View Full Version : Character animation question

08 August 2002, 03:34 AM
This question may be off topic, and I apologize to the moderators if that is indeed the case. I am just curious as to what other people have difficulties with? For example, I'm currently working on a project where a character is standing still, turns around and walks the other way. It is totally kicking my butt!!! I've finally got a decent base to work from but I worked on it for hours, then started over from scratch, and then worked on it for a couple of more hours.

I've still got several hours of work to do for the subtleties (spelling?), but am finally comfortable with the timing.

I also had some difficulties on another project where a character was walking and turned 90 degrees to face the camera. I was never really completely satisfied with the results.

This brought to my attention that many animation tests are walk cycles, run cycles, and acting excercises. I've seen few animations where the character turns, accelerates from a stand still, or come to a stop, or something along those lines. I find that these sort of things give me the greatest difficulties. Walk cycles and the like are common place and while not easy, seem to be much easier (at least for me) than a character changing speed and/or direction.

So my question is: What's the most difficult character animation sequences have you guys done?

08 August 2002, 04:35 AM

Your post is not off topic...

HINT: Change in speed or direction always stems from a weight shift on the object/character...lead the turn with either the hips or the head...then everything else follows...

When in doubt, act it out...

Good luck.

08 August 2002, 10:53 PM
yeah...try to work of live footage (or mocap data!! ;) ) , it'll make your life a LOT easier..

Hardest sequence I've had to contend with is haveing my character scratch his head, and notice something else at the same time......and getting a believeable motion from just a shoulders up shot as his arm drops forgotten.
Pretty simple, but took a lot of tweaking (and I'm still not happy with it)...but...we'll I'm jusy a hobbiest, no a pro (yet ;) )

08 August 2002, 03:58 AM
Yeah, it's funny how sometimes something you think will be a relatively simple task can become a time consuming burden.

Believe me Bentlama, I stood on the sidewalk and performed the motion of this character more times than I can even guess at. The problem I was having was making the shifting of weight from one foot to the other as he turned around, and accelerating into a walk. It just took forever until I was satisfied. The character is a cartoony blood cell that essentially looks like a cert with arms and legs, so I was unable to get a twisting motion (e.i. counter rotation) from the torso.....considering that the torso is his face. I think that was a large part of the problem. In addition, he was carrying a suitcase, which only compounded the weight issue. It sounds like it would be no problem, but I sure had a ton of difficulty with it.

Oh well, I finally finished that shot. Hopefully, I have gained something from it that will lend itself for future reference.

So, hasn't anyone else animated something that they thought would be simple and it ultimately turned into a nightmare?

John Lee
08 August 2002, 05:41 AM
Man this must be the hardest thing every. getting your character to stand up from a laid down position!!! Getting the weight shift right and al,l very difficult to get it to look right. i'm actually working on an anmation that focuses on weight shift

check it out!!


08 August 2002, 12:31 PM
I'm currently working on a project where a character is standing still, turns around and walks the other way. It is totally kicking my butt!!!
haha, yes, it sounds easy but it is not.

I remember an animation where I had a character knocking a door, then turns around walks the other way, goes out of the screen and then comes back running to break the door down. Both "turning" and "running" kicked my butt for quite a while...

Walkcycles are one of the most difficult things to do in animation, but also, are something you MUST learn. A really great walk cycle often means you are (or you can become) a great animator.


08 August 2002, 01:10 PM
neolee40: That's a neat character, I'm looking forward to seeing the animation.

Frinsklen: I'm glad you experienced the same difficulties with turning I know I'm not alone. :)

Also, I wasn't suggesting that walk and run cycles and such are not neccesary for learning animation. It's crucial. I just meant that we see them all the time and seldom do we see characters changing speed and/or direction. It makes me wonder how many character animators have actually had to do it.

Once I'm through with this project (which is due this coming Friday, so soon), I'm going to start tests animations of changing direction and things like that. It seems the next logical progression.

John Lee
08 August 2002, 02:01 PM
Well rouge

this teaser for my film you know the little devil guy. move's around every where? and turn's every where! The weight transfer was pretty tricky to get right. And the bit where he's hanging off the pole was also tricky cause as he swings the bosy swing's as well you;ll see. i will keep updated the animation is compltet but i just need to render it in Radiosity!! It's a bugger. Take too long!


08 August 2002, 04:54 PM
I'm looking forward to seeing it, like I said, I don't see much of it. So it's always welcome and when it looks good, it's always a treat.

I think the stuff that Spellcraft studios doing for there upcoming short is great stuff...the Yeah Boss thing. I'm totally amazed with their work.

Well, I'm glad you guys say it's tricky. I'd like to watch an established animator from a major studio (oh, let's just say Pixar) animate a difficult sequence.... just to see his or her approach and the thought process for getting it right. It'd probably be one those inspirational AND depressing things. :)

08 August 2002, 05:31 PM

There was a quote I read somewhere "Just because you did a walk cycle doesn't mean you are an animator..."

