Monday, February 28, 2011

Digital acting 1 - My animation method


Today I am going to present my animation method, by animating a rig lifting a very heavy object, in this case a huge rock. 

I decided to have my character look at the rock, wonder about it a little while, to give the idea of thinking about how will he do this task. He will then give it a try in a wrong position to lift something this heavy, and he will fail. Realizing that he was doing it wrong, he will position hilmself correctly to pick up the rock and successfully lift the rock.

Small story, and in my opinion, a good way to tell the potential audience what exactly is going on and why it is happening like it is, and what kind of feelings does the character have without having facial expressions.

Step 1 - There is just no better way to start animating than to make some sketches of the key poses. By doing this I am saving time, aswell as it allows for better and faster visualization and understanding of the essential key poses of the animation. I allways try to draw the character in the poses I imagine him doing  for the objective on the animation. For this particular animation I made a few drawings of all of the poses i belive are essential to start with, as you can see bellow.
The important key poses, in my opinion, are when he looks at the rock in antecipation, when he bends down to try and pick it up for the first time, when he tries again in a different position, adjusting his body to better grab the rock and when he is in the highest point of the lifting process.

This time i also used one doll that I found at a friends place, with which I played for a while just to observe and manipulate the basic movements of the body. It doesn't have that much flexibility but it helps for a better understanding of the possible movements when I am animating. Even if it's not the best rig ever, its allways a good start to inspire myself for the drawing process.

Step 2 - With the poses in mind I start animating. I used "Max Rig" (from Peter Starostin), because it is very similar to "Finn Rig" (from Sebastian Antonsen), which i have used before, making it very intuitive to use. 

When I move from drawing to animating, I allways preffer to start by doing key poses. I like to start animating in "pose-to-pose" because it is less complicated and gives me more freedom to add "in-betweens" later on after deciding the timming between the key poses. With this in mind, I reduced the number of key steps to 6, and made 6 different key poses, for the process of looking at the rock, wondering how to lift and actually giving it a try. This is the way I inserted an emotional side to the animation.

Step 3 - After posing the rig, I adjusted the keys and gave them some timming, saw how many "in-betweens" I would need to add to create a fluid animation, with the movements being either fast or slow acording to what I needed to achive. 

I would also like to add that after timming the animation and adding "in-betweens", I open up Curve Editor and eliminate unnecessary keys that Max creates, and I also adjust some curves that might need tunning to make some movements more smooth. I do this for different sections of the animation. One also has to be carefull when editing certain curves, because if you try to make them all smooth you can erase certain irregularities that make the animation look "correct".




  Step 4 - After doing the above mentioned steps, I started mixing my animation method, using both "pose-to-pose" and "straight-ahead". I like doing this, because at this point the action starts to be a bit faster and the character movements are also related to the rock weight, so it allows me to create a more improvised animation based on the reactions I observe. 

I would like to point out some important factors that I took into account when doing this animation. The fact that I am trying to transmit the sensation of the rock being very heavy, made me pose the character with specific body positions. When trying to lift something this heavy, there are five body parts that achieve certain positions. 

One of tem is the spine, which has two different shapes, it gets curved like an arch, one poitning inwards when the body prepars to pull the rock and another one pointing outwards, when it actually pulls the rock. Another one is the head and the neck which both accompany the body movement by either being poiting downwards, when the character is starting to lift, and by pointing upwards, when the character body is doing the necessary strenght to pull up the rock.

Also the legs play a vital role. They have to bend and have the knees pointing outwards, allowing for the rock to fit between them, and they are also the ones that transmit the pushing upwards feeling that the animation has to have.

And finaly the arms. They bend outwards when picking up the rock and when pulling they strech. In this section of the animation i added a little bit of extra strech to exaggerate the motion and make it more convincing.

At this point the animation comes to a stage where the character successfully lifts the rock,  although with a lot of effort. I made him change his initial wrong aproaching posisition to a correct one, so that with this action he really supports the idea of the rock being very heavy. 

To finalize the animation, and show success on the lifting process, he lifts the rock to the highest possible point, showing a lot of effort doing so. There are also some key poses that transmit the effort feeling:

Notice his position is now different, more straight, with his spine curved inwards, and his head looking up.

When he reaches the maximum point of the lift, he puts his head forward again.

And this is a small preview of how the animation looks like:

In conclusion, I am satisfied with the way it the animation looks like, but I know it is not good yet. I will now learn more on how to make it better.

Thanks for reading!