Saturday, 31 March 2012

Moom walk cycle V11 - 14 [upper blocking]

Various attempts to start blocking in the remaining keyframes for the arms, none of which were particularly successful.

Version 11

I think this one could probably have worked had I tweaked it a little more; there's a bit of a kink in the arm when it comes forward on the down position. I tried to have it carry on forward, as in Richard Williams' cycle, but to be honest following his diagram for the arms has always given me issues. I find that the motion is a little too formulaic and robotic-looking. It's a great basis for the keyframes and understanding the principles of the movement, don't get me wrong, but I don't think that having the entire arm continue forward works too well. I think that for best effect only the forearm needs to continue forward - the upper arm could stay mostly still, or even have it start to come back already.

Version 12

In this attempt I tried to work some slight joint breaking into my key poses, thinking they were as 'key' to block out as the positions of the arms. With the way that Softimage interpolates keyframes, though, it probably wasn't the best idea. The arm wobbles about a bit weirdly - again, with some adjustments it could have worked, but I think it was just a bit too complex at this stage.

Most of the movement came from the shoulder in order to 'break' the joint - looking at the fcurves shows the problem:

They're all bumpy and uneven as Softimage tries to calculate the path of motion. With some manual tweaking to smooth them out it could possibly have worked but I don't really think the poses themselves were strong enough to really warrant the effort. Back to basics.

Version 13

Looking at this version after a break it doesn't look as bad as I'd initially thought. I should have kept the rear arm stationary - it's a bit distracting - but arguably I think I've sort of hit the key poses for the arm fairly well. I think the only thing is that perhaps it delays too much as it's forward; perhaps I should start moving the upper arm back a little sooner as the forearm continues forward. The weird bump issue with the up and down is still there; I really have no idea what's happened, as all the keyframes are exactly the same. I can only assume that something's gone wrong somewhere with the interpolation.

Even with Richard Williams' diagram I'm finding it very difficult to line the arms up correctly, particularly on the 'down' position. Walk cycles in any medium are difficult but I'm finding the whole thing compounded by Softimage's lack of an onion skin. Continuing the swing forward on the down position is tricky to align without it jerking about weirdly (as seen above) - at one stage I even started looking up some similar 'casual' walk cycles in an attempt to understand how they'd posed the arms on their own rigs and to see how the interpolation was working.

I found some very nice examples:

What's interesting about this one is that nearly all the movement is in the wrists and forearms; the biceps and shoulders don't go very far at all. It's a lovely, subtle movement.

Owing to our limited rig, though, something like the above might not be wholly possible. So I found something a little more 'typical' and similar to the Williams example.

Again, some really lovely overlap and the upper arms don't travel so much. Using the above as a guide I tried to roughly emulate (read: shamelessly copy) the positions to get an idea of where I might be going wrong.

Version 14

I managed to sort out the issue with the bumping at this stage; somehow, the fcurves got slightly altered on the hip object. I have no idea how but the curve was completely out of whack and had inverted itself; simply altering the slope of the handles to smooth it out fixed the problem.

The arm's pretty similar to V13. I think it's alright, though arguably I don't think I've hit the poses as well as before. The arc of the swing isn't really there - it kind of travels diagonally from its position on the down pose to the reverse contact, so I need to look at sorting that out.

The arm also remains mostly stationary on the down position, not really doing anything at all. As above I need to continue the forearm going up and maybe even start to move the upper arm backwards.

I'm going to mess around with it a little more and see if I can sort that arc out!

Moom walk cycle V10 [upper block]

Version 10

Simply blocking in the arms using just a few key frames on the contacts and passing positions. It's already passable as an arm swing, but it needs a lot of tweaking and refining to really get the flexibility in there. Once I've blocked in the rest of the keys and got them looking smooth I'll probably look at trying to overlap sections and get some nice shoulder rotation in there.

I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to go about posing the arms for maximum overlapability (that is totally a word!) - Moom lacks individual controls for each limb segment, as I've mentioned before, so precisely controlling the position of his arms is going to be quite tricky. Not entirely sure how to find a way around that.

Looking at it again I also see that something weird has happened to his up and down positions; there's a very sudden jerk downwards after the second 'up' pose and I have no idea where that's come from. The key frames are identical so I can only assume Softimage is doing something weird with the interpolation?

Moom walk cycle [lower block] V9

Version 9

I fixed the stamp (I hope) by tweaking the positions of the legs and have been given the go-ahead by Jon to start with the arms. I also lessened the angle of the feet on the contacts as well - they were a little extreme before, which may have been contributing to the stamping.

That's all I have to say. Rubbish post?

Moom walk cycle [lower block] V8

Version 8

The fruits of my labour; a much better step length, no weird bump issues on the ups and downs and the legs move pretty smoothly.

He's got a bit of a stamp, though, and Jon suggested that it can be caused by the legs on the passing and up positions being too high and/or too close together. To the Batmobile!

Moom walk cycle [lower block] V6 & V7

Version 6

Version 7

These two versions are pretty much identical so I'll talk about them together!

I reverted back to V5 and attempted to sort the leg popping and spacing issues, but I wound up getting very confused over the whole thing. Again, still trying to modify those poses to get the leg to stop popping and to slide smoothly. It's still looking okay but somehow I've managed to make the popping more noticeable.

