View Full Version : Animation for Dummies (or New People!)

07 July 2007, 12:50 AM
I was wondering if anyone could post there way of laying out their breakdown/key poses and how to do so in a clean and enjoyable fashion, I may have missed a thread like this in the past, but I feel no shame in starting a new one, If you are new to `Maya` also please let me know your work flow anyway so that others may help you improve if they have any contructive methods to add to your technique of laying out and animating a shot in Maya,

Also if you are looking for good rigs to use go to ( and under maya in the character rigs section there are loads of gret rigs, one in particular that stands out is the andy rig.:deal:

07 July 2007, 01:54 PM

Very brief.

Try to work "Pose-to-pose" with "Stepped Tangents" in the start. After that, decide your timing and double check on "Poses" and "Extremes". Well, after that start to refine what you have.

I recommend you a book called "Animation Survival Kit". The techniques over there will help you tremendously. Doesn't matter if is in 3D Animation or 2D Animation (Traditional).


07 July 2007, 06:56 PM
Do people know how to you use 'the breakdown keys' to start off an animation?
I have been teahing a couple of people about this very simple process and in many cases when I bring it up I get blank faces:shrug:

I think using breakdowns is crucial and time saving and people don't know anything about this simple process, some forget to even mention it, but its crucial to speedy and top notch animation and cleaner keys to pass on to additional animators that may have to adopt your work.

07 July 2007, 10:33 PM
alll your questions are answered there.

07 July 2007, 04:34 AM
Thats a great site for any technique!, very nice:D
I'm fortunate to be handling more of the technical side of 3D animation, as the people I am teaching Maya to are ex-disney employee's from the sydney branch, they are naturally gifted in timing and movement, and like one of the example video tutorials states that the backbone of 3D technique is 99% 2D animation, I've come to find that very true.
As a trade off I get to understand animation from the heart of traditional animation.
The straight to videos (DVD) like brother bear 2, lilo and stitch 2 and the lion king sequels that the sydney branch were responsible for were just as good on the animation side as the original feature films were.

I'll take a further look at the site.
Thanks again:)

07 July 2007, 11:19 PM
Do people know how to you use 'the breakdown keys' to start off an animation?

No, you're the only person on this planet who knows how to use breakdowns. Hey, I've an idea, why don't you write a book for us dummies and teach us animation, I dont even know why you came in here asking questions you seem to already know the answers.

07 July 2007, 01:18 AM
what do you want to know?

Its for some friend's of mine, we are colaborating on a short film, we already know how to use breakdowns, true, well put :D,
we use maya and we found that the default meterial in the help file was a great start, but as a group we came together and worked out a pipeline that suited our needs based off previous experience in both traditional 2D and 3D animation. But even though some of us had been animating in one way or the other for extended periods of time we still needed to find a flexible way to animate in Maya using a 2D artists traditional line of thinking with the pipeline we have now . I'm just poking around for other ways people might do animation in 3D in particular Maya, and certainly I do not believe I'm the only person on the planet, what I don't know is were your hostility stems from, I'm not here to upstage anybody I'm just here to help or (be helped) and find new techniques, thats all:D

I did write a book for dummies but I could not understand it so I wrote a new book called stupid idiot, a book for people who could not understand books for dummies:shrug:
(true story)

07 July 2007, 11:47 PM
Good Thread!

My workflow is simple, first I create the key poses for the 1-10 sec clip scene. Then I start adjusting the in betweens, to get the propper movement. Always thinking of using as less keys as possible, to have the "draft" animation done, only then I start to fine tune the animation with lots of keys. Once the thing is looking to be moving forward, I do the final thing with the curve editor, to smooth the movements.

Always batch rendering tests with maya software, to see it in real time.

I am totaly newbie, am I doing something stupid on my workflow? Missing a key phase? Thx!

Edit: Breakdown keys... never heard of it, will look it up on the maya help :P

07 July 2007, 03:46 AM
listed below :eek:(my Bad)

07 July 2007, 04:17 AM
Breakdowns and my understanding of them, in the group we colaborated to get an understanding of the intended Maya workflow, I personnaly had used breakdown in the past as shown to me when I started out in my fisrt job by one of my superiors.