The fact of the matter is that there is so much more to animation than just the technicalities of a good walk cycle. You need to make the characters believable both physically and emotionally.

Animation is about showing purpose...showing the character thinking.
Why is the character walking? Where is he going? is he determined, cross, cautious...

No offence Frinsklen, but I think one needs to focus on more than walk cycles to become a great animator!


[QUOTE][i]Originally posted by Frinsklen

Walkcycles are one of the most difficult things to do in animation, but also, are something you MUST learn. A really great walk cycle often means you are (or you can become) a great animator.

08 August 2002, 06:12 PM
ok ok, I think you get me wrong, Bentllama, or I just didn't know what I was saying.

That quote, "Just because you did a walk cyle doesn't mean you are an animator..." is obviously right, and I couldn't agree more.

I mean, a walk cycle is a very difficult thing to do. If you did a really good one, it demonstrates several things, like you have a good sense of timing and weight. And it means that you may have the abilities to be a great animator, but obviously, as you said, "animation is about showing purpose...showing the character thinking" and walkcycles don't show that kind of things.

"You need to focus on more than walk cycles to become a great animator". Yes, that's true too..

If you've done a great walkcycle, you can be proud. That's what I meant. :)

08 August 2002, 06:19 PM
No harm no foul...

I still get proud of good walkcycles too! :)

08 August 2002, 06:25 PM
wow, that was a instant reply. This is almost like a chat :)

good to see we both agree.

I'd better go animate a walk cycle. :buttrock:

08 August 2002, 07:38 PM
Animation is such a massive undertaking in any case, and it takes a life time to perfect. To me it's every part of it is challenging, from doing a technically correct walk to a character doing nothing. To me giving that glimer of life, the spark the essence of being to a character is the hardest thing. And it takes a lifetime to perfect. Learn and and keep learning is what i rely on, going back to the key essentials: squash and stretch, timing, overlap, anticipation, staging. And always asking yourself why. Why is the charater standing still, whats its motivation and where it going to. My teacher told me to tell a story in every shot you do even if the characters just standing and looking around. And to give your character empathy. I always act out shots to, trying different versions and seeing which one is the most consistant, and stands out, and also fits the characters.

Keep learning, and trying things out and always ask your self why.


08 August 2002, 12:11 AM
This post sort of deals with an earlier post by Neolee40 about making a character stand up from being down on the ground. I actually did a little animation test a few months ago for fun that you may want to check out.

It's actually not as hard as you would think. Just make sure you always keep in mind the shift in weight as the character pushes his way up off the ground. My suggestion is to get down on the ground yourself to feel out the movement. If you have a mirror in front of you even better.

08 August 2002, 03:12 AM
I think that any serious animator agrees that the illusion of life is the goal. And a great sense of accomplishment and pride come from doing it. Still, in order to get there, you must start with the basics. Just about all animation books go over the basic principles of walks, runs, sneaks, weight, timing, etc, as well as stress readability and simple acting principles. So naturally, this is where we all start.

As we grow, we start exploring other facets of animation such as turns, getting up, falling down, etc. I just find these things more difficult to do than a linear cycle. I have the most fun animating a character standing him life (or trying to). And that is the ultimate goal and an achievement. Nevertheless, locomotion is important to character animation as well. You can give a character all the life in the world, and if he takes of running, and it isn't right, it's lost. The supension of disbelief is gone, and the story is no longer believable.

It's safe to say that all aspects of character animation are important to being a well rounded animator. But that wasn't my point. I just found it rather hard to get my character turned around, walking and making it believable. I was just curious as to whether other animators exprienced similar difficulties.

ed209: That is a good looking animation. I have not tried that yet and am sure that when I do, it will not come as easy for me as it has for you. I really wished I could say that it's not as hard as you think. But maybe one day, I can.

08 August 2002, 09:47 PM
Full body turning is very challenging Rogue. I'm curious what program you're using? XSI has the cool new mixer. This is a situation where I think it would be perfect. You do you walk put in on one clip, do you turn-another clip, and do walking away-another clip. It blends between each clip and each clip is editable with fcurves an everything, but sliding one clip on the timeline won't effect the other clips anim at all, so if you want to scale your turn go ahead! I'm just learning XSI so I'm no expert in Mixers yet, but I'm starting to see an advantage.

Hardest sequence ever? That's a tough one, lots of flipping off walls and 180's in the air, but after a while you figure out a plan and it gets easy, now it seems the subtle realistic human stuff is the hardest, specially if the character has nothing that they are saying or doing, there just there listening or something. Too much they look fake, too little they look stiff.