At this stage I was also thinking that the step wasn't quite wide enough. I may just go back and start again from scratch. Sometimes that's much easier than trying to edit what you already have - you don't make the same mistakes that got you into trouble in the first place!

Shuttlecock V18

Version 18

Altered the distance the shuttlecock travels after the first bounce and tried to tweak the rotation a little so that it makes more sense with how it lands.

I don't even know if I like it or not. I don't know if something about it is bothering me or if I just can't think of anything more to do to it. I don't know if I like the timing. I don't know if it looks right anymore. Ahhh!!

I think it's time to leave this one for today.

Shuttlecock V16

Version 16

I skewed the angle of the shuttlecock's flight very very slightly so that it's less of a straight line. It's not too noticeable but to be honest I'm reluctant to muck around with it too much... which I know is stupid.

I'm not sure about the weird spinny/roll thing at the very end, looks a bit off to me somehow? Maybe it's not too bad. Just feels a bit sudden, or for some reason I feel like it should go in the other direction. Not sure.

The flip is a little problematic; it kind of changes direction as it flips and the cork starts pointing straight ahead again during one part. It's a bit awkward to alter and difficult to keep consistent!

Still, at least it's getting there. Hopefully I can have it finished by today...

Shuttlecock V15

Version 14

I think I've more or less sorted out the bounces at this stage - still looks perhaps a bit too wide to me? I'm not sure. Might mess with bringing it all a little closer together. I think the spin and fall is definitely too slow, though! I compared it to V13 and the shuttlecock spins much, much more quickly.

I guess I'll start messing with the change in direction at this stage before I get into playing with the timings. Don't want to get the timings looking nice and then mess it all up by adding different keyframes...!

Shuttlecock V14

Version 14


Medium closeup

Started with some of the tweaks that Jon suggested; removing the feather bounce and adding in the secondary bounces at the end. It's sort of getting there now I think, though some of the timings are messed up due to removing keyframes and such. I think maybe it rotates a little slowly in the air as it flips? I'll probably look at speeding that up. Not sure about the landing either. It looks like it goes too far before coming down - like Jon said they're very bottom -heavy so I think it needs to land a little closer to where it is at the peak of its bounce. If that makes sense.

Not keen on the secondary bouncing either. I'm really irritated with myself - I got it looking pretty good in V9 and now I'm having trouble replicating it! I think maybe it just needs to bounce a tiny bit higher and rotate upwards a little more as it bounces.

Shuttlecock V14

Version 14

Medium closeup


Started with some of the tweaks that Jon suggested; removing the feather bounce and adding in the secondary bounces at the end. It's sort of getting there now I think, though some of the timings are messed up due to removing keyframes and such. I think maybe it rotates a little slowly in the air as it flips? I'll probably look at speeding that up. Not sure about the landing either. It looks like it goes too far before coming down - like Jon said they're very bottom -heavy so I think it needs to land a little closer to where it is at the peak of its bounce. If that makes sense.

Not keen on the secondary bouncing either. I'm really irritated with myself - I got it looking pretty good in V9 and now I'm having trouble replicating it! I think maybe it just needs to bounce a tiny bit higher and rotate upwards a little more as it bounces.

Shuttlecock V13

Version 13

Spoke to Jon yesterday and he gave me some very helpful critique on this so far. He said he wasn't sure about landing on the feathers - shuttlecocks are, after all, bottom-heavy and so wouldn't tend to do that. Although this is what I observed in the reference footage I can defintely see his point - it's tricky to pull off and doesn't look right, really. Instead of landing on the feathers he suggested to have it go through a full rotation and land cork-down, then to have a little secondary bouncing towards the end as it loses momentum.

The other thing he noted was that it's very "straight," which isn't a huge issue, but he did suggest maybe skewing it slightly as it lands and have it bounce off at a slightly different angle to make it a little more interesting. He also clarified that the shuttlecock needs to bounce within the white square, which is easy to fix.

Hopefully the next couple of revisions will be the last ones so I can just move on from the blasted thing...

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Shuttlecock V10 & V12

Version 10

Biggest changes here are to try and mimic the reference footage more closely in terms of angle, shuttlecock spacing etc. I altered the angle that it initially lands at so that it sticks out slightly. It should probably bounce off in that direction as well, though - at the moment it just sort of goes in a straight line which looks a bit weird.

I also once again shortened the distance the shuttlecock travels after its first bounce and increased the height. I think it looks a lot better this way, but the second "bounce" is bothering me a lot. If it lands on the feathers it shouldn't really bounce very high or very far, if at all - it really needs to land on the feathers, then come straight down onto the cork. However this is very tricky to animate owing to the construction of the rig - the shuttlecock will always rotate from the cork which means that if I try to rotate the feathers upwards the cork will stay at the same height. I could probably simply adjust the height manually - thinking about it, it sounds very logical and very simple. I don't know why I've been having difficulty with it. Maybe I'll give it another shot.

I also removed the series of smaller bounces at the end. The shuttlecock comes to a very sudden stop after the feathers drop back to the ground now, which I don't really like - I think it should probably bounce very slightly once more afterwards. It's a bit too slow as well - once I start adjusting the curves I can remove some of that cushioning/easing.

