This is actually the hardest stage to describe, I think; there are so many small things that I do it’s hard to summarise them. But I’ll give it a shot!
I normally don’t use the graph editor all that much before the polishing pass as I know I’ll have to come back to it again anyway. What I do is pick a point on my character (in this case, illustrated by the horse’s head).
I then open the graph editor to see how the head moves. As seen by the graph below, the curve begins and ends smoothly but in the middle it changes direction quite sharply with the points all over the place.
What I do is adjust the points until the whole curve is smooth. I try not to make it perfect, otherwise everything will move evenly. The idea is to keep the general shape while smoothing out the kinks.
It’s at this stage that I make sure to get rid of all evenness and stiffness in the movement. I adjusted the horse’s feet so that the hooves don’t lift off the ground all at the same time, and so the hind legs don’t kick out at exactly the same time. I adjusted the tail so it follows the movement of the body. The ears were looking pretty stiff, so I added a little flick in there – hopefully just enough to keep them alive. If you look really closely, you’ll also be able to see the horse briefly open its mouth.
There are many things like that which have been tweaked and adjusted since the last video I posted. The aim is to recreate life, to make it believable – an illusion people want to believe. By rolling the body from one side to another as it lifts and lands, I’m making the horse look like it has real weight.
As seen by the graph editor, smoothing things out is important. This is also seen in the arcs of the character – how the hoof moves across the screen, for example. Below I’ve used Maya’s handy sketch tool, Grease Pencil, to examine how the left fore leg (on the right) picks up and then sets down. I’ve already adjusted this leg in terms of timing (slower as it lifts and falls, faster in the middle) and the arc is getting there. You can see by the purple line that it is quite straight in the middle, and wiggles around at the end.
Using a different colour I add another line to my sketch – this is the arc I want the leg to have. (The leg is now on the left.) I’ve picked out the keys I want to change the position of: 16 needs to be slightly raised, 18 needs to be shifted quite significantly to the right, and 19 needs some adjusting to fit between the new 18 and the final key. Once these are changed, I’ll get that nice smooth arc.It is possible to use Maya’s editable motion trail, but I prefer the old-fashioned way because then I can measure the arc against exactly what I want to, in this case the point of the hoof.
Here, then, is the final animation:
The problem with the polishing stage (and 3D in general) is the ability to go back and revise and revise again. Even while making this post I discovered more things to change – and I certainly can see many more things in previous animations I’ve done! However I’m pleased with this little project and I hope to use this rig again.