Many animators agree that animating a walk is one of the hardest things to do in animation. Not only do you have to make sure the character’s body mechanics are all working properly together, you must also make sure you imbue the walk with as much personality as possible so that the audience clearly reads their personality.
To successfully animate a walk, one must first analyze the character’s state of mind. This will greatly affect the way the character will carry himself. A depressed guy will move completely different than someone who has just won the lottery, for example. Once you know WHAT your character is thinking within the context of a shot, it becomes very easy to see HOW that character will move. Now, it’s up to you as the animator to act out the walk and see what makes it tick.
A good way to start is by filming yourself and analyzing what it is about the walk that makes it so distinctive. Frame through the footage to get a better feel for your timing. I’ve found that watching video reference in conjunction with thumbnailing your major keys and taking notes about timing is a great combination to achieving a successful walk.
Beware of sticking too closely to the video footage, though. Animation is about exaggeration! Take your keys and really push them. Go for BELIEVABILITY over REALISM. Sell the weight and push your poses to the next level.
Once I finish thumbnailing, I usually proceed to block out my keys (ups and downs), being careful to include the contact positions for the legs so that I know the character’s stride length. I usually stay in stepped/held mode as I add in more keys and breakdowns, constantly going back and forth from key to key, feeling things out and making any necessary adjustments to my timing and animation.
After I get the general feel of the walk working in my blocking, I then begin to spline my animation. I first isolate the root by hiding the other parts of the body such as the head, neck, arms and legs. Since the root drives everything, I try to make sure it retains the timing and overall feel I gave it in my blocking pass while concurrently striving to push my poses wherever I can.
Just a few last things to keep in mind:
-Make sure your character takes time to gain speed or slow down. Use slow-ins and slow-outs to give your character weight.
-You can simplify the ups and downs of the walk by treating the root like a bouncing ball. Pull the handles on the top of your spline to give it that nice bell shape. This of course is not a formula and each walk must be treated appropriately but it’s a good way of avoiding your animation from getting too mushy.
-Make sure to plant the character’s feet once it hits the ground. Nothing destroys the illusion of a walk quicker than sliding feet!
-Lastly, remember to keep the character’s state of mind first and let that dictate the walk.
Guest Blogger Chris Chua