I also managed to break yet another rig - look closely, once again you see that the translation control has detached itself from the ball of the shuttlecock. I have absolutely no idea why this keeps happening. This time, I almost certainly did not place any keyframes on the wrong object - it seemed to occur after I started Ctrl + Z/undoing a set of keyframes that I didn't like. The control object just seemed to pop away from the rig. Very, very weird. And annoying.

Version 12

Please try to see past the ugly capture...! I've started adjusting the curves at this point, giving the shuttlecock a faster bounce and a slight delay at the top to allow it time to rotate downwards.

Looking at it closely, I think it probably hits the peak a little too suddenly - almost like an invisible ceiling. I think it needs to delay perhaps just a little longer to allow it to rotate a bit more before it drops.

I tried speeding up the fall onto the feathers at the end but it still looks too snappy/choppy. I really don't know what to do about it - my main idea for a fix involves getting the ball to drop straight from the feathers onto the ball and back again, in one place, without traveling forward and backwards or up and down or jerking all over the place.

Shuttlecock V9

Version 9

Reverting more to the motion seen in V7, it's quicker and lands pointing forward rather than back. It also lands within the bouncing box rather than outside it. It also enters the shot from a slightly different angle.

There are no timing adjustments so far; it's pretty much the basic motion. I was actually quite happy with this one when I made it, but the more I analysed it the more I started to worry that it didn't wouldn't meet the brief; does it have to bounce inside the white square, or just land within it? I'm also worrying that it's not enough like the reference I used, it's not how a real shuttlecock would act, etc. etc.

On a more practical basis, however, the main issue is that first bounce. I think it still travels too far, but I did reduce the rotation so that it lands on the other corner which I think is looking better.

I do like the ending; it's not strictly lifelike, but it's a little better than just having it fall flat onto the floor. originally, I wanted to have it fall straight down onto the tip from the feathers but due to the nature of the rig (it rotates strictly from the ball end) it's very difficult to line up correctly. Absolutely none of my attempts to do so worked - should have captured and uploaded them really, but hey ho.

It probably skids too much as well. Shuttlecocks tend to come to a halt straight away when thrown, not bounce and then keep going forward like a ball does.

I don't know, I'll probably go back to the footage and  try to mimic it more closely. But it's a start.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Moom walk [lower block] V5

Version 5



Aggh. I actually prefer the previous version over this one. I tried getting a bit too involved with it, I think - tried changing too much at once without checking each stage. Lesson learned.

I altered the height of the down, passing and up positions to try and smooth out the bounce and I think it looks better, but the legs, I feel, are much worse. I tried to sort out the leg's popping by altering the passing and up legs - it sort of worked, I think, but now the leg very suddenly comes to a stop on the contact pose when it should probably keep moving backwards. In retrospect I think I may be able to fix that by dropping the height of the contact pose slightly and moving his leg back a bit more but I'm concerned that will mess up the rest of the poses in some way.

I did also end up extending the front leg a little more on each contact pose and I'm not keen on the way it looks. I think the stride is a bit wide now. Sort of looks like he's marching!

I did try to do something a little funkier with the feet on the 'up' position as well by rotating the toes so they were flat on the floor and the heel was up, giving a bit more of a push, but due to the automated keyframes it sort of bumps up and down  rather than sliding and moving smoothly. I'd probably have to alter each frame by hand to fix that, so I think I'll revert it and just leave it as it was. There'll be time to refine these things later. It's more important to get a solid block done at this point.

I'm actually wondering if it is at all possible to fix the leg popping using so few keyframes. It seems, again, like something you'd need to manually tweak or with the fcurves. I'll give it another shot but I might need to ask Jon for some advice on that one; I don't seem to be able to fix it no matter what I do!

I'll probably go back to version 4, which I feel was overall a little better, and make some slight height adjustments to that one to see if I can smooth out the bouncing. Then I'll look at tweaking the legs a little more.

Moom walk cycle [lower block] V4

Version 4



Here I've mostly just tried to sort out the stampy feet a little more by bringing the knee forward on the passing position so there's more change between keys. I think it's looking better, although there's a bit of popping with the back leg and I think the up and down movement might be a little bit bumpy? He does seem to rise up quite high on the 'up' pose so maybe dropping the height slightly would rectify that, although that would make the knee bend, which would mean I need to bring the leg further back to straighten it, which may then cause problems with the contact pose - the contact pose's back leg is already stretched almost as far as it will go without popping out of place so I'm not sure what else I can do.

The popping, I think, may be caused by the spacing of the leg between the passing and contact poses. I could try bringing the leg of the passing and up positions forward so that there's more change between them.

Really, though, I think that the problem is the contact pose? Maybe he's up too high. If I lower him slightly I might be able to extend the back leg a little more. I'm wary of lengthening the stride too much... don't want it too exagerrated.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Walk cycle [lower block] V1

Kicking off into the second component of Digital Skills, we're beginning to look at walk cycles. Starting very simply with a plain vanilla walk, we began to "block" the animation of the lower half using an extended version of Richard Williams' tried-n-tested walk cycle formula:

Similar to the superhero posing, we set the diagram as a rotoscopy image within Softimage. We set keyframes and posed the character according to the diagram.

