After several miss-steps, I finally coaxed my guy to walk across the stage for my first ever walk sequence. I think I did an okay job, but definitely room for improvement. So, now I've got a few questions and was hoping for a bit of guidance from the good people at this site.
Here goes: On the live view screen, I made 8 evenly spaced markers per step and tried to make him move forward that much on each grab. But, then I'm wondering, does the head, chest and hips move forward at an even rate like that? And, this means I have about 16 poses per full step. Is that typical? If, I wanted it smoother would that mean 32 poses per step!? Lastly (for now), to make him move, or play back at a natural pace, would I double each frame?
Any chance you can post the test on youtube and link to it here or something? It's pretty hard to give advice without being able to see what you're already doing.
It sounds like you're getting a lot more technical than I do. Though I suppose that's necessary in the beginning, walks are difficult to learn. If you really want to learn all about walks you should definitely get the book Animator's Survival Kit. It's about drawn animation, but the principles are exactly the same.
I don't usually get too detailed about walks though. I think about how fast I need a character to get from here to there, and about what kind of walk I need it to be - is it fast or slow? Bouncy and arrogant or depressed and draggy? That kind of stuff. Then I just start to animate - I don't do math or anything, or worry about how many frames per step. I'm not a finnicky animator like that, I pretty much wing it. After you've done a few walks and found what works for you then you don't really need to labor over it every time anymore. I find it's more important to pay attention to certain things instead, like the angle of the torso - it needs to be leaning forward a bit but not too much, and you can't let it get off balance too much. I keep it moving forward at a steady pace unless there's some reason not to.
For me it doesn't work to think too much about numbers and technical stuff like that, I just sort of get into animation mode. You develop a sense of how far to move things to impart a certain speed - animation is sort of the translation of distance into time. At least that's how I see it, though other people do it very differently. You need to discover the type of approach that works for you.
Oops. I thought the "first ever walk sequence" vimeo link in the post would work. (It works when I click on it?) I am thinking about it a lot... It's good to hear that it gets a bit easier after practice. Go figure:) I'll get a link or an attachment working in the morning... Thanks Strider.
Ah ok, I didn't notice that. Old guys with bad eyesight like me do better with big embedded videos as opposed to tricky slightly-darker-then-the-rest-of-the-text text links.
It looks darn good to me! A bit robotic, but that's fine for a learning experience - I think that's the way to start and then you learn how to put more emphasis and pauses etc into it.
Oh, I didn't respond about your last question in the OP - what framerate did you shoot this at?
If it's shot at 12 or 15 fps then yes, doubling the framerate would give you smoother results, as long as you're observing the principles of animation and paying attention to exactly what's happening in the framegrabber - make sure everything moves smoothly without any sudden dips in the wrong direction for a frame or 2, or without starting something moving in one direction and the forgetting to move it for a frame or two, then remembering to move it again. It doesn't look like you're doing that kind of spotty animation though, so I'd say your best options for getting it smoother would consist of either doubling the framerate (if you're working at one of the half rates) or just getting some more experience so you sort of pick up the little tricks mostly without even realizing exactly what it is you're doing.
I've watched it a few more times, and I see why it looks a bit robotic - it's mainly due to the way he holds his arms so stiffly and doesn't swing them, and the fact that his whole torso is held rigidly facing directly forward the whole time. He walks like a really stiff-backed military drill instructor. I guess that's because you wanted him holding whatever it is he's holding in his hands. That's a very awkward way to walk though - try doing it yourself. That's always a good idea, especially if you're doing something unusual like having a puppet walk while holding something in front of himself in each hand.
It gives a very formal effect, like maybe he's in a wedding.
Another thing I noticed that you could fix in the future and would help it to look less jerky - the head wobbles a bit. Nick taught me to always pay attention to that - by the time you're done moving everything the head has usually gotten moved accidentally - actually the whole torso probably has. So after you're done moving all the parts click back and forth a few times paying special attention the the head. It's worth it to put in whatever work is required to get the movement of the head absolutely smooth. And when you're fixing it, you probably need to move the entire torso to get it straight, since that's usually going to be what moved really.
Ok, I see he's holding a big dart, just like in your avatar. The way he's holding it is stiff and awkward - again, if you had something that size and shape you probably wouldn't hold it like that - it looks like he's afraid of letting it touch his body or something. One of the most important things to pay attention to always is natural poses and stances - if you get that right you're probably more than halfway there. I think it would look more natural to hold it touching the front part of the hips, or to lift it up more and hold it higher against the high abdomen or the chest. Or maybe try a completely different way, maybe held over one shoulder like a kid who's running away from home with all his belongings tied in a handkerchief on the end of a stick.
