Sunday, 29 April 2012

Moom action piece V35

Finally finished both arms...



I've been playing with the timings and whatnot, trying to loosen it up a little - I quite like the arm swing at the beginning but the rest of it I'm still really not happy with. I don't know if maybe I'm just running out of steam but I just can't seem to get a grip on anything... plenty of things I'm still really not happy with. Lots of shoddy timings, and I dunno, the whole thing just feels really robotic to me. I guess this is the part where I'm supposed to use my creative interpretation to exaggerate certain bits and bobs...


Nonetheless, I guess it's looking okay, considering how much I was freaking out about it when I first started. I think I might just try tweaking the head tomorrow and then seeing how we go... there's plenty more I'd really like to do to it, I'm still very dissatisfied but I can really feel the Softimage part of my brain beginning to burn out. Perhaps caffeine is needed.

Moom action piece V27

One arm... almost done!

It's taken me far longer than I'd anticipated (or hoped) and I'm still really not at all happy with some bits of it. But, the basic movement is there. Once I've got it all nailed I can start really fine-tuning things!

Right near the end as he lowers his arm after 'punching' forward, I couldn't quite figure out how to get the arm to rotate... inwards, like Sam's does, if that makes sense. As the bicep lowers the forearm kind of goes downwards and towards the body, rather than rotating outwards. I couldn't quite figure out how to replicate that in Softimage so I think it looks very peculiar...

Going to have a look at the other arm next... then, probably the head and neck, hopefully which won't take too long!

I'm just hoping I can get it polished well enough for submission. It's a pretty tricky shot.

Moom action piece V19

Always forget how difficult arms are...

First section. Not at all happy with (our) right arm - I think I tried to animate too much too soon. I think the best thing to do is just get the motion and timing right with the shoulder before I start messing with the effector. That's what I did with the left arm and I think it's a million times better. Not perfect... but hopefully I'll get to adding some follow through/overlap with the effector once the basic motion is blocked. Still got the head and neck to do, too, argh. But oh well!

Moom action piece V16

From last night, but unfortunately I was too busy collapsing into bed to post about it...

I think the blocking stage is fairly complete by this point; few issues with the feet I'd like to sort out (it remains perfectly still right at the end before suddenly slapping down which I think looks really weird)

In terms of overall movement though I think it's matching the reference reasonably well... with the exception of the arms floating through the crotch, of course.

I'm sure there are plenty of issues with it but hopefully they'll become apparent as I start working on the arms and such.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Moom action piece V15

Still slow. Added... another couple of steps!! Whoopeee!!

In my defence, I took a break. I have a headache!

Not too much to say... Nearing the end of the shot now so hopefully I'll get the legs/chest etc. all sorted today. I've encountered a very peculiar problem, though, that is slowing down my progress quite significantly. The loop bars/markers/whatever they're called have disappeared, and I have no idea why. Perhaps Softimage thought it would be funny. It's not. It sounds like a minor thing, but it really does make the world of difference - I'm effectively unable to preview anything unless I want to watch the entire shot, which makes analysing/checking the section I've just animated virtually impossible. Agggh. Oh well.

My thoughts are returning to the beginning of the shot now, and though part of me is tempted to add in the walk at the beginning... I don't know. We'll see how busy this next week is...

Moom action piece V14

As the tortoise said to the hare, "slow and steady wins the race..."

But probably didn't hit the deadline.

More progress! Admittedly I'm being quite... lazy with it but there's still lots of time left in the day. Hopefully I can at least finish this refining this stage of the blocking so I can concentrate on the arms tomorrow.

Still not much to say, other than that I'm much happier with that step now. It's got far more weight to it and I think the timing is actually pretty decent. Then again... this is only the front view. It might look like arse from the side. I'm too scared to check.

Only five million more keys to do!...

Moom action piece V13

More amendments! (I hate that word, reminds me of my last job -shudder-)

I thought I altered the foot coming down so it was a bit faster but I guess not. Ho hum.

I've messed about with the drop into the chair and I think overall it's looking okay. Ish. The hips are still odd, I think, but hopefully once I've adjusted the timing it will feel a bit better.

Not really too much else to say... I still need to play with the legs a bit as he falls into the chair. Just going to carry on at this pace then start looking at some of the timings and fcurves and such. I need to start thinking about the arms at some stage too. Squick.

Moom action piece V12

More tweaks and changes.

Mostly, again, hips and chest! I've altered the foot as he turns so that he brings it back towards the chair - motion is okay, I think, but the actual lowering of the foot seems a little slow. Need to tweak that.