It all sounds deceptively simple on paper, but it's not quite as straightforward as you'd originally think. Though the principles remain the same, lots of things that work in 2D animation don't translate well into 3D - exaggerated or stretched limbs, for example. Depending on your rig, pushing a pose too far can cause the character's limbs to 'pop.'

The process of actually posing your character is a challenge as well. Especially in the case of something like a walk cycle where you need to keep the position of limbs relatively consistent. Even after rounding them up or down, I got very confused trying to remember the numeric parameters for each rig control and kept losing track of which leg needed to move and by how much. The lack of a real onion skin is also problematic; it's a bit tricky trying to keep track of your arcs and make sure Mr Moom isn't going up or down too far. I think a lot of it will come with time and practice, though!

Version 1



My own first attempt; he's walking, at least, and it sort of works, but immediately it's apparent that there are some slight posing issues to be ironed out. There's a slight 'popping' of my character's leg between the up and contact poses - I think I need to slacken the up pose slightly as his leg is pushed quite far. There's also a noticeable 'stamp' as he brings his foot down, and I think that's caused by the crossover of the legs at the passing position. They don't move forward quite enough, so it doesn't really allow enough frames/time for the leg to come down smoothly, so it sort of snaps straight down to the floor. If that makes sense.

There are some issues with the foot roll as well. It's not quite as flexible as I'd like and it sort of floats off the floor whilst it's rolling, which looks a bit peculiar. I need to keep it stuck to the ground as it rolls and only lift it when he starts to move his leg. I think I'd like to tilt the foot backwards on the passing position, to give it a bit of a drag.

I'm not too sure on the hip movement. I didn't want to exaggerate it so much that he was mincing, but looking at it now I think it might be just a little too subtle, so I might look at increasing it slightly.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Shuttlecock V7

I have no idea what happened to version 6; either it got overwritten or (more likely) my naming conventions suck and I accidentally skipped a number. Whoops. I'll keep it labelled thus for now until I figure out what happened. Preferably when I'm not so tired.

I was getting very flustered by this point so I scurried off and found yet another reference video. This one, I must admit, is pretty brilliant.

I cut it from what I think was a student film (11 minutes long!), and unfortunately they put some sort of peculiar stagger effect on it, so it kind of jars the image. If you spend long enough scrubbing through it you can sort of get a feel for the overall motion, though.

Immediately it's apparent where I was going wrong last time - you can see that the shuttlecock hits the ground and flips forward before landing on the corner, which then knocks the cork towards the ground, where it knocks the shaft back again and so on. Very, very, VERY similar to the motion in the previous video, so I was able to put two and two together and kind of understand the overall mechanics of the thing. Subsequently:

Version 7

Medium closeup

Now that's better

The new reference video clearly helped, I think. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I think it's looking a lot better.

I think it possibly bounces a little too far forward (though I suppose it depends on the force of the launch) and perhaps it could stand to bounce a little higher?

The other thing I notice is that maybe it rotates a little too much. Currently, as it flies through the air, one of the corners brushes the ground but it keeps rotating until the other corner hits the floor, then it starts bouncing - I could have it bounce off the first corner and it might look a little better. If that makes sense.

After it bounces off the corner and lands on the cork, it kind of skids along the ground before rotating back onto the feathers - I think I probably need to have it bounce a little more instead of skid.

But, other than that, I'm feeling a little happier. I'm concerned with how simple it is... it just sort of bounces in a straight line. I feel like I should fancy it up a bit and have it bounce or rotate in a slightly different direction but I don't know. Maybe that's not important. I'll try to worry about that later.

Shuttlecock V5

Version 5

Oh dear...

Here I started trying to add the rotation to the shuttlecock... you can tell I wasn't thinking clearly. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Though, to be fair, I'm typing this after watching a much clearer reference video (which I'll post shortly) so I can now understand what was happening in that blurry video - when I originally animated this one all I had to go on was the super tiny video and had to guesstimate most of it!

First big problem; why does it rotate to the side after the first bounce? It should, logically, have rotated forward, landed on the corner of the shaft and then flipped over onto its side. It should then probably have bounced along on its side, or hit the corner again and then bounced over to the right.

It's floaty and has no physics. I opted to just give up on this one; it was doing my head in and I needed more footage. Back to Youtube...

Shuttlecock V4

I took a step back this time. I'm still feeling very anxious and overwhelmed by this whole thing - seems Softimage really isn't my forte - and I'm just beginning to panic a little about the amount of work I still have to do... logically I know I'm not behind but I'm so desperate to get this part of the brief over and done with so I can just concentrate on the next bit. Unfortunately that clashes with my desire to be absolutely perfect.


So, anyway, I was poking around on Youtube and I managed to find a couple of reference videos that I thought might help give me more of an indication of the shuttlecock's movement as it strikes the ground.

I took this one from Will's blog (sorry Will!!) and trimmed it down so I was able to loop the point of interest. It's a little difficult to see, but you can kind of get a feel for the motion - looks to me as if it lands cork-down, then bounces to the side and lands on the feathers. When the feathers strike the ground, it bounces back forward and is knocked in an arc, landing back on its other side where it bounces very slightly and rolls around a little until it comes to a stop.