That looks like it's a lot faster than 16 frames per step to me... Ah, maybe it's at 30 fps which I never use, I work at 24 fps (film everywhere) or 25 fps (European/Australian Pal video)... That would make it just a whisker above half a second per step. That should be quickish but not that fast. By step, I mean, from when the trailing foot lifts off, to when it hits the ground in front and is tied down. If you meant left foot forward, then right foot forward to make a complete step, that would definitely be fast. So the speed is the first thing I notice.
Then, I can see that Strider is right, in that the arms don't move at all which comes across as a bit stiff, but that kind of makes sense since he's carrying something. Probably it would be nice if there was a little compensating movement of his hands, so as his body goes up in the middle of a step the hands holding the thing go down a bit. Maybe slightly overcompensating so they don't just stay level but dip slightly... have to see that to be sure.
But it's better than I was expecting when I saw the word "robotic" being thrown around! And there is a whole collection of typical mistakes you didn't make, so not bad at all!
Very cool job Garrick!!
i have so much practice ahead of me to even come close to you guys and the talent on this board!!
Hey, I did say it only looks a BIT robotic!
Touching again on the subject of natural poses, I remember a conversation on the old board where someone had posted some pics of Ray's Rhedosaurus and somebody else commented that they were obviously not taken by Ray but by some photographer who's not an animator. Someone else asked how you could tell, and the answer was that the feet were held in an awkward way that made it look like a clumsily-posed mannikin (er - beastikin I guess), something Ray would never do. The feet - such a small part overall, and yet so vitally important. They didn't look like they were supporting the weight of a massive creature comfortably and realistically, instead they looked like some technician just didn't feel like messing with them and wanted to hurry up and get the shot. Someone also commented that you can always tell if a puppet had been posed by an experienced animator or not, even if you can't really pin down the exact reason.
Thanks guys. I didn't even think to try carrying something across the room myself; I was so concentrating on the poses of my puppet for each frame. Duh! Trying out the real action first is a no-brainer... Also, it is playing at 30fps... I doubled the frames and then didn't pay attention when exporting. It looks better at 24fps. With the head wobble, I didn't notice it at first. It seems that when the chest tips forward or back the head shouldn't tip with it? Great stuff! Also, I know that whenever I've tried something new I spend a lot of time with the technical stuff before things start to feel comfortable. I get off on both parts:)
Some people do approach it very technically and make it work - it all depends on what feels right to you.
I wasn't really saying the head shouldn't tip with the chest, but it should move smoothly. Look at a couple of movies or TV shows and watch people walking (or maybe you can observe them in the wild?) - if somebody's head jiggles around when they're walking it tends to make them seem drunk or elderly or like there's something wrong. Though some people let their head bob up and down rhythmically or tilt a little from side to side as they walk. If you do get the Animator's Survival Kit (highly recommended) it goes very deep into walks of all kinds. After plowing through it you'll be ready to analyze walks of all kinds.
And maybe the reason I can get away with just winging it is because my puppets have short little legs, they only manage to squeeze in 2 or 3 frames per step (one foot), maybe 4 at the outside. With more realistically proportioned legs I guess things get more critical and you need to pay a lot more attention to the technical stuff.
Halfway through my second walk... Here's what I've learned: More toe wire. He's getting a little soft on his toes; a loose deck of cards for a set piece isn't a good idea; roll up shirt sleeves; after fiddling with a pose for 10 minutes, don't forget to grab the frame before moving on; and don't forget to focus once in a while. Great fun. I hope to finish the walk tomorrow. I'll post it when I do. Cheers for now.
Lol yeah, I can see where a loose deck of cards could easily become a nightmare! Moral of the story - everything on set must be secured somehow. This is why a glue gun is one of your best friends - it grabs instantly and doesn't need to be held or clamped to set up like most glues, and when you're done just douse with some isopropyl alcohol to debond - let it soak in for 30 seconds or a minute, then it should just pop apart easily.
And for those props that need to be temporarily secured but still need to move, your other best friend is microcrystalline wax. I use a brand called Museum Wax by Quakehold! (the ! is part of the name). My sets are held together pretty much entirely by hotglue, and every prop has either hotglue or wax under it.