I've sort of got the hang of the very basics of Softimage at this point (still getting used to shortcuts and whatnot) so I've started experimenting a bit with the actual animation capabilities. Nothing complex so far; I've had a go with keyframe animation in an attempt to figure out how it works.
I did have screenshots of all the following exercises, but unfortunately some unforeseen technical problems forced me to re-install the Windows partition. I was a bit stupid and backed up my actual project files but forgot the screenshots... hey ho, lesson learned. I'll do my best to gabble my way through this and then re-take some shots later today!
The first attempt was the most straightforward piece of keyframing I could muster; sliding a ball across the floor. Mostly just trying to figure out how things actually work here before I start getting too fancy!
Once I'd learned where all the buttons were, I tried messing around with timing and spacing a little bit.
I attempted to inject some sort of character into the ball — I was aiming to have it speed in and then slow to a stop, but Softimage has a slightly convoluted way of working with keyframes and I'm not quite used to it. I couldn't figure out how to move keyframes on the timeline, or delete them properly, so I was pretty much stuck with what I botched out first time. It's alright — it works, but the timing and speed is very off. There doesn't seem to be any onion skinning or anything so it's quite difficult to map out the spacing correctly — this was mostly guesswork!
After the second attempt I did a little more reading into how keyframes work to try and get a better understanding before I tried anything again. I managed to figure out how to edit and delete them at long last, so the third attempt was marginally more successful:
I'm not entirely sure why the ball is moving away from the camera, as I was positive that I'd animated it in a straight line as with the others — perhaps I messed something up with the camera settings or export. It could also be that I used the animation editor to tweak this one rather than standard keyframing — it's hard to describe without screenshots, but it's basically a big curve graph that displays keyframes on the parameters of an object (the position or scale, say) that allows you to very quickly see where the "rough" spots are and smooth it out — quite literally. Dragging the keyframes up or down on the graph alters the curve and adjusts the parameters so you can pretty quickly get a feel for the timing and how it's going to run before you even hit the play button.
I can see it being a really intuitive and useful way of animating but it takes some getting used to! As we see here the ball is perhaps too quick and there's not quite enough of a slow down at the end, but it's a start!