Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Animating Walks for DA701 PR1

"Monty" by Bucks graduate Neil Whitman
Our MA animation students' first assessed animation exercise, the assignment brief for DA701 PR1 (the first practical assignment for the first animation module), is to create a scene based on character walks. 

Character walks are one of the most important parts of the animator's toolkit. Using the online materials at Animation Apprentice, students learn how to take a basic walk cycle and, with just a few tweaks, completely change the character's mood and personality.

The students' first assessed brief is to take these character walks and turn it into an entertaining scene. 

Start with a Basic Walk
Animators should always start out with a basic walk cycle, making sure that the fundamentals are working. Once you've got that functioning well, animators can make a character happy, sad, angry or scared with just a few clicks. It's a relatively simple technique that breaks down apparently complex outcomes into simple, basic steps that any animator can master.

Start with Monty
At Animation Apprentice, we start with the marvellous Monty rig by Raveen Rajadorai.  You can download the rig here for free from HighEnd3D.com.  Monty has no arms, which makes the process of making the walk cycle, and adapting it, much simpler.

You might think that you can't get that much character and personality out of a simple rig like Monty - but you can.  You can make Monty happy, sad, angry, masculine, feminine - and even turn him into a goose-stepping soldier. All with just a few clicks.

Live Action Reference
Below is a handy video on character walks by animator Alexander Savchenko. It's a great example of the amount of character and personality you can get into a character walk, and also shows how much fun you can have with simple character rigs.

Student animators often think that a walk cycle shouldn't go on your demo reel - but it can, and should. Multiple different walks, runs and other gaits help to show a diversity of skill and showcase the animator's flexibility.

Walks and loops from Alexander_Savchenko on Vimeo.

Walks Reference by Houman Sorooshnia
Below is an excellent video of walk reference by animator Houman Sorooshnia, who has done a whole series of different live action character walks.  As animators, tackling walk cycles is a great way to learn the craft of animation and also a very good way to dig into character.  After all, how someone walks tells us a lot about who they are, and what kind of mood they are in.  If you can convey to an audience the personality and character of someone just by the way they are walking - then you are well on your way to becoming a professional animator.



Neil Whitman Walks
So how do you take this exercise and knock it out of the park? Below is an example of a beautiful series of character walks by MA student Neil Whitman, who took the basic Monty rig and customised it to create a series of walks, telling a story about a circus coming to town. It is funny, well animated and tells a compelling story.



Of course, for details of how to pass the assignment briefs - and especially how to comply with the submission deadlines and other requirements - it's important to read the brief carefully, and ask questions at the Facebook classroom. Here at Bucks we encourage early submission of our students' Work in Progress, so that we can weed out any obvious problems early on.

---Alex

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK.

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