Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What Is a Key Pose?

Key poses are the "key" moments that most clearly describe the important physical actions or emotional moments in a scene. These are basically your most important poses -- in fact, these are so essential to the movement/acting that if you removed any one of them from the scene, it would no longer work.

For me, I use a LOT of key poses. I find it helpful to be very detailed with my key poses. In a full-figure animation, a key, for me, will be any moment something important changes. It could be that the character is going to take a step to the right, so he has to shift his weight to the left first. Even though it isn't a "big" action, I will think of the weight shifting to the left as a "key pose" or an "extreme," which are both terms that are often used to describe the same exact thing, depending on who you are talking to. So, I will save a key on every controller on the frame before he starts to shift his weight (this is a key pose for me), then I'll go to where his weight shift finishes, and I'll pull his body to the left some. Then, even though I've only moved a couple controllers, *I'll save a key again on EVERY controller on the character,* including hands, shoulders, etc. This is another key pose or extreme, for me. I save keys on everything because it makes it much easier to edit later on, and much less confusing in the graph editor when you are blocking. Eventually, I will have to break up my keys somewhat as I get into fine-tuning the animation and polishing it up, but for now, it's good to work this way.

An easier example to think about might be a bouncing ball animation, and the key poses would simply be the frames where the ball hits the ground, and then the frames where the ball is at its highest peak.

- Shawn :)



Francois Maree said...

Hey Shawn

Great advice as always. Just a question when you clean up after you set all your key poses. Let's say for instance there was a section where the hips didn't move, do you remove the keys that was set for the hips as well or just leave them in peace?

zohaib said...

hi Shawn

awesome blog, i like every bit of it . i quick question about overlap (successive breaking of joints) do u build overlap in poses or just by offsetting keys.

and one more about the newsletter will u also write some random articles and feature some articles by guest writers on the newsletter or those things will be covered in this blog.

and please check my last mail (some thing new inside).
thanks and take care.

Mariya K said...

Awesome Shawn!! very helpful. I'm just about to start my blocking at AM for the week :) so good motivation and a great start hearing your words.

Keep up the great work!

Aparna-Appie! said...

great advice as always shawn!!

i was wonderin whether u cud explain the exact differnce between offset keys and moving holds...n where they r used comparitively...

lookin forward to future posts! :)

Anonymous said...

"i was wonderin whether u cud explain the exact differnce between offset keys and moving holds...n where they r used comparitively..."

I'm not good with the tech names most of the time, but aren't moving holds those times where your character comes to a stop, but you still move it slightly so that it continues to have the illusion of being alive?

Aparna-Appie! said...


ure rite they r... :)... i wanted to know their comparitive use...

RVG said...

Hi Shawn,

Please bear with me if the following topic has already been covered in your blog/ebook/notes, but I couldn't hold myself from asking you directly.

I was wondering if animators in feature films work with non linear animation at any point? Working on a CG TV production or videogames, were budgets are much tighter, I've been asked several times to build libraries of cycled animations and blend them to get a variety of results, with the conclusion that it speeds up production. However I personally prefer to work in the shot, treat every frame as a drawing and from there build my shot...even if the character is walking/running around. I feel it helps me define a unique animation for that specific shot from scratch rather than using a predefined clip and tweak it, although when we get client feedback, things could get a bit complicated... I always wondered if in features this was the case, or do you rely on animation cycles, animation transfer from rig to rig, etc...??

Hope you could elaborate on this more at some point if possible?? Many thanks for having this great blog!!

frank said...

I get a bit confused about getting the best result from key poses.

I agree that they are designed when something has to happen. Such as on hooks in a dialogue piece, or an action has to be set in motion to achieve a goal (it maybe as seemingly simple as a character taking a step). They are there to communicate.

So we block out our key poses at the key moments in a sequence so as to clearly communicate the intent and motivation of the character.

A lot of time can be spent refining those poses and the resulting blocking pass looks great to tired animation student eyes.

But how to maintain those clear poses when the breakdowns and inbetweens are added? Especially when working with a computer program that's always trying to create a mathematical mediocre performance. That's the key question I'd like to pose.

How to maintain the clear communication of key poses? And also avoid a 'freezing' of a character from pose to pose?

In 2D we learn about spacing inbetweens to favour poses. In 3D we learn about techniques such as Keith Lango's "stealing a key frame". Our teacher encourages mastery of the graph editor and recognition of appealing curves within it. Then Shawn has also added his wisdom on the subject (Thanks Shawn, that middle paragraph in your post will take a bit of dissecting and digesting :)).

Does anyone else have a method of preserving their key poses but not producing animation that is blatant pose-to-pose that works for them?

Anonymous said...

This is to anyone who can offer advice. When setting my keys on every part of my character, I currently go through and individually select each part to set the key. Is there a faster or more efficient way of doing this? Do character sets have anything to do with this? I'm teaching myself animation so I don't have any instructors to ask. Thanks!

aabid said...

To starky987

There are three ways, which I have came across. I'm Maya user, but these things would be same in all packages.

One, yes character set. Just create the Character Set of your character and select the character set, if it is not selected and its done.

Another would be, if the rig contain GUI, than maybe there will be an option for selection of all the curves.

And the last one, open the script editor and clear it and then select all the curves and then copy the the command appered in the script editor and make it shelf button.

One more, there is the script available on net named as pose2shelf, don't know about other packages if that will work with them too. Just load it and make the shelf button and execute it.

Hope so this will help you out.


Mr. Shawn Kelly - You Rock! :)

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