I've tried to alter his drop into the chair so that it matches the reference a little more. I noticed that Sam veers very slightly to the left as he falls, so I tried to emulate that - only issue now is that he slides along in the rest of the keyframes! It might also mean I need to re-position the walk so that it flows from the new position but we'll see.

Other things about the drop into the chair - Sam's knees are slightly skewed - one sticks out at a slightly higher angle than the other. I'm guessing that's because his hips are slightly tilted but to get the same effect on Moom, I had to rotate them quite far in favour of the left (our left) leg. I dunno, having his hips point that way as he lands is a bit weird I think.

I'm not really happy with the drop into the chair overall, something seems really iffy about it. Not quite sure what it is? Maybe it just needs to be a little faster - I should perhaps delay the drop of his body so the legs start to bend first? I don't know, maybe that's stuff to deal with later.

I'm just going to maybe tweak the hips a bit more and move onto the next bit. Hoping to get this completed by Monday so I can focus on other things and give myself time to spare!

Moom action sequence V11

Just starting to look at tweaking the action piece, one section at a time. Timing's still shoddy, just trying to refine the hips and chest before I move onto anything else.

Here's a very small section of what I'm doing thus far...

The difference is barely perceptible. Mostly just slight alterations on how the weight shifts and how the chest/shoulders move... I think I've improved it, but it might actually look worse than the one I previously posted... or maybe because it's shorter all the little problems stand out a lot more. Eh.

Biggest issues that I can spot so far - obviously the arm still doesn't do what it should. The knee, as he turns, shouldn't change direction! I've also got to get that right (our right) foot to lift off the ground a bit better. In the video he pulls his foot back towards the chair, so as he sets it down I'll shunt it back a little further.

I need to look at how the weight shifts on his hips as he falls into the chair, too. 'S a bit haphazard at the moment.

I think it seems a bit slow at the moment, probably because the upper body isn't doing very much. The arms pretty much just follow the torso at this point, when in the reference they're quite loose and swinging around. Hopefully when I get around to refining the arms it will start looking a bit nicer...

Either that, or I'll be submitting some absolute turd. Gulp...

P.s. note the sneaky inclusion of Mr. Pin:

I'm cruel.

Moom action sequence blocking

For the 3rd and final component of the Digital Skills brief we're to animate a character "action" sequence based on the reference footage we shot last week with Jon; in a fit of genius, I opted to do a guy sitting on something sharp. The result is 10 seconds of footage with lots of walk cycles and shifting weight. Gulp.

Here's the reference; you'll notice from my delighted expression and cheerful disposition that I absolutely adore being on camera. Hence why Sam is acting for me...



Should have picked something simple...!

Nonetheless, I've thumbnailed it all out and started blocking in my sequence (I'll post up my progression and planning later on when I have a little more time) - in the meantime, here's the blocked shot thus far:

At the time, I was getting myself in a right tizz over it; feeling extremely overwhelmed and quite stressed. I didn't even have a clue where to begin with cleaning it up (still a bit shaky) but looking at it after a slightly better night's sleep with fresh eyes I don't think it's as bad as I'd first thought. It's problematic, sure, but it's only the first block. In terms of movement it's looking okay; the biggest issues as I can identify them are the fact that he doesn't actually sit on the chair. This was stupidity on my part. Even with the aid of multiple angles it's quite difficult to track the movement of the reference footage and translate that onto Moom - it requires quite good analysis of depth and space. I was blocking his walk and thinking it actually looked okay and that he was going in the right direction, until I actually reached the end and realised he wasn't in front of the chair. I tried just moving the chair so that it was in the correct position but unfortunately that didn't exactly work. He ended up walking straight through it!

It's entirely possible to fix, but to be honest I might in fact just trim the shot a little to cut out the beginning part. I do really like the idea of keeping it in but in the interest of my sanity and making this as stress-free as possible, I'm looking to simplify things as much as I can. The walk to the chair certainly adds character to the shot but it does complicate matters. I think I'll work on refining the actual drop into and leap out of the chair first of all; depending how long that takes, I may go back at the end and try tweaking the beginning.

I think the best course of action for the moment would be to start refining the core parts of the body - the chest and hips, in this instance. There's no point trying to look at the arms or legs and feet or even the head until that's all refined; the chest/shoulders and hips drive those body parts, so if the movement there isn't correct then the arms won't look right no matter what I do.

The problems I see so far are that the chest/hips are a little inconsistent; they tilt a bit haphazardly and don't necessarily move in favour of where the body's weight is. Moom also leans forward a bit too early - as we can see from the reference in the background Sam doesn't actually lean forward until his last step. I need to keep Moom's chest tilted backwards until that moment.

