It's my first time working on ball and socket armature. I used my wire armature as a starting point and adjusted ball and socket armature's joints to feel about the same tension as wire ones. I quickly learned this is not ideal since ball and socket armatures tend to be heavier. So while wire armatures had no problem withstanding its own weight, the same amount of joint tension was unable to keep my new armature to hold the same pose for more than a few seconds. I decided to tighten every joint on the ankle, knees, hips, and waist. Arms and neck seemed to be fine without tightening it as much. I can still animate every joint as I intended, but was wondering if there's "golden standard" when it comes to adjusting joint tensions?

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This is a good question.  The amount of tension you choose really comes down to preference, but as you have already experienced, the puppet will determine what you are allowed to get away with.  You will also find that different types of shots demand different tensions.  Subtle acting generally is easier to do with a softer tension whereas action shots are often easier with more tension.  That being said, some of Laika's star animators do the most subtle and beautiful shot with each joint quite tight because it allows for absolute control.  So the answer is still that it will come down to preference.

I go by whatever it takes for the puppet to support itself on one foot, even at the stage of a walking cycle where the leading foot is almost ready to touch down so the puppet is furthest off balance.  As you discovered, arms and neck don't carry the weight, and possibly the back joints can afford to be less tight too.  The ankle has the hardest job to do with the most leverage applied against it, so that's what determines your limits. With my wire armatured puppets, they can all be supported horizontally with one foot tied down, like they are falling over and 1 frame away from hitting the ground, with one leg up in the air and one tied down to hold them.  But as you say wire is lighter, and it may not be possible to get that with a jointed armature supporting more weight.  It is also difficult with a full body silicone puppet, the silicone is much heavier than cushion foam or foam latex, whatever the armature.  For a puppet falling over, or otherwise at such an extreme position, you might need a support rig, just as you would for jumping or flying.  But all the stages of a walk cycle should be self supporting.  



Adam Taylor said:

This is a good question.  The amount of tension you choose really comes down to preference, but as you have already experienced, the puppet will determine what you are allowed to get away with.  You will also find that different types of shots demand different tensions.  Subtle acting generally is easier to do with a softer tension whereas action shots are often easier with more tension.  That being said, some of Laika's star animators do the most subtle and beautiful shot with each joint quite tight because it allows for absolute control.  So the answer is still that it will come down to preference.

Thank you for the detailed answer! 

>Subtle acting generally is easier to do with a softer tension whereas action shots are often easier with more tension.

Interesting read, I had no idea but can see how that is after fiddling with my armature for a day. This begs me an additional question, do some animators not cover joints with foam/sponge? So they could adjust tension as they animate?



StopmoNick said:

I go by whatever it takes for the puppet to support itself on one foot, even at the stage of a walking cycle where the leading foot is almost ready to touch down so the puppet is furthest off balance.  As you discovered, arms and neck don't carry the weight, and possibly the back joints can afford to be less tight too.  The ankle has the hardest job to do with the most leverage applied against it, so that's what determines your limits. With my wire armatured puppets, they can all be supported horizontally with one foot tied down, like they are falling over and 1 frame away from hitting the ground, with one leg up in the air and one tied down to hold them.  But as you say wire is lighter, and it may not be possible to get that with a jointed armature supporting more weight.  It is also difficult with a full body silicone puppet, the silicone is much heavier than cushion foam or foam latex, whatever the armature.  For a puppet falling over, or otherwise at such an extreme position, you might need a support rig, just as you would for jumping or flying.  But all the stages of a walk cycle should be self supporting.  


Thanks for the advice. Animating with the ball and socket armature feels a lot different than I anticipated. So much that I'm kinda leaning toward scrapping everything and remaking them with wires. But then again, I don't want to deal with inevitable wire breakage from time to time again lol.
Yes, you can tension joints during a shot. It is often a pain in the neck to get into those joints from whatever odd angle you are animating, but if it will help your shot, do it. I tension feet/ankles during a walk so when they need to hold the weight of the puppet they are super tight and when the foot lifts off it is pretty loose and easy to move.

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