Sunday, November 25, 2012

Week 9: Vanilla Walk Polishing

Unlike every week up until this point, this week was a departure from the norm. This week’s assignment focused on expanding and furthering the blocking of the vanilla walk that was introduced last week. To give a brief overview, last week’s main focus was on blocking, which essentially entails keying every attribute on a character, creating "golden" poses, and then telling the computer not interpolate between them (this causes popping to happen going from pose to pose).

From blocking (starting this week), I took the walk into something known as blocking plus. This is an extension of blocking. Here, extra information is provided, which means that the animation starts to take shape. One of the most important aspects pursued in blocking plus is making sure the straight legs read as being straight. Typically, in order for the audience to interpret something on screen, it must be present for at least two frames. Before adding in the extra straight leg, it was only present on screen for one frame, meaning it came and went extremely quickly. Another aspect that was focused on dealt with the feet and how they rolled off of the ground. This helps give the illusion of weight and really "pushing" off of the ground, rather than just peeling from the ground with no jurisdiction of its own. The tangent types are also changed from stepped to linear, giving a straight inbetween. Using linear tangents gives the computer the freedom to create the inbetweens, but does not allow for ease ins, ease outs, overshoot, etc. Once everything started working in linear, it was time to change the tangents to flat and dive straight into the polishing phase.

Polishing a walk is a lot more difficult than the previous assignments up to this point. The easiest way to do this is to start with the root, or center of gravity, controller. This happens to be the hips. So, once the hips are working well (rotate X, Y, and Z and translate Y, and Z), it’s on to polishing the feet. The feet have a peculiar arc. When they lift, the heel starts off slowly, picks up speed toward the middle, and then hits the ground with no ease in.

After the feet were polished, the single most time consuming aspect was up next: knee pops. A knee pop is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a time in the animation when the distance between poses is far greater than it should be, which causes a "pop" from one pose to the next. They can also happen when a leg goes from bent to straight over a short amount of time (most noticeably over a single frame). The only way to correct for this happening is to use the stretch controller on the foot, which stretches or contracts the leg to a desired length. Although this may sound simple, it really isn’t. Too much stretch and the leg looks like it bounces up and down; not enough stretch and it still pops. So, there is a lot of back and forth, checking arcs, adding or subtracting stretch to get the knees to look just right. There’s a fine line and the ultimate result is to have the knees follow a smooth arc.

After several hours of knee pops, massaging curves, and editing poses, the final walk came together. Below is the final outcome after my mentor’s critique.

Animation: Vanilla Walk

There was also another pose to complete for this week. The focus was "concern," which is a lot more difficult than one would think. Concern is a lot like devastation. Devastation is a slightly more exaggerated version of concern; finding the right balance is key to getting this pose correct.

Sketchbook: Concern

Sketchbook: Stu Pose

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