1st - Create a selection set by selecting all the assets you wish to key at once, then in the script editor (middle mouse) all the selected text of the objects/controls you selected, in the viewport and drag them to the animation shelf or custom shelf which creates a 'Mel, icon - you can also customize icons so you don't have a row of icons that just say 'Mel'.
(before you select all the text in the script editor you may want to clear the history just in case you select unwanted objects by mistake).--(this is your Select Icon)--

2nd - With all those objects/controls selected go into the animation menu set and go Animate->Set Breakdown (it does have an option box beside it, but default will be OK, depending on your needs) this will have set a key to all the attributes, you may want to delete this key as all you want are the script that was printed out in the script editor, do the same as the first step and drag the instructions using the middle mouse button to the desired shelf, and customize icons as you wish.--(this is your Key Icon)--

3rd - Start animating key poses, stepped curves and you will notice that the keys you make are green as opposed to black, the advantage of green keys is that they do not drag other keys when adjusting the timing they are independant from one another, also I don't really worry about the timing at this stage until I get all the poses I want across the timeline, and if I wish to insert poses between one another, I use the middle mouse button to drag across the timline becaus with this option I can move in time without the character moving, probably more important to do this once you have started to smooth out and adjust the curves.

to me and my partners this seems to be the most effcient and user friendly way to get started.:) (and you can always convert from breakdown to regular keys,visa versa)

heres what the help file says-

Breakdowns are special keys that maintain proportional time relationships with adjacent keys. Use Breakdowns to adjust the timing of an animation while holding attribute values at points on the animation curve. Breakdowns are green ticks on the time slider and green points in the Graph Editor.Breakdowns that do not have adjacent keys are unbounded. These work like regular keys when you place, edit, and move them. Breakdowns have editable tangents. When one or more Breakdowns are bounded by regular keys, the Breakdowns modify their position in time to reflect any changes to the time positions of the regular, bounding, keys.

07 July 2007, 06:09 PM
my personal approach to animation is really different from everyone else's at work.

I didn't graduate from art school and didn't learn it the "proper" way, I taught myself and develop my own unique style.

I always animate the center-of-mass first. I hide the arms completely. Then the legs, the spine, and the head. I animate the arms last.

I don't do this whole key pose to key pose stuff. It always looks pose-to-posey and I can spot it right away. Mine is half straight-ahead animation, with some key poses to help me with timing. I don't rely on key poses though.

07 July 2007, 08:00 PM
I can understand what you are saying about pose to pose because half of what you are doing is alot of cleanup after the poses have been layed out by removing alot of the initial keys and adjusting keys in time.

your technique sounds good for the overall workflow because it sounds like (and certainly correct me if I'm wrong) that you would save alot of time because there would be less keys to deal with overall, but for me I need to see all the elements at once, but I'm sure if I get to know the character I'm working with very well, I might try that approach.

Thanks for sharing your technique:D

07 July 2007, 07:28 AM
I set up mel buttons for selecting all the controls on the body. then set up camera and props, importing sound and referencing rigs and all that stuff.


I do some planning, some in head (especally to think what the character is feeling and thinking and how fast or slow i want the shot pacing should be, figure out the style of movement and so on), then on paper (exploring poses, gestures, composition), look for vid reference for head accents and secondary stuff (like head rolls, eye darts, mouth anticipations before dialogue and that kinda stuff) but i roughly watch it.. i dont study it that much.. just a few notes jotted down and i do some thumbnails for big actions.. for subtle stuff, i go on to blocking as my drawing isnt good enuff to show subtle stuff. I do draw the head direction for my subtle stuff too..

Im not to bothered with Maya.. I think after a long time of co-existance, the peace treaty holds between me and Maya. I just make sure i never hit spline tangents and im fine. The only time it really bothers me is when I forget to keyframe something or with foot rotations and knee and elbow rotations. What ever method i choose (Twist attrib or pole vector), elbows and knees really get on my nerves. Thats when i get grumpy. I change the shoulder movement, elbows start to jerk.. So, I leave elbows and knees as final polish. I wish I could hide hands and legs for my rigs.. They bother too much when watching the spine and hips polishing. Other than that, me and maya are friends.