I think I'll just go back and identify the points where Sam's chest/hips are tilted or twisted at their most extreme, mimic that and perhaps allow Softimage to handle most of the interpolation between those two points automatically. That should provide me with relatively logical movement onto which I can start looking at the shoulders and legs!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Bowling ball V12 — V15

Version 12


Medium closeup

I've removed a little of the secondary bouncing, leaving just one minute second bounce as the ball slows down. The bounce is still slightly higher than that seen in V9 but I'm still not sure of the results; I still don't think the ball feels quite heavy enough. The movement seems too quick and, again, I think the higher bounce signifies that the ball is either lighter than it should be or has been dropped from slightly higher; in which case the initial drop speed should be a little faster.

I may either return to V9 or simply amend this a little further.

Version 13

Medium closeup


Reverting to V9, I've kept the slightly higher secondary bounce and increased the entry speed of the ball. I think, however, now the whole thing is a little quick; the ball feels heavy but I feel I should perhaps delay it at the peak of its first bounce for just a split second longer, to help give the impression it's fighting against gravity. There should be a point where the heavy ball is fighting with the pull of gravity, causing it to remain in the air, rather than dropping straight back down as it does here.

Version 14

I've increased the delay in the air; although now I'm wondering if it seems too slow?! As a final tweak, I'm going to do one more rendition where I keep the slope/width of the fcurves the same but simply shift everything one frame closer together, meaning the ball's delay in the air will remain the same but it will simply be quicker reaching the peak of its bounce.

Version 15

Only a very, very minor difference; the ball is just a little quicker now. I'm having difficulty deciding between this version and the previous one; I think I may have to leave it for the time being, and then look at it tomorrow with fresh eyes.

There are still alterations I'd like to make to the ball's roll at the end but I'm planning on doing that once I've decided which version I'd prefer to use.

Sorry this isn't as reflective/objective/analytical as usual; I'm beginning to run out of steam...!

Bowling ball V10 & V11

Version 10

Medium Closeup


bet you never thought you'd see this again eh???

I thought I'd return to it one last time and see if I could further tweak it. Seeking feedback from my peers it was suggested that perhaps my ball didn't bounce quite high enough and maybe needed a little secondary bounce as it lost energy. Here I've tried to incorporate that. I'm not quite sure if I prefer it; I think the roll at the end is a little problematic, the speed is okay but perhaps it needs to roll just a little further?

Version 11

Medium Closeup


I tried extending the roll slightly but now I think it's much too fast; the ball appears to be sliding across the floor and it seems too fast, to me. I don't really think the higher bounce is working in all honesty. It gives the ball an impression of being lighter and more bouncy - combined with the too-fast rolling it seems the bowling ball is made of plastic! I may try simply removing the secondary bouncing.

Moom walk cycle V34

Version 34

And here we are - I think it was a little more successful than my previous attempt. Perhaps before I was trying to resolve too many things at once and got myself confused.

I've lowered the knee and leg just a smidgen on the passing positions; to be honest I have no idea if it's any better or worse! I seem to have hit that point of not really knowing either way, haha!

Actually, comparing the two, I do think it's an improvement. It seems to flow a little more smoothly and the knee is actually highest on the up position, which is more logical for a walk...! It's still an exagerration of a walk, of course, and still perhaps not as casual as it could be, but I think it's acceptable. I think it might be time to render this out and tuck it away...

Moom walk cycle V32 & V33

Version 32

I tried mucking around with the position of the 'up' pose's leg. It isn't a great deal different - just a little further forward, a tiny bit lower and the foot roll has ever so slightly been tweaked so it's more 'in between' the passing and contact keys.

I don't know how different it looks to everyone else but I can see an improvement; it's definitely smoothed out the kick in the leg, but I'd still like to tweak it further. The foot seems to flip up and slap a little harshly, to me, so I may lessen the angle of the foot roll on the contact pose a tad and see if it helps. Version 33

Pretty much the same as V32, but I lessened the angle of the contact pose's foot. I'm not sure; it seems to have made a difference, I think, but I'm still not keen. I don't think he's so much stamping but I do agree with Jon; he's perhaps got too much height in his knees. I might try one more time to get that leg lowered a bit... I'd definitely like to get it a bit more subtle and casual if I can.

