Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is It Better to Animate Pose to Pose or Straight Ahead?

In my experience it has been useful to use a combination of pose to pose, layered and straight ahead. I use them all!! Shall I explain? Oh yes, I shall. So when beginning a shot I will use pose to pose to map out the performance of the shot. I will use stepped keys to do this so that when the animation plays, it's popping through the poses. This allows me to focus on the key storytelling poses, to create nice silhouettes and to work on contrast.

I think of the pose to pose pass as the comic strip of my shot, telling the story through key images. After establishing my keys I will take another pass adding in breakdowns, all while staying in stepped. I want to make as many decisions as I can in stepped mode so that when I move out of stepped and into spline there is less chaos. Chaos is a noun -- a state of utter confusion or disorder, like when animation is taken out of stepped blocking too soon resulting in mushy movement of virtually everything on the character.

With the shot blocked out and broken down, I change into spline mode (I actually use plateau in Maya) and begin to work in a layered method. I like to work from the inside out, hiding everything on the character except the hips/torso since that is from where, all the movement is driven. Once I'm happy with the hips and torso, I will switch layers perhaps moving to the head or the arms.

Straight ahead animation is usually something I will only do on things like floppy ears, tails or clothing. Here I'm starting on frame 1 and steaming ahead through the shot. Since my straight ahead animation will be driven by the body animation, its super important to get the body working first.

That's how I incorporate all three methods into my work flow. I find my approach to be very efficient, however it may not be the ideal approach for everyone. Developing your own work flow, one that works for you, is an important part of the process.

Guest Blogger Ray Chase


Christiano Brandao said...

Hey Ray, great advice!

You are right, I also think the best way is blocking as much as you can on stepped mode. It helps tons and we don’t get too many surprises when moving to spline.

Have fun!

sketch seven said...

This is a great article; I'm still learning this animation thing but I think that people do get fixated on pose to pose vs. straight ahead or layered. Using a combination of methods is the best approach.

Also worth checking out Richard Williams and his suggestions regarding workflow, which is a combination of pose to pose and straight ahead. It's in the Survival Kit.

RayChase said...

Something to remember is that we are all wired differently so what works great for one person could cause another person's head to hurt.

A good buddy of mine never works in stepped..EVER. It just doesn't work for him, but his shots still turn out great!! He starts in a layered method.

I would encourage students to at least try doing a first blocking pass in stepped. It makes the intent clear and really does provide a road map for the scene. From there do what feels right, however I stand by "the more choices you make up front the less problems you will encounter later."

Whenever I have left something in my scene ambiguous.."oh I will figure that out later". That is the part of the scene that causes me the most pain because I may struggle to "find it."

Animated on!


RK.Karthikeyan said...

dear Mr.ray, it's interesting. blocking, primary and secondary that's what you conveying, i am fallowing it, but i have a question, why plateau and why not clamped.

thank you.

RayChase said...

My experience with clamped is that it likes to give ease ins and ease outs to your keys by default. I want to control that myself. But certainly if you prefer clamped..if it works for you then great!

I like plateau as I have found it to be a better version of spline It doesnt give you the pesky overshoots that spline likes to provide.


RK.Karthikeyan said...

thank's for claring it, your grat.

Eric Lees said...

Hi ray,

I've been animating professionally for about 8 years now and have always animated pose to pose....until about 2 months ago when I tried the layer method. Something just clicked in my brain and I friggin love it! I animate significantly faster (1.5-2 times faster), my animation has never looked so polished, and it allows me to explore different ideas that I wouldnt think of/have time to accomplish if I were doing it pose to pose.

That being said, I think nearly ALL students should learn pose to pose. Pose to pose is a deliberate process that really makes you think WHY you are moving a particular body part. It teaches you to plan out your shots and work out the timing within a shot length.
I think for most, starting off with layered technique will instill bad habits. You will move a body part for the sake of keeping it alive rather than for a specific purpose...then you animation turns to mush.
Once you have some experience animating, then try out different styles and see what works best for you.

Anyways that's my 2 cents.

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