Rather similar to the observations I made from the video uploaded onto myUCA. The main difference here is the direction it bounces and lands caused by the trajectory/angle it lands at.

Version 4

I tried to mimic the overall path of the bounce, opting not to tinker with any rotation at this stage. The speed and distance travelled in each bounce are a little off, but I did try to match the overall timing with the video as best as I could. I wasn't sure how I felt about it at the time - I was a little hazy and still getting myself very worked up over it, so I had trouble seeing whether it had potential to work or if I should just have scrapped it entirely and started fresh.

Looking at it now I think that perhaps it bounces forward just a little too far, and not far enough when it bounces from left to right. I think that it could have stood to bounce a little higher, too, bearing in mind that it was going to be rotating forward to land on the tip.

See? This is why I need to calm down and take breaks. Looking at it with fresh eyes I can much more easily see what could have been fixed, rather than rushing straight ahead and making a billion different half-finished versions. Oh well...

Shuttlecock V3

Version 3

I'm really sorry, I know it's stupid and I'm an idiot, but I cannot for the life of me remember what I changed in this version. It looks exactly the same but I did it a couple of days ago and was getting really flustered with getting this right so I just carried on revising them one after another without pausing to type down my observations. I know I must have changed it, or I wouldn't have saved it as a new version... I'll leave it here for the time being anyway...

Bowling ball V9

Medium closeup


I think this is the version I'm most satisfied with thus far. I lengthened the roll of the ball and tweaked the curves so that the speed was relatively consistent when coming out of the last bounce, and had it slow to a stop. The rotation was a little tricky to get right, and I'm still not sure it looks correct. I opted to have it roll for about one frame after it came to a stop, just very slightly, in the hopes that it would be a little more realistic. In reality the ball wouldn't stop moving at the exact point it stopped rotating... I think?

However, looking at the closeup shot, you can see a huge problem - it goes off-screen! It shouldn't be too difficult to fix (hopefully) - I should be able to use the fcurve editor. If I select all the x position keyframes and just drag them up/down to slightly alter the position, I should be able to re-frame it and bring it back into the centre.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Shuttlecock V1 & V2

Shuttlecock V1


Medium closeup

(Sorry for the horrible Youtube upload — hit my daily Vimeo limit and I'm still waiting for it to reset...!)

For an initial test, I don't think it came out too badly - especially considering I was absolutely dreading doing the shuttlecock! It was done on a whim, mostly; there's precious little reference on youtube and the shuttlecocks I bought are useless cheap plastic things that don't bounce at all. So I'm having to make a lot of educated guesses as to the motion of the shuttlecock.

Obviously it's very rough so far! I tried to pay attention to the tilt of the feathers and ball, considering how the feathers hitting the floor would effect the rotation. It definitely needs more rotation - a shuttlecock is very bottom-heavy and it will always tilt so the ball points downwards. I'd like to have it swing downwards towards the end, just before it lands - perhaps having the feathers hit the floor and knocking the ball downwards to get it going.

I guess the first thing I'm noticing is that it doesn't really bounce very high, or enough times. It's quite a springy thing and if it weren't for the feathers scraping the ground and getting in the way it would probably bounce a fair bit. I'd like to animate more of that sort of thing - the ball trying to bounce but interrupted by the feathers.

Without decent reference it's hard to say whether it looks correct or not, so I think it's going to be very much a case of eyeballing it...!

Shuttlecock V2

Here, I've removed most of the rotation so I can focus on getting the bounces right. Maybe it's because there's less going on, but I don't like this version as much as the last one...! Maybe once I've started jazzing it up a bit it'll look a little nicer...

I'm less happy with the speed here, too. I actually delayed the shuttlecock's initial rotation after it strikes the ground the first time - I wanted to give the impression that it drags along the floor before rotating forward but, thinking about it, it probably doesn't make much sense. I think it would probably bounce first - unless it landed with the feathers quite close to the ground there's no reason for it to drag.

I'm not sure if the bounce is really high enough - the closer to the middle it bounces, the higher it goes. Unless I have it strike the ground at a slight angle it should probably go higher, but wouldn't travel as far. If it hits at an angle it won't go as high but it would probably travel much further. In the context of this animation I think it would be best for it to travel further.

I'll have to scurry off and do a few more thumbnails. I've been working a lot from my earlier sketches and improvising as I go along, which in all honesty I think might work better for this particular animation, as a lot of it is just eyeballing to see what looks right. Still, it won't hurt to have a solid foundation of what I want to do...

Bowling ball V8

Version 8

I've done my absolute best with this. I've tweaked the arc, the timing — made it longer, shorter, higher, further, lower, shorter, every conceivable combination, and this is the one that looked the best. I don't think it's too horrendous — far from perfect, far from logical, but it's at a point that I'm relatively satisfied. Mostly.

The only remaining issues, for me, are with the rolling at the end. I think it could stand to roll a little further, and slow to a more gradual stop. It's a bit abrupt at the moment I think. So any further amendments will, for the time being, just be some final tweaks to the rotation and movement.