Moom walk cycle V27 - V31

Jon gave me some great critique regarding the 'stamping' in my walk cycle, suggesting that I drop the leg on the passing positions in order to give a more subtle step. First are a couple of attempts I made to correct the issue beforehand, then are the ones following his feedback where I tried to integrate his advice - all with varying success, but things that don't work are just as important as those that do. So here we go. Let's blast through this:

Version 27

First, here's the default version, just so you can see what I'm trying to correct. I've made some slight alterations since V25 - couple of things regarding the arms, just to loosen them up a tad. The legs do look pretty off in comparison to the otherwise fairly casual arms. His legs have a definite 'kick' to them.

Version 28

Here, all I'd done is very slightly adjust the foot roll on the up position, trying to bring it a little lower and closer to the contact pose. It's only a very subtle change and it does appear to have smoothed things out by a fraction - but not really enough to be noticeable to anybody that hasn't been staring at it for 4 million hours.

Version 29

First attempt following Jon's feedback where I tried dropping both the legs on the contact pose and also bringing the leg on the contact a little closer to the up position. It didn't exactly work; the issue I'm having is that dropping the leg of the passing position, the foot scrapes or goes straight through the floor. I can adjust the foot roll to try and bring it back up but rotating it back too far (in favour of the previous pose) causes it to twist uncomfortably, and also raises the knee again - which puts me straight back to square one. Rotating it forward lessens the height of the knee but this is problematic in that the foot, rather than delaying and dragging, then looks very robotic as we can see above. It needs to drag a little for flexibility. It also means that the space between the trailing leg on the down and passing positions is very small, causing the leg to delay at the crossover.

I also had to adjust the bend in the trailing leg on the down position to compensate for the lower passing position - otherwise the knee and leg were bent more on the down position, causing a bit of a jump/'pop' as it tried to interpolate the two keys. Unfortunately lessening the bend in the knee now means there's too little movement to stretch equally across the frames - as a result the knees on both legs start to bend at exactly the same time and move almost in perfect synch, which looks a little peculiar and quite robotic to me?

It may also be me but I kind of think that dropping the leg looks a bit like he doesn't bring it up far enough - the walk just seems to lose a lot of the feeling of weight?

I'm actually wondering if the stamping is actually more to do with the large gap between the legs on the up and contact keys - closely observing it, I can see it almost looks as if he's kicking his leg out. I think perhaps I just need to alter those positions so that the legs are just a little closer together in terms of posing so that it's a bit smoother?

Version 31

All of these captures look exactly the same... it must look like I haven't changed anything! I guess it's one of those things; when you've been staring at something frame-by-frame for so long you can pinpoint every tiny little thing in each frame. Things that nobody else in their right mind would ever notice.

Anyway, here I just tried adjusting the contact pose very slightly so that the step was a little less wide, allowing the leg enough time to travel smoothly from one pose to the next. It seems to have gone some way to removing that 'kick,' but it also plops me back to square one where my step wasn't quite wide enough. I think that, really, it's the up position that needs to change more than anything. If I can just tinker with the foot roll and leg position I might be able to figure out a way to smooth it out a little.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Moom sneak cycle V32

Version 32



I've finally managed to mirror the arm. It gave me no end of difficulty; for some reason I had a total brain fart and couldn't get the animation onto the other arm... I had to tweak the values of some of the rotation and reverse a few things to stop his elbows sticking out at odd angles, and I kept missing keyframes here and there. It's done, though, at last!

Moom sneak cycle V31

Version 31

That's a little better; I've added a slight bit more drag to the forearm as it comes backwards and down. Bit of a jump, though - possibly a bit too fast. Need to increase the space between the keys or lessen the amount of drop in the arm, I think?

Moom sneak cycle V30

Version 30



Behold!! Flexion!!

Erm, yeah, so I've started trying to get a little follow-through and overlap going. I think it's alright, though I'm not sure if it makes too much sense - maybe it's a little too loose? What is it with me and making things excessively floppy?

Not too happy with the backswing... it seems quite 'floaty' and robotic. Not much movement going on there. Maybe if I loosen the wrist and play with the drag of the forearm a little more?

Moom sneak cycle V29

Version 29



Yet another bold attempt to get that damn arm moving. This is probably one of my better attempts, but only by a margin.

I think the basic movement is actually getting there, and most importantly it actually looks alright from most angles. Obviously the biggest thing is that it's very stiff; definitely needs loosening up and I need to pose the hands a little more, get some overlap going.

It also seems to me like the arm should go forward a little more; it seems to stop very suddenly. I don't know, it just feels like it should have a little more reach.

Still, early days. Ish.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Sneak cycle arm breakdown and reference

I'm still not totally sure on the whole arm movement thing so I've been examining some other reference a little more closely. I found this lovely example on Youtube:


The flexibility is amazing and puts me to shame. My cycle looks like arse in comparison.

