Some wind-down sketches from this afternoon.

Also, the first little bit has been released about the project I’ve been working on for the last eight weeks. I’ve been a Story Artist on the Animation Base Camp, a trainee programme with mentorship from Sony Pictures Animation. Find out more here!

30SecHorses

Animating a Horse III

Polishing

Previous posts: Posing and Breakdowns.

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).

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 13.03.27

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.

Graph_01 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.Graph_02

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.

GreasePencil_01 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.GreasePencil_02It 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.

Previous posts: Posing and Breakdowns.

Animating a Horse II

Breakdowns

Find parts I and III here: Posing and Polishing.

What with Christmas, applying for jobs, and so on, it’s taken me longer than I hoped to do some more work with my horse animation. Today I’ve had the chance to do so! To find my first post about this animation, click here.

I began by looking at my reference video again. My first pose (horse crouched down) was from frame 2,

1

and my second pose (horse in the air) was from frame 6.

2

I found my breakdown pose on frame 5.

5

This is important for describing the action because it shows when the feet lift from the ground. Rather than the horse drifting upwards, it will lift up suddenly.

I repeated this process of “breaking down” the movement between each set of key poses for the whole animation. I also adjusted the posing and timing of the keys when necessary. Once I had all my keys and breakdowns, my Maya file looked like this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 12.40.06

The graph editor shows how the horse moves between keys. In the image above, the position holds until the next key: it’s stepped. This is somewhat like 2D animation (which is often shot on “twos”, or twelve frames a second; in other words, held for two frames) which I’ve found familiar and very helpful.

When I’m happy with the keys and breakdowns at the stepped stage, I spline it. That means taking the stepped graph editor and turning it into this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 12.40.35

You can see the different stages of the animation in the video below:

Version 6 is the first four key frames, stepped. Version 13 is the keys and breakdowns, stepped. Version 14 is (almost) the same keys and breakdowns, splined.

The next stage is to adjust the timing (getting rid of any evenness) and to polish (like fixing that wobbly knee).

Find parts I and III here: Posing and Polishing.

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