Bowling ball V7

Several slight variations on this one; trying to see which timing works better!
Version 7.1

First, general changes. As stated previously I've slightly altered the arc of the bounce. I think it's looking a lot better now! I also kept the ball stuck to the ground for just one frame before it bounces back up again. I had to alter the last (tiny) bounce in order to stop it looking too jerky - I had to increase the height of the ball very slightly and allow it enough time to come back down so that it wouldn't look like a weird juddery glitch, whilst still being quick enough to give the impression that it's barely more than a vibration. I don't know if I succeeded...!

The first thing I noticed was that the bounce itself was still slightly bothering me. With the new arc, it seemed even less weighty than before. It seemed to move too smoothly through the arc - it was a little too uniform. So I tried to increase the spacing between the impact with the ground and the first frame of the bounce, hoping that if it was a little faster it would appear to have struck the floor with more force.

Version 7.2

With the new timing, I think the ball certainly "feels" heavier as it bounces off the floor, but the drop from the bounce seems too slow. I think maybe I got it backwards and should use the timing for the climb for the drop, and revert the climb back to its original speed? I decided to try doing the same thing for the drop's timing as well.

Version 7.3

As I suspected, though, it made the whole thing too choppy. The ball is hardly in the air at all and it really needs to "hover" there for just a second as it fights against gravity.

I think I'll try reversing what I did for 7.2 - having the ascension of the bounce at the slower speed and the decline faster and see how it looks...

Bowling ball V6

Version 6


Medium closeup

I slightly altered the bounce so that there was a little more delay between the peak and the drop. I think having a slightly "choppier" drop works well for stationary balls, but when you start to introduce motion and arcs it looks a bit weird - you can't have the ball suddenly clip to the floor whilst maintaining the slow and steady forward motion.

I think it's looking alright, but I'm not too happy with it. I don't think it really moves enough in an arc, especially on the first bounce - it seems to hit an invisible wall then suddenly drop down. That's possibly why it looks so odd on the medium closeup view? I need to smooth that out and perhaps increase its forward movement just a tad.

It's only noticeable on the side view, but the ball's initial drop is once again bothering me. I think it starts too quickly - I need to ease it out of that forward shove before it drops.

Going back to one of my reference videos, I also noticed something about the second bounce:

You can't really notice it without going frame by frame, but the ball actually remains on the ground for an extra frame before it bounces back up into its last, tiny jump. I'll need to look at incorporating this into my own animation I think, see how it looks.

Bowling ball V5

Version 5


Medium close-up

I know, I said I was going to try spacing out the bounce... but I just ended up getting confused. The speed of the bounce was bothering me - my keyframes were all over the place, and after spending the better part of 45 minutes trying to tweak what I already had, I just ended up saying 'screw it' and doing the entire thing from scratch.

I still don't know. I think the speed is looking a little better - but again, the bounce - I think it's just a little too choppy. I think it needs to ease very slightly into the peak of the bounce and then hold it for just a fraction of a second. The only danger with that is then it might look too slow?!

I seem to be having a lot of difficulty expressing any form of weight with this. Or is it just me?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bowling ball drop V3 & V4

Hooray for Vimeo processing!

Version 3

Here, I've adjusted the timing very slightly so that the ball doesn't take so long to ease into the drop. As a result, the ball enters the frame much earlier. I think this speed's better, but I'm not sure about the bounces. They seem too... "floaty" to me. I can't put my finger on what it is, exactly. I think that the ball drops from the peak of its first bounce a bit too slowly and doesn't seem to have much impact with the ground. It's a heavy object - the drop should probably be quite snappy or choppy to really give it the feeling of weight.

Version 4

I wondered if spacing the ball out would help me to figure out why the bounces look a bit weird. I think they look a little better now; still slightly floaty? I'm not sure if trying to add the roll at this stage was a bad idea - it's easy to get distracted by too much going on. In this case though I think it might help - makes anything that looks off stick out a lot more.

Anyway. I don't think the ball really rolls or moves far enough. If it's going to roll, I think it probably needs to roll properly - if it was dropped straight down it probably wouldn't roll at all, like in the reference video - so it's probably only going to look right if I animate it rolling as if it's been dropped with a bit of a push. If that makes sense.

I think I could make this version work if I were to add just a little more rotation to the ball, but I might experiment with making the bounces and rolling a little more prominent, as if the ball has been dropped with some forward force.

Bowling ball drop V1, V2

I hate Vimeo! It's hard to review these things properly when it takes so long to process... so here's a bulk post containing the first three revisions of the bowling ball drop!

Version 1

First one using the timing and spacing on the graph almost to a T (save for some minus spacing differences). Approximately 13 frames to drop, then 4 frames to bounce and fall again. It looks alright, but it's far too slow. That can be rectified very easily with some simple keyframe adjustments.

Version 2

In the second version, I attempted to alter the speed of the initial drop. The bounce speed remains relatively unchanged. Now that I look at it from this angle it's not as bad as I thought, but the main reason I wasn't happy with this one was the drop speed. The ball was far too slow coming out of its highest point - it hung in the air for a very long time before hitting its max speed. Of course, in the render output, you won't see the ball begin to fall at all - you'll only see it enter the frame at high speed. So that might actually be more effective - I may come back to this version's timing, but I tried a third amendment just to see whether it would be any better. Vimeo is processing it currently, so... see you in half an hour.