Ignoring my bruised ego, the arm movement is very nice! I promptly shoved it into Photoshop and brutally ripped it apart for the purposes of analysis.

I've done my best to identify where the key poses in the cycle are — not sure if I hit them 100% accurately but they seem to be roughly in the right place. Obviously there are differences in my cycle and this one — the torso here is much more flexible but in a way it's a good thing. Viewing a more exaggerated animation means it's much easier to examine how arms are following the body.

The contact poses are interesting because of the forearm placement. They're poised up and ready rather than lowered, as I'd been toying with, which I think was giving me problems as it was making things a bit 'busy.' It's also a nice pose in general — having the arms almost tensed like that gives a much more cautious look to the character. The wrists are very nice too!

As the character drops into the down position the torso moves forward and the elbow follows. The forearm relaxes very slightly and comes down.

As the body starts to rise again the forearm is brought closer to the chest and the elbow, again, starts to come back. The character rises into the 'up' position and the forearm again lowers very slightly.

The second contact is slightly further forward than the first one, to counter the leg.

As previously observed most of the shoulder movement seems to come from the twisting of the chest.

That diagram is a bit cluttered, so it's probably easier to see with the body:

Serves to give a better idea of the shoulder and elbow in relation to the body.

It seems to have been helpful, though now I'm worried I've mucked my cycle up completely and that this method won't work. It's certainly given me something to toy around with, though, which can only be a good thing.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Moom sneak cycle V25

Version 25

I sent Mr Moom to a chiropractor and tried to knock his knee back in-line:



It's only very slightly better. It still trembles, and it goes out at a slightly different angle to the other one, but I honestly can't figure out what on earth is wrong with it. I messed with the fCurves, tried only animating one dimension of the up vector - could not figure it out. It's as good as I can do for the time being...

I tried to loosen the head up a bit as well. Not too happy with it but it's getting there. I'm probably gonna just go and re-do it from scratch 'cause I used too many keyframes and I've started losing track of where everything is. Hooray!

Moom sneak cycle V24

Version 24



I've adjusted the weight so that it favours the pushing leg, which I think seems to have curbed most of the 'popping' problems; I'm still not 100% sure but I don't really know what else I can do with it...!

The only issue with this is that it causes one of the knees to 'tremble,' but it's mostly only noticable from the front:

I encountered this problem before and I don't really know what causes it. Some keyframes, somewhere, are causing the knee to keep changing direction but I can't find them anywhere. Keyframing the up vector hasn't helped much, but what baffles me is that it's only occurring for that one knee. Could be the legs I suppose? Maybe the hips? I need to have a slightly closer look.

Viewing it from the front also showed me the problem with the head. I think it was leaning too far to the left and sort of unbalancing him, so I've tried to slightly alter the position of the neck on a few keys so that it's a little more in line with his body.

I also started messing around with the head itself, trying to get some overlap in there. As he draws his body back I offset the neck and head by a few frames so it slightly drags behind which I think is looking a great deal better. It's still not quite there - I'd like to refine it further - but it's a start.

The arms are now stationary which is much less distracting, and owing to the twisting of the chest they're actually almost entirely animated for me. All I really need to do is get the shoulders moving and add a bit of follow-through/overlap for the wrists and hands and I think it will be mostly there.

I'm gonna mess around with the head a bit more first, though, and see if I can't get that knee problem sorted out.

Moom sneak cycle V23

Version 23



I tried using the hip rotation from V17 and I think it's looking a little better but there's still something really, really bothering me about the whole thing. I can't put my finger on it. I don't know if it's the legs - they still seem too 'poppy,' and I think the upper body is bothering me in some way. I don't know if it's just my computer or not but it seems that the upper body is a bit 'snappy' - maybe it comes back too far on the contact pose? The head looks off to me as well. I don't know if it's maybe the arms that are throwing everything off-kilter - they just sort of flail uselessly which is quite distracting.

I think I'll get the arms out of the way (keep them stationary maybe) and try altering the hips slightly. I think that, on the up position, the weight should definitely be in favour of the leg pushing him off the ground. Tilting the hips will also slacken that leg a little more so I'll give it a shot.

Moom sneak cycle V22

Jumping ahead a few versions, mostly because I did V19 — 21 in relatively quick succession and I forgot to make notes, so I don't quite recall all of the tiny tweaks I made. Sorry...