But yeah, 1 shot, walking and turning? VERY challenging. I suggest putting the walk translation and the turn rotation on seperate nulls. Tran on top Rot undernieth it. Add nulls, add nulls. I guess that was my way of layering before XSI made Mixer.


09 September 2002, 01:37 AM
Hey Ripley. Sorry to take so long to reply. I sort of forgot about this thread. Saddly, after 12 days, this thread is still on the first page in the animation section. That tells me the animation section of this forum is not visited often. Oh well, cheers to the elite! :)

I use Lightwave. I've heard that XSI's NLA is really good. I'm not a big fan of NLA though. I've been through multiple discussions about it and it really just boils down to opinion. I have the XSI experience but haven't even loaded it on my computer yet. I've sort of been saddened by this, but I'm so familiar with Lightwave, I can sit down and animate as opposed to learning a new software. Don't worry, it's still on my 'to do' list. I've really wanted to learn XSI if for nothing else to have a little experience with it for employment purposes...and from what I gather, it's a great package.

Anyways, I currently am working on changes in direction and speed. I've found a weakness there that needs to be addressed. I've spent alot of time of gesturing and acting. And then came the ever so dreaded turn around that began this thread. I then realized walk cycles (and the like) are not enough...I need to work on changes in velocity (the real term velocity which includes direction).

You're right about developing a system. I've found that things flow much smoother when you find that groove. Unfortunately, there are distractions that interupt that groove...such as fatigue. If only I didn't require sleep to live.......:)

So much to learn about character animation, so little time.

John Lee
09 September 2002, 01:47 AM
I agree with you there rouge so much to learn? And you right abount finding a techique!! One day it will just click and everyone is different!!! one day all the confusing in ours head will start to form a patteren and then that pattern is what we will aplly to everything we do!!!


09 September 2002, 04:03 AM
Nah there's no real pattern that makes it easy.. you can develop a system for approaching a shot but each shot you do is different, and sometimes the most simple things can take the longest amount of time..

And then sometimes you start a shot and it's just BANG BANG BANG BANG you're done. And you're sitting there.. looking at your motion.. thinking "well holly *!&!. did I just animate that? that's awesome!" And other times you look at it and you go AGGH!! WHERE IS THAT DAMN POP?!??!?


ah, it's all fun... really it is.. :thumbsup:

John Lee
09 September 2002, 04:06 AM
this might sound like a newbie question, But What do you mean by POP???


09 September 2002, 04:39 AM
by "pop" I mean:
post-humanistic oblique pattern.

j/k! :)

a "pop" in the motion is exactly that.. a pop.. like the motion "pops"..

for example, if you have a sphere which is keyed at a translate y of 5 for 20 frames.. and at frame 13, the translate y jumps to 7 and then back to 5 at frame 14.. when you watch the motion, you'll see the sphere "pop".

easy to find in that case.. harder when there's a pop on you character's arm.. or their head..

another place you see them frequently is on a knee if the leg is straight at one frame, and the next frame is bent.. sometimes it "pops" into that position..

make sense? :)

09 September 2002, 09:00 PM
There is a section in "The Animator's Survival Kit" that talks about something as "simple" as a turn. (p.226 if you have it available)

The author, Richard Williams, discusses how the motion unfolds as the body turns. You can lead with the head, or the hips, or the feet, depending on your preference. As you do, though, the others follow one after another.

In his example, the hips give a little twist, the feet follow, to keep balance, and then the head turns with a dip, partway through the motion. His character in this instance is an announcer, turning to look at the viewer. He knows where he's turning to, and is presenting himself, rather than looking at unfamiliar surroundings.

I am sure that if the character were crossing the street and noticed a car coming, then had to turn to get out of the way, you would want the head to notice the car first and lead the turn first, rather than with the hips.

The important part of the study was that the motion unfolds. One part, then another, then another.

Hope this helps, if you are still working on it.

09 September 2002, 09:44 PM
That's one book I don't have yet. I went to the book store a while back and they were out. And I haven't been able to get back there since. That's one that I'm really wanting to add to my collection. A friend has it and it looks great. Plus, it's almost a have to have book for animators. :)

Thanks for the advice, but the project is over now. I was finally happy with what I had. I have a book that explains turns similarly as your example, but it refers to the shoulders essence, they lag and follow the hip rotation. But the problem with the guy I was having (which I think was ultimately just a large mental block) was he didn't have any hips, torso, shoulders and head. He was basically a cert with arms and legs....just a big face. So the only twisting action I could get was with the arms and movement of the feet. And that didn't offer much. Oh well, everything animated, be it problematic or unusually easy, is something learned!

Oh well, I've put off other animation ideas to focus on velocity changes in motion. I'm actually quite glad this happened because it has forced me to move into an area that I don't have alot of experience in.

Thanks again for responding.

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