My current concern with this is how simple it is. I know it's not the point to make it overly complex, but I can't help but feel it might look a bit "lazy" if it's just a straight up-and-down movement. I'm seriously considering trying to get the ball to roll across the ground. I think I'll attempt it anyway, just to see how it looks, but there's no reason I have to use it in the final render if I can't get it right (but that would be giving up...)

Bowling ball planning

Tremble before the might of my amazing graph:
Apologies for the shoddiness; I don't have Photoshop on this computer so MS Paint is the absolute best I could do!

I basically very roughly traced the outline of the falling bowling ball to get an idea of the speed/timing of the drop. As you can see it's a very steady rate of acceleration; obviously it's a very literal trace, so I don't know how well it will convert to animation. I can always tweak it a bit and remove frames if need be.

The blue and green balls on the left show the motion of the ball's first bounce. It doesn't go very high - the climb (blue) has a big gap and then they're very cluttered together near the top (seems to hover for a couple of frames). In contrast, the decline (green) is very evenly spaced. There's another, miniscule bounce after that one (hardly moves at all) but I wasn't willing to waste much more time tracing that one...!

It's pretty rough but... hopefully it'll give me a starting point.

It took me far, far longer to do that than I'd hoped. I hate this computer.

Bowling ball drop footage

Getting hold of and dropping a bowling ball myself isn't really too practical, so I've been poking around online. Fortunately it's a fairly basic exercise in animation so there's plenty of pretty clear reference footage to use!

It's quite interesting to note how the ball rolls after being dropped in one video, but not in the other. I'm guessing it's because in the first video the ball is given more of a push forward as it's being dropped, whereas in the second it's simply released with his fingers and so drops straight down.

It's a bit difficult to determine the height from which it's dropped, but I wouldn't think it's much more than a metre. The ball hits the floor quite quickly but doesn't seem to accelerate as fast as the tennis ball - it actually seems to have quite a steady rate of motion. It hits the ground after about 10 frames - the same as the tennis ball - and bounces just once or twice (the second bounce is tiny, the ball barely leaves the floor) before rolling away.

I'll probably do a couple of different versions - one without the roll, and one with the roll, to see what looks best.

Tennis ball bounce V13

All work and no play makes Alex a dull tennis ball

All balls and no tennis makes Alex a tennis ball

Ball tennis and no balls make tennis a ball


Er. Sorry.

Medium close up

Close up

Oh goodness. I've fixed up the ball's rotation slightly, so now it begins to rotate after the first bounce. I think it's looking alright? I'm not sure. I still don't know if I'm terribly happy with it, and the more I look at it the worse it looks. 

I think, in all honesty, I'm going to have to put a lid on this one for the time being - at least until I can get some outside feedback. It's still not brilliant, but there's only so much I can do with it using my own tired eyes. I'm feeling quite aware of the looming bowling ball and shuttlecock tasks, and if it's taken me this long to get a tennis ball going, I think I'm going to need to start getting on with those as soon as possible.

I'll more than likely end up coming back to it after I can get some feedback from others, but for now I think I can safely tuck it away.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Tennis ball bounce V11 & V12

Going to have to make this the last one for tonight. I should do a bit more and try to finish it off but I'm incredibly tired, and as previously evidenced, I make stupid mistakes when I'm tired.

I actually think the rotation on this one looks alright! It needs to roll just a teensy bit more towards the end, I think, but it's not too bad (as long as you don't think too hard about realistic physics). The problem comes when I try to apply squash and stretch...

It's the same rotation, just with additional squash and stretch on most of the bounces. I don't know why - maybe it's just me - but it looks really odd to me now. The way that it doesn't spin at all on the first bounce somehow seems very out of place when I add in the squash. Like the force of the contact with the ground should start it rotating? I don't even know! I've been staring at this too long. I've started to go blind.

I also noticed one horrible problem, I've managed to break the rig somehow - probably during my cock-up with the rotation keyframes. If you look closely:

The position control object has magically floated away from the ball and now sits somewhere in front of it. I have absolutely no idea what's happened - I don't recall the point it happened. In fact, I only just noticed when I went to adjust the position to maintain the ball's contact with the ground after applying the squash. It doesn't seem to have broken the animation at all but I'm starting to worry that moving it back into the proper place (when/if I can figure out how to do that) will mess things up. And that will be a whole day wasted. Note to self to ask Jon how to correct it.

Doh... I'm stupid.

Anyhow. I'm going to try one more time to correct the rotation tomorrow and polish things off a bit, then I'm going to need to move on for a while. I can only stare at this silly green ball for so long...!

Tennis ball bounce V10

Using the video I shot as a guide, I thought I might try and be really clever and use a quick diagram I drew as a Rotoscope image within Softimage.

I think it's actually looking a lot better. The biggest issue that I can see now is the rotation - it looks completely wrong, and nothing I'm doing seems to be fixing it. I've tried speeding it up, slowing it down, changing the points it starts rotating - nothing. It just looks weird. I think that the spin just seems to change speed quite randomly - for example, towards the end it doesn't spin much at all but then suddenly rotates quite a lot. I don't know. I'm really tired and I've been staring at this far too long. I'm starting to go blind.