One thing I noticed about the previous versions was that I was keyframing too much, as odd as that may sound. I was keyframing the forward, backward and side-to-side tilting of the torso and hips on every key pose, which was getting me needlessly confused as my values weren't exactly planned and I'd often end up rotating it too much, or in slightly the wrong direction. As a result, the torso bent and twisted all over the place in some very peculiar manners and looked totally unnatural. It was only really noticeable from the front but if it looks bad from one angle then something's obviously not working and it's important to fix it, regardless of whether or not it will actually be seen from that perspective.

What I decided to do instead is simply set two keyframes for the rotation — one on each contact pose, with the torso twisted to the left and right accordingly. I then focused only on keyframing the Y rotation for the torso — getting him to lean forward and back as appropriate. Softimage then handled the interpolation for the sideways rotations automatically, calculating a fairly smooth movement for the twisting of his upper body.

Version 22



I'm much happier with how it looks now. Once I started allowing Softimage to take care of the side-to-side rotation of the hips and chest it started looking much, much better and the torso has stopped wiggling around so much.

There's something really not right with it though. I'm looking at it and something just looks really iffy; much less 'sneaky' than, say, version 17. I compared the two side by side and I think that it's actually the leg - or, rather, the hip.

On the left is frame 19 - the 'up' position - from V17 and on the right is the same from V22. The leg on V22 is a bit straighter due to the reversed rotation of the hips, stretching the leg upwards. It's only a minor difference but it seems to be creating a bit of a 'pop' - he rises up too far and too quickly to be much of a sneak. I did try to rotate the hip downwards in favour of the leg in order to slacken it a bit but it doesn't seem to have helped much.

I think I'll try using the position of the hips from V17.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Moom sneak cycle V18

Version 18



Here, I've been mucking about with the angle of the hips and chest to try and smooth out some of the animation — most notably just as he leans back into the contact pose. I've dropped the hip to the side, in favour of the 'pushing' leg on the up pose to try and give a bit more feeling of shifting weight. I've also curved the hips backward and tilted the chest just slightly forward to try and offset things a little.

The biggest issue, as you'll see from the perspective view, is due to this alteration in the hips his knee now trembles and shakes all over the place. I have no idea why it does that and I'm trying to fix it by manually keyframing the up vectors, but for some reason it just won't stick... it'll tremble between keyframes and then snap to the keyframed position. I have no idea what the heck I'm doing!

Moom sneak cycle V17

Version 17



I've attempted to make the body a little more flexible by altering the angle of the hips and chest object so that he's not so stiff when he leans forward — already, I think it's looking a great deal better. The arm makes a great deal more sense now that it follows the body. Initially, because it wasn't doing much, it was difficult to get the arm to do anything that didn't look ridiculously over-exaggerated.

It's still a little clunky, though, and we can easily see from the perspective view that the body's weight shifts quite unnaturally. I don't know if it's the head and arms getting in the way but he seems unbalanced somehow, and he seems to twist more in one direction than the other. The entire twisting seems a bit jerky. Probably need to muck around with some keyframes!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Moom sneak cycle V7 — V15

Version 7

First attempt at some head and arm movement. The head was sort of cobbled together and it's nowhere near done, so please disregard how choppy that looks. It was just annoying me floating there doing nothing... probably should have left it alone. It's distracting.

The arm is... okay, I guess, and I think if there was a little wrist overlap it would be nice. I find it very static, though, very lifeless, it just sort of bobbles around and doesn't do much. It also goes kind of against what I've been seeing on other sneak cycles — the forearm, I think, should tuck against the body as he drops into the down pose and then come down as he leans back.

Posing the arm is tricky, though — I'm having a little difficulty figuring out which control objects to keyframe for maximum effect. I end up adjusting all sorts of pieces — up vectors, shoulders, arm effector — and get the pose right, but then when I keyframe the next one the pieces don't necessarily flow smoothly so it looks alright but then when you view it from another perspective the shoulder's going crazy and the elbow is flapping like some sort of demented chicken-man.

Version 12

Jumping ahead a bit (previous versions consisted of me getting immeasurably frustrated with things and not making much progress) I've tried to introduce a little more flexibility into the arm by using shoulder rotation and getting it to swing back and forth a bit.

I think the back swing is okay, but the arm coming forward makes absolutely no sense. It just looks... weird. I can't even figure out what needs to change, really, all I know is that it doesn't really make sense. Maybe it's because the arm doesn't really counter his weight — it should be used for balance, more than anything, I think, and if he was really leaning all his weight back like that, with his leg and arm outstretched, he'd probably topple over. It's just not a natural thing to do.