I start with keys all linear (for cartoony, all stepped) and i kinda straight ahead through the main poses and breakdowns. (for moving holds, i copy keyframes and paste them and then move them a little bit so that the hold reads rather than the character sticking dead.. probably, by this time, general brow shape and eye direction is set up well) Then come back, fix the timing, see whether beats are hitting on time or late or what ever, see if the actions are too much for the sound or are they not strong enough for the energy in the track.. by this time, im in linear..All controls keyed on each key frame. I keep adding bdowns until i have one every three or four frames.. Still keyframing all controls on the same frame.

While im doing breakdowns, i usually check my arcs there itself, so that i dont have too much weirdness happening.

Then I finally see if there are any dead parts. Parts that seem "dead" because they dont move. I add tiny moving holds, to lets say, chest, middle back rotation and such stuff. Then I check the up and down spacing of the main control to see if its showing weight through spacing. Then I look at overlap, drag and delays and if they are working right. I make sure that not all the parts are moving at the same time, curve-shape transitions in the body and stuff. Then I look and see whether energy is flowing through the body, that is, is hips driving the movement? are the feet planted correctly and whether shoulders move before arms move.. etc..

Once this is done (all actions broken down in linear tangents), I hit the Graph editor. I use plateau tangents usually and not spline tangents. I almost never hit spline tangents now a days. dont need 'em. By this time, i have keys on once every 3 or 4 frames. so, even Spline doesnt hurt, but i prefer to smooth things by hand. Only for mechanical stuff like bouncing balls and pendullums, I use splines.. for all character animation, I use plateau tangents in Maya and then tweak them on my own.

When I hit polish mode, First thing I do is openup the graph editor and edit up any crazy curves and spikes in the graph. I also check for rotations and how they are happening.

Then I check anticipations, slow ins and outs of keys and such stuff on each control on the entire body. On a regular biped, this takes 1 day of work for me.

Then I add on more (or subtle) squash and stretch, tweak up breakdowns so that they look more "snappy" or correct in spacing. I check arcs, I check knee pops and elbow pops and such.

Once thats done, I go ahead and tighten up lip movement, eyedarts, spacing on head, tweaking head accents, adding tiny squash and stretches on chest for breathing and so on.

Then playblast it, save it and leave it for a sometime. Once i get back, i see some mistakes that i couldnt see before. I goback and tweak the hell out.. then do some "motion blur" enabled renders of key parts to see if the blur flows according to arcs and stuff (all the renders are preview renders.. basic lighting..).

Once it looks good, its done. By this time, I would be cursing myself usually for not doing some other better gestures than what I did, I tell myself that I should move on and make better shots next time, close Maya, put back my animation drawings and books, clean the room, take a walk, play some cricket and get back to meditation..
Next day, another shot starts.

Thats the polish stage.. But my workflow for the beginning stage is also slightly different. I use a combination of straight ahead animation, pose to pose and copied pairs workflows The key for me is planning. Everything else happens a lot faster when I am well planned. If I didnt plan well, I usually dont finish those shots.

Great thread by the way. oh, facial polish is a different matter all together... May be in a later post.


07 July 2007, 05:03 PM
Breakdown keys sounds promissing

07 July 2007, 07:00 PM
I almost never hit spline tangents now a days. dont need 'em. By this time, i have keys on once every 3 or 4 frames. so, even Spline doesnt hurt, but i prefer to smooth things by hand. Only for mechanical stuff like bouncing balls and pendullums, I use splines.. for all character animation, I use plateau tangents in Maya and then tweak them on my own.


I agree with you on not using spline curves for character animation(unless your going for the Moonwalk look when doing a walk cycle for example:))
And certainly with walking away from a shot to return to it with better clarity is high up on my list.
Thanks for the post, you put alot of detail in your workflow explaination which is fantastic, even R&R, I don't mind cricket, but I prefer tennis these days, my girlfriend is more partial to it.

Great post :)

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