I also noticed that I made a huge cock up and set the rotation keyframes on the translation control - I have absolutely NO idea how I managed that as I was 110% certain that I was selecting the rotation control each and every time. There was one point where, thinking I was being clever, I had two dope sheets open - one locked to display the translation keyframes, so that I would be able to see both sets simultaneously. It's probable that as I was keyframing the rotation control it was getting added to the translation dope sheet as well.

I'm erasing all the rotation keyframes from the translation control now; I just hope I've not somehow completely broken the rig...

Tennis ball reference footage

Finally got my greasy mitts on a tennis ball that bounces properly. How exciting! I've now been able to shoot my own reference footage for the ball, which I hope will make my life just a little bit easier...

(Please excuse the mess. I've not hoovered yet - I swear I'm not always this grotty)

I did a number of drops, just to get an average. I'm guessing the carpeted surface may have affected the bounce somewhat; but I'm just going to say it makes it more like the grassy surface on the scene file!

I don't really know which shot I'm going to use for reference. It's tempting to do one that's a bit different instead of a generic bounce, but there's the danger that it wouldn't look right when viewed through one of Jon's preset cameras. I'm probably just going to stick with the last bounce on the first video... it's a bog-standard looking bounce, but it seems a fairly safe option. Plus I'm getting a bit sick of tennis balls by this point!

Moom character pose #3

For the third and final pose, I chose an actual superhero. Michelangelo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Though I'm not entirely keen on some of the modern depictions of the characters, they do have some more dynamic poses. I foolishly thought that this one, compared to Captain Planet, would be pretty straightforward. How wrong I was!

It actually took me a bit longer than the other two. Somehow, at one stage, I managed to completely break Moom's foot and it took me ages to figure out how to fix it. I don't have a clue what I did - probably rotated too many pieces in the wrong direction - but the foot was just behaving very oddly, twisted in a direction I didn't like and I couldn't get it back to normal. Luckily, eventually I managed to just zero out all the rotations on each component and that popped it back to normal. After that, pretty plain sailing!

Trying to get him to touch the ground was interesting. I was initially too afraid to drop his hips any lower in case it messed up the position of the legs and feet, but eventually I bit the bullet and did it anyway. Happily, it was fine! 

The fingers were quite good fun, as weird as that sounds. I simply bent the first segment of each digit downwards in its 'natural' direction, then bent the last two segments upwards slightly to give the impression that they were pressing into the floor.

I'm actually pretty pleased with how it turned out. The thumb is bothering me, it's just sort of floating there. I probably should have tucked it out of sight or something. Oh well!

Moom pose 2

Despite all shady allegations regarding his five young Planeteers, I like Captain Planet, so I opted to use him in all his star-studded spangliness as a reference for my next Moom pose.

Of course, in keeping with the very essence of Captain Planet, I chose the campest image Google could possibly offer:

Setting all sparkly kawaii anime-ness aside, it is actually quite an interesting pose. The angle of the head and arms is quite extreme and dynamic and I thought that, again, it would be interesting to see how I might be able to replicate this pose giving the limitations of the rig.

I must admit that I worried, at first, whether or not it would actually be possible, but fortunately my perseverance paid off.

It's not an exact replica and it certainly lacks some of the dynamism (is that a word?) of the original. The biggest issue I found was actually getting the body to lie at that angle. The chest control isn't designed to be translated. You can do it, certainly, but it usually results in... well...

Mass noodleage.

However, I could see no other option to get the body to lie flat in the air. Moving his hips back still resulted in the chest sticking up and no amount of rotation would fix it. He just looked like he was kissing his crotch, and that makes nobody happy.

So, I did break one of the first rules: I translated a control not intended to be translated. Only a very, very tiny amount, just to bring the chest in line with the hips. I didn't move it beyond any constraints that would otherwise have been set so it looks alright, I think.

The other nice thing about this pose was that it gave me an opportunity to use the synoptic viewer, which is a nice little interface that makes selecting the numerous rig controls much more intuitive. By selecting any rig objects and hitting F3 the panel opens. It's a much nicer way of working, I think - I frequently find that after moving joints around some of the smaller objects (especially the Up Vectors, which control the angle of the knees and elbows) get lost somewhere in the 3D space and it becomes tricky to figure out which one corresponds to which elbow or whatever, so the synoptic viewer keeps everything in place and you can quickly see which one is which. 

An additional point of interest within the viewer is the 'hand' tab. This allows much greater control over each individual digit of the hand - essentially, you can control the bend and flex of each joint in the fingers. How cool is that?

I also got the chance to use the clavicle controls for this one! The clavicle controls are two small eliptical objects floating behind Moom. You can use them to relax or hunch the shoulders, leading to much more natural looking shoulders. His arm in this pose is stretched behind him so I dropped the shoulder a little to give it more reach.

Again there are a few problems with the angles - the front elbow should point forward a little more so that the forearm and hand are in front of his face, but for a relatively complex pose I don't think I did too horribly!