Version 13

Oh goodness this is even worse. It makes a tiny bit more sense... sort of... Other than the fact that the arm appears to counter the "wrong" leg, but I don't know if that makes too much difference. In some sneak cycles it seems like the arms move together in synch, almost.

I don't think this would be too bad but there's a bit of a jerk forward. Looks really peculiar. I think that the elbow should probably come backwards, rather than forwards, then the forearm should sort of come up towards the chest?... which answers my earlier question about the legs opposing the arms...!

Version 14



And here we have an attempt at the arm opposing the leg. There ain't much overlap right now; quite stiff and robotic. I was mostly just trying to really peg the shoulder movement more than anything. I think it's looking... slightly better, on reflection, but there's just something bothering me about it.

The arm seems to make a little more sense now, at least! I'm still not totally happy with it - looks to me a bit like it either goes back too far or doesn't come forward enough. I might also have got it backwards, again! I think maybe it needs to oppose the legs, but I don't know if that will look weird?! My brain is so tired I don't even know what I'm doing. Logical thought escapes me…!

The more I look at the body movement the less I'm happy with it. It seems to bump around all over the place and I really want to get more flexibility in his spine, but I'm not quite sure how to go about doing that, exactly. I think if I mess around with the curvature of the chest and hips I might be able to come up with something!

Version 15



I switched the arm so it opposes the leg and I don't really know what to make of it?! It kinda looks weird to me? I'm not sure why, but I kind of prefer the other version. I don't know if it makes sense. I'm very tired.

The arms are just completely baffling me at this stage. I'm really struggling to understand how they're supposed to work — I think my brain is fried, I keep trying to break it down and analyse it and act it out myself but it just doesn't seem to be going in...

What's confusing me most, I guess? The arms kind-of-sort-of oppose the legs, but they don't go very far forward at all. Contrary to a regular walk cycle they appear to be at their furthest extension on the contact pose when the body is leaning back. As the body comes forward on the down position, they move forward as well, and are drawn close to the chest. Then the body rises and the forearms come down and start to move back as the body leans back to balance for the contact.

... Wow, that actually makes a lot more sense now that I've typed it down. I must be making a mountain out of a molehill.

To the Batmobile!

Moom sneak cycle V5

Version 5



In this version I've attempted to correct all the previous mistakes, such as the sliding foot and smoothed out the bump in the torso. I'm actually going to admit that I'm feeling quite pleased with how it's turned out...! It's far from perfect, but for something that was ridiculously complicated to try and get started I'm feeling fairly happy with it so far. I hope that's not arrogant.

There's no real head movement yet, and I think he comes forward a bit sharply as he leans over, but they're fairly straightforward to fix. The arms, on the other hand, are going to be a nightmare! I've been trying to analyse their movement from other animated examples but I'm having difficulty pinpointing how they work in relation to this type of walk. More research is needed, Batman.

Characterised walk cycle reference and planning

Taking a bit of a break from the standard walk cycle for a bit I decided to make a start with a more "characterised" walk cycle. I opted to do a "sneaky" style walk, because... well, I just did. There's plenty of reference already available too - The Animator's Survival Kit has quite a nice section that goes into the mechanics of sneaks fairly well:

Similar to our conventional walk cycle, Richard Williams also provides us with a solid formula to work from:

I thought this would be an interesting kind of walk to attempt to emulate with the Moom character, especially with all the bending and twisting going on in the torso. I find the arms quite interesting too, I love the way they're posed almost timidly. They remind me of a little hamster! I think it would be possible to get some really nice head and wrist movement with this walk.

To save myself a great deal of stress, I decided to adapt this formula for my characterised walk cycle. Just copying the frames is no good by itself though, it doesn't really give you any indication of the timing or any real sense of the weight. Observing and performing the action yourself is always the best way to go.

There's a disappointing lack of reference footage online for this particular sneak, but I did find a short clip from the DVD set that kind of demonstrates it:

It's not brilliant but it does serve to give you more of an idea about how the weight shifts in relation to the movement of the legs and so forth.

I also did a sketch of the key frames from the diagram - it's pretty much just a carbon copy but I found that having to draw the poses myself gave me a much better understanding of how the body was poised, how the hips were tilted, where the weight was, etc. Even if you're just copying it's always good to draw things yourself - it gets you actually thinking about the mechanics of what's going on.

Following these examples, I started blocking out the walk cycle using Softimage's "stepped" interpolation method. Being able to set up and view the key poses without Softimage's rather distracting automatic keyframes. It allows you to much more easily check the flow between each pose and quickly see where things don't align.

