like a walk or run, its easy to loose sight of things. You can end up chasing little bumps and wiggles around in circles until you reach a point where you don't even know why they are there and what they mean. As your cycle gets nearer to completion it gets harder and harder to isolate the movement on particular parts of the rig.

An example might be in the movement on your characters shoulder, in my recent work I decided I wanted a sort of rolling action on the clavicle bone. I wanted it up higher as the arm swung forward and down lower as the arm swung back, creating a nice fluid circular motion. The problem was that with there already being animation on the pelvis twisting back and forth and bobbing up and down, four spine bones twisting this way and that and the arm swinging around it was really hard to see what that little clavicle bone was up to.

So here's the tip, I found the rotation axis for the clavicles up and down movement and then used the scale tool in the graph editor to ramp up the size of the curve and make the movement much bigger. Now the shoulder is making big over the top rotations when I play the cycle in the view port, with the animation still playing and the curve still scaled up I start to tweak it. With the movement so big I can see where the high point and low point in the movement is, and can see it I have the changes in direction happening as smoothly or abruptly as I want. Once I have the over the top movement happening as I want, I start to scale down the curve again with the animation still playing. Using the scale tool you can get the action to a size that looks just right, it may be lost is a see of overlapping action, but you can know that you have the movement you wanted in there and that it contributes to the believability of your movement. You can always scale up the curve again it you want to make further adjustments.

1 comment:

Frank said...

Hi Ian. Nice quick tip. Some of the 3D animators I'm working with at SBIT are starting to use the scale tool and small algebraic equations in the stats boxes in the graph editor (GE) to make adjustments. This acale tool adjustment as the character is miving is another excellent tool in the tool kit.

Definitely save your work before adjusting things in the GE while the character is in motion, would be my advice. Sometimes Maya has a seizure.

I find setting up the 2 pane view with the character in the top pane and the GE in the underneath pane an effective way to view changes in the GE having real-time changes on the character, either in posing or animation. The other option I sometimes use is having the GE in a 'tear off copy' view panel that can be minimised.

Some of the fancy students have a two screen set up at home because 2nd monitors are so cheap (if not free) to find. That way you can have the GE on one screen and watch the effect on the character in another screen.

Another way to view the clavicle roll in your example, may be to use the mute channel options in the channel editor to isolate the clavicle roll and mute the animation on other selected controllers? (That's a question for my 3D guru)