Assignment #5: Basic Walk Cycle

Assigned: Tuesday, October 29th, 2019
Due: Monday, November 4th @ 9 PM


Walk Cycle Assignment

Walk cycles are very important in animation. They are important not just because they are a common type of motion, but because they reinforce many of the motion principles you learned. Squash and stretch, arcs, overlapping action, follow through, timing, and weight all play big roles.

Walks are a particularly complicated motion with a vast amount of different styles - many with only the subtlest of differences. However, this week you will be working on what is known as a "vanilla" walk cycle. This is just a plain walk that focuses on the mechanics of the motion itself without any overt stylization.

Part 1: Take Video Reference

Reality is always the foundation on which to start when approaching any sort of animated movement. Starting this week, video reference will become a critical tool that helps you plan and execute more believable motion.

What to do:

  1. Take reference of yourself doing a normal walk from both a front and side view. Keep in mind that for this particular walk you are trying to understand the mechanics of a walk itself, so try not to get too creative. Just walk as you would normally.

    Study this reference exhaustively. Pay attention to things like the rotation of your hips versus the rotation of your shoulders, how your hips shift and orient depending on where the weight is (from both the front and the side), and how your arms swing.

Part 2: Planning Sheet

As with your previous animations, you will start by drawing out a planning sheet. Luckily walk cycles have been done so often and are so important that there are already a few established ways of approaching them.

Read the section on walks in the Animator's Survival Kit. You will be using what Richard Williams calls the "contact method". A walk cycle has four basic poses: contact, down, passing, and up. Each given step in the contact method starts and ends with the contact pose, coming out to a total of eight poses in one cycle.

Now, it's time to find these main poses in your own video reference. We recommend you use synch sketch to drawover poses. Upload your video reference to Syncsketch, an online app that allows you to scrub through videos and draw over them. Find the contact, down, passing, and up poses in your video reference and draw over them, taking note of the position of your hips, shoulders, arms, legs, and head.

Finally, draw a planning sheet using the contact method, using poses based on your Syncsketch drawovers. Include both a front and a side view. Refer back to your video reference as you do this. Though everybody walks slightly differently, plan to animate as normal of a walk as possible: medium pace, arm swing that is not completely stiff, etc.

Part 3: Animate

With reference and planning finished, it is time to animate.

  1. Start by blocking in the contact poses. As with the previous assignments you will being using the Corruption rig. Use your planning sheet as a starting point, but as before feel free to deviate as you discover what works best.

    • This involves completing two full steps, after which the animation will repeat. There will be eight unique poses. The final ninth pose should be identical to the first contact pose only with shifted Z translate - this will be essential in eventually getting the cycle to loop.

    • Your character must walk across the screen and not in place. This way you won't have to worry about sliding feet.

    • As far as the workflow, you may find it useful to have your planning sheet and video reference paused in one monitor while you pose the character in the other. Exaggerate details where necessary; don't just do a one-to-one translation (due to differing proportions this would be impossible anyway).

    • Don't neglect the weight shifts and leg positions in the front view! Pay special attention to how the hips are moving and rotating at all times.

    • Break the elbow joint for one or two frames to exaggerate the overlapping action of the arm swing.

    • When you are finished, save out a copy of your Maya file with just these poses.

  2. Add breakdowns to your animation. Make sure the motion looks good from all angles (side, front, perspective). Insert breakdowns when needed to help define motion arcs and overlap as you did for the forward jump.

  3. Polish. After adding enough breakdowns to your animation that it plays smoothly and clearly demonstrates your timing and spacing, check in with a TA if you are able to, and move on to polishing. Track your arcs, make sure all parts of the body move smoothly, fix any knee pops, refine the overlap in the arms, etc. Refer to this Polish Checklist and make sure your animation is looking smooth and exhibiting correct body mechanics.

Grading Criteria and Turn-In Checklist:

You will be submitting your files to Canvas. Below is a list of criteria we will be using for grading, in addition to a list of the files you will need to turn in for each part of the assignment along with naming specifications.

Also indicated are the minimum requirements for what we expect to review for your motion check-in.

Motion Check-In:

Part 1: Video Reference

Part 2: Planning Sheet and Syncsketch

Part 3: Animate (Contacts and Breakdowns)

Grading Criteria