cse490 Computer Animation Winter 1998

Project 5 : Character Motion

Date Assigned: Wednesday, February 18
Key Poses Due: Wednesday, February 25, 8:00 am
Animation Due: Wednesday, March 4, 8:00 am

Reading: Chapters 9 and 10, Section 11.1 (Kerlow)
Lessons 17-22 (Learning Alias), as needed


In this assignment, you will apply what you've learned about animation to a human character. Each group will pick three scenes out of a hat. As a group, choose your favorite scene of the three. Your task will be to create a short animation that tells the story of the scene your group has picked. To make the division of labor easier for you, each scene has been broken down into shots which can be animated separately. You will also be working with a pre-made human character for this assignment. (But don't worry, you'll get to build your own character later!)

You will do the work in three stages: (1) plan out the actions and camera angles with your group; (2) create key poses that clearly demonstrate the feeling or action you're trying to achieve, and (3) animate between your key poses, adding refinement until the motion really tells the story.


What to do
1. plan out your actions
Discuss with your group what kinds of actions would best express your character's mood or the situation he's in. If he's angry, does he tear his hair out, kick something, or just sit there and stew? Act it out, and see what feels right. Have someone in the group sketch possible poses to see if they "read" correctly: show them to strangers and see if they get the point.

2. create key poses
Copy the file /home/cse458/data/proj5_setup to your wire directory (or just open it from Alias and save it to your wire directory). This file contains a generic human character named "Ergo" whom you will use for this assignment.

Starting from your sketches or from real life, bend Ergo into a set of extreme key poses that unmistakeably convey what's going on. There should be at least three poses for each person in the group, but you may create as many as you need to tell the story. Turn in a quickrendered image for each pose.

3. animate your shot
Now you must create the motion that links one pose to the next. Start by getting the overall timing right: how long does each transition take? How long does he hold each pose? Think about weight and balance, anticipation and follow-through.

You might animate the character by blocking out the motion at the root of the hierarchy and working your way out to the extremities. Or, if you prefer, you can create each inbetween pose in its entirety and keyframe the whole character at once. As a final step, add all the missing nuances and details: breaking the joints, asymmetry, overlapping action, squash and stretch.

You must do your animation at 24 frames per second. Be sure to set the FPS before you play back your tests. Each scene may last no more than 12 seconds, but you may break the shots down however you want within your group.

4. extra credit (optional)
If you finish the rest of this assignment early and would like to experiment some more, you might try one of the following:
  • Animate a movable prop for your character to interact with.
  • Bring in a second character and have the two interact.
  • Do a repeating walk (or run or swim) cycle.
  • Write and animate your own story!
Note: you may not start the extra credit until the rest of the assignment is finished. So start early!

What we're looking for

  1. This is a good time to think about staging. How should the camera be positioned so that the poses are the most clear? Also think about how the transition from one shot to the next might feel. Let the cuts make sense: try to avoid cutting from a long shot to an extreme closeup, or rotating the camera 180 degrees in one cut.

  2. At this point you should spend some time getting used to the "Ergo" character. Practice selecting different joints and rotating them. Try selecting things by name as well as by pointing and clicking. Practice using the IK handles to move the limbs around. Once you feel comfortable with Ergo, start working on your key poses.

  3. Concentrate on telling the story with body language. Focus on the character's intentions so that it looks self-motivated and not like an inanimate puppet. Things that will help the motion look natural are: thinking about the weight of the character, getting the center of gravity in the right place, staggering sub-motions (e.g., to turn around, first the head turns, then the body, then the legs), overlapping actions (e.g. reaching for doorknob while taking off coat). And remember, timing is everything!

Turn in

All images (poses and animations) must be 360 x 243 pixels.

Before 8:00am on Wednesday, February 25, create a group directory in /home/cse458/critique/motion and put the following in it:

  1. README file. In addition to listing who did which shot, include the file format for the images.
  2. Images of key poses. Name them so that the shot and frame range for that pose are clear. For example, if you have 4 poses in your shot you should name the images something like shot1_frames_0-24, shot1_frames_25-32, shot1_frames_33-60, and shot1_frames_61-80. The frame number will determine the timing for your shot when we transfer the poses to video tape (e.g. if you turn in shot1_frame_0-23, shot1_frame_24-36, and shot1_frame_36-48, then the first pose will play for 1 second, the second pose will play for .5 seconds, and the third pose will play for .5 seconds). Turn in three or more poses for each of the three shots.
  3. Remember, the bouncing ball animations are also due on this day. See the Project 4: Basic Motion handout for turn-in instructions.

Before 8:00am on Wednesday, March 4, in the group directory that you already created for key poses, put the following:

  1. an updated README file. The README file should tell us what file format you used for each shot (this will be pix by default unless you changed the image file output format in RenderGlobals). For this assignment, leave your finished frames in your /user_data/demo/pix directory and tell us how your frames are named (e.g. if your frames are shot1.0, shot1.1, ...., shot1.121, then tell us that your shot name is shot1).
  2. If you did extra credit animations, please list these in the README in the same format as the required shots (leave them in your pix directory).