Animation – Assessment 2 – Animated Character Walk

The requirement is to create a walk cycle with some personality. When I think of collecting walk cycle reference, what comes to mind are 2 classic walking scenes I remember from films –

• the ‘group walk’ at the opening of reservoir dogs – the ‘coolness’ of this scene is enhanced by the use of slow motion which gives the audience time to think about the camaraderie of the group. Each has his own walking style but they all take very long strides –

and
• Travolta’s famous ‘strut’ walk at the end of ‘Stayin Alive’ – notice the technique of close-cropping the frame on the actors head. This re-enforces the bounce of the head within the frame. It is very deliberate to emphasize the rhythm of the movement –

So I take one for the team, put ‘Stayin alive’ in the headphones and try to act out the strut I am looking for….turns out I am the whitest man in inner western Sydney! I went through the frames and pulled out the key positions
SuperWhiteJimi
So from right to left we have the
• Contact
• down
• passing
• up
• mirrored contact

and here it is with just those frames strung together as a gif –
SuperWhiteJimi

My ‘acting’ is pretty poor to use as proper reference so using the rough proportions of ‘package man’ (who will be our actor) I sketch out the reference poses.
walkCycleStandard
Reading through the walk cycle section in the Animators Survival Kit (2009) I find a tip on making a walk cycle bouncier. It suggests that if the character remains ‘down’ at the passing position, it can give the character more bounce. So I guess more like this-
walkCycleBouncy2

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Blocking Stage 1

So based on the drawings above and some class lectures about building walk cycles (see my class process diary), I jump into maya with package man and begin blocking in my key poses –
Here are the snap shots from blocking stage 1
Side View
SideView_BlockPass1
Front View
FrontView_BlockPass1
At blocking stage 1, I am just using the centre of gravity control and the basic rotates and translates on the feet, none of the fancy foot controls like taps, rolls and twists. I pose out the keys for 2 steps spanning 24 frames. This feels like a good pace and if not I can adjust that later.
He does not have a great deal of character yet, but his movement is fairly fluid. He takes quite large steps and has quite a lot of up and down bounce and hip rotation. I save this one out as a playblast and leave any more personality exploration for blocking stage 2.
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Blocking Stage 2

I have been doing some experimenting I have had a light bulb moment! The essence I want in this character is ‘rhythm’ and strut as I have discussed above. I want him to have a dance-like quality along with the exaggerated bounce and I have figured out how to do it!
I actually have to break the walk cycle ‘rules’ for the hip rotations. Normally when a character walks, the hips rotate in Z to favor the leg that is forward. For this dance-like stayin’ alive strut, my hip rotation in Z needs to favor the leg that is BACK!
I can explain it better with front view screen shot –
HipRotation
I have subverted the usual rule and made the hips rotate down toward the BACK leg! It doesn’t make a huge difference from the side view but when I looked from the front I realized it was what I had been trying to get all along. This was confirmed when I looked from the back and the butt had the kind of catwalk wiggle that Travolta’s character has. This hip movement is a bit feminine but I have combined this with the masculine ‘stay down on passing position’ action that I played with in the drawings and it is the perfect combination. Here are the screen snaps-
Side View
SideView_BlockPass2
Front View
FrontView_BlockPass2
You can really see from this front view the difference this makes! You can almost feel him lunging forward with each step.
Here is a side by side comparison of Blocking Stage 1 and Blocking Stage 2, look out for the change in hip rotation it kind of pops in a very danc-y way and also keeping the hips staying down longer into the passing position-
Considering it is still in stepped tangents, I am really happy with it!

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This week moved from block pass 2 into Animation pass 1. I converted all the stepped tangents to spline and plateau. I wont explain because I posted all about the process in my class process diary here:
https://jimi3d.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/animation-assessment-1-process-diary-week-10/
but here it is the latest playblast-

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Some more fine tuning in the 2nd pass of animation stage this week.
• Adjusted the feet through the passing position so that the toes did not penetrate the floor.
• Adjusted the tangents on the hip rotations to give it some follow through rather than just a smooth action.
• added pre and post infinity cycles to all controllers so that it loops seamlessly.
You can read more about this stage in my week 11 process diary entry here:
https://jimi3d.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/animation-assessment-1-process-diary-week-11/

and here is the latest playblast –

References –
Williams, R, 2009. The Animators Survival Kit. 1st ed. London: Bloomsbury.

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One thought on “Animation – Assessment 2 – Animated Character Walk

  1. Pingback: Animation – Assessment 1- Process Diary – Week 10 | jimi3d

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