Chapter seven bounces right into covering your first skeletal animation with the Action Editor: making Captain Blender jump. Building this animation involves developing key poses, then filling in the “tweens.” Key poses, or “key” frames, is a concept that carries over from traditional animation, when the lead animator would draw the primary action poses, and another animator would fill in the “in betweens.” This is how the term keyframes gets its name…
The jump animation was a great place to start. It’s a little simpler than a walk cycle, and an interesting motion to figure out and apply. Using key poses is crucial to creating a convincing animation like this in a timely manner. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you begin to see how well your armature and skinning hold up. I found myself making tweaks to my rig, and adjusting the weighting of some areas of the mesh.
Armature animation is done using the Action Editor as opposed to the Ipo Curve Editor. The reason for this becomes apparent when you begin to consider the number of curves behind a bone’s location and rotation. Managing these as a single keyframe marker makes the process straight forward and manageable. Having to manage 7 Ipos would be a different story. However the option is still there to use the Ipo Editor, and for some things it makes sense to tweak a single Ipo for an action instead of a brute force approach.
Practice is everything in animation. Knowing how to animate is one thing, as a technical ability; being able to make motion look convincing requires the application of some patience and persistence. Don’t get discouraged if you find that your anims are rough at first – concentrate on learning the process, and you can work on the artistic element over time.
Once the jump animation is completed, it’s time to move on to the walk cycle. Here you will find that copying and pasting poses comes in handy. Blender has a great feature that allows you to copy a pose from one set of bones, and then paste that pose in a mirrored fashion to the bones on the other side of the armature. This is a huge time saver, and allows simple consistency to be applied to the process. Developing a simple, no-frills walk cycle was easier than I thought it would be. Coming up with one that exhibits style and mood will require more patience and finesse.
I have determined this to be a reference chapter of sorts. I didn’t spend time on every detail of the instruction here, skipping over the run cycle, although this wasn’t a focal point of the chapter. I do think I’ll be back to this chapter when I need to develop walk cycles and such for my own projects. Screenshots of key poses are provided for walk and run cycles, along with descriptions useful for developing these animations.
The chapter ends with a brief introduction on keying poses to sync with audio. Tony walks you through loading an audio file and getting it placed in the sequence editor. Although this chapter was straight forward, and I worked my way through it rather quickly, those seeking to master the concepts presented therein will want to loiter here for a while and experiment, especially with the jump and walk animations.
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