Getting the poses right was actually a lot trickier than I originally anticipated. Due to the way the rig is set up it's really tricky to try and get the curve in the spine just right — I tried all sorts of methods including some ridiculously over-complicated method involving translating his chest object to bring it in line with the hips, but it just looked weird. Ther doesn't seem to be any way to adjust how much he leans forward with this rig — tilting the hips and chest does not re-position his upper body at all, and translating his upper body control moves his entire body. As a result he doesn't lean forward quite as much as I'd like, but I think it's looking okay.

There are also some slight issues with the foot slipping around — his back leg goes back too far on what I think is the passing position, when he leans forward. It needs to stay stationary to give the impression that he's pushing himself forward.

Switching to splined interpolation allows us to see that his foot definitely slips back, and there's also a bit of a weird 'bump' in his torso around one of his contact positions. I think there's a stray translation keyframe in there somewhere that got left behind.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Moom walk cycle V25

Version 25



A slight attempt at some head movement and some wrist overlap! I actually did it as a bit of a joke, was mostly just fooling around. To my great surprise I actually really liked the way it looked! I think it's a bit too over-exaggerated though, so I'll definitely tone it down a little. I think it looks a little at odds with the rest of the arms - they're not quite so loose. I think I need to offset the forearms slightly, then it might look a touch better.

Not sure about the head movement at the moment. I didn't really know what it should be doing, so I just kind of made an educated guess and I have no idea whether it looks correct or not.

The more I look at the legs, the more they bother me. Again I think it's mostly going to be a case of timing adjustment and offsetting bits and pieces to get some nice drag going on the limbs. I think it's coming together... slowly...

Moom walk cycle [upper block] V17 & V22

I was really scratching my head over my previously posted capture - no matter what I did I simply could not nail it and the arm just looked utterly wrong. I am ashamed to admit how long it took me to spot the mistake, and rest assured my face glowed like the setting sun once I'd clocked it.

I had the arm swinging with the wrong leg. I got it backwards. Amateur mistake.

As soon as I'd finished bashing my head against the wall for not spotting it sooner, I flipped it to the other side and it instantly looked a billion times better:

Version 17

More to the point, it was much easier to "read" for mistakes. It's still very much a work in progress, but simply fixing that arm has made one hell of a difference.

What followed was a series of tedious and very samey captures that I can't really talk much about aside from saying "the arm is too far forward," or "his shoulder pops here." I don't know, maybe that's valuable, but I talk too much as it is. I find it much easier to reflect/critique this stuff when there're more changes, so I'm just going to jump ahead a few versions.

Version 22

Lots of minor tweaks to the position of the arm here. The biggest change in this version is the shoulder - I wiped all previous keyframes and approached it in a much more straightforward manner. Before, I keyframed almost every aspect of it by hand which led to a slew of inconsistencies in speed and spacing that I believe may have contributed to some of the random limb popping and slight jerkiness in the previous versions. All I did this time is slap a couple of keyframes at the furthest points of its swing, then added a one to the first contact pose to have it move in a slightly smaller increment before it swung forward, giving it a little delay. I think it looks much, much better now, and the arc of the arm is clearly visible.

I think it's safe to say that the blocking of the arm is done at this stage. It's still not perfect, of course, but I think I'm ready to add in the opposing arm swing and also start looking at fine-tuning the timings and getting some wrist movement in there. The head is too static, too, so I'd like to get a bit of follow through going on that. I may also return to the legs a bit later as well and see if I can do anything to improve those.

Moom walk cycle [upper block] V16

Version 16

Redone from scratch yet again, this time getting the arm moving back from the top of its swing much sooner. I think it's looking much better now, for the most part, but I still have lots of issues with the back swing. It's looking alright, mostly, but I think that, again, I just need to have the arm going back in the opposite direction a touch sooner. It swings forward far too quickly.

Getting there slowly though...

Walk cycle [upper block] V15

Version 15

Tweaking the positions of the arms a little more, trying to make it more of an arc - I think it's slowly getting there, but the arm definitely comes back too quickly (looks a bit like it's knocking against something) and there needs to be a bit more of a delay as it comes forward.

I need to get the wrist/bottom of the forearm moving in more of a "figure-8" type motion - I daren't draw on my laptop screen to check the arcs (this was expensive!!) but maybe I can use some Photoshop wizardry to try and nail the poses?

I was using the fcurve editor to help me fine-tune the position of the arms. It's much easier to control the limbs this way but the temptation is to start altering things like timing and whatnot, which I think is where I may have gone a bit wrong! Easy to get distracted...

I'm determined to get these arms done by today though. I'm still worrying about the refining stage and "character" walks...