In our second part of animating a box lift, we space out the poses we did last time and add in betweens.  Unfortunately there’s really not much to show here, but I’ll blather about the process I’ll use for a bit.  Here’s a screenshot of what my workspace looks like in Maya:

[[insert screenshot here – eventually]]

I actually don’t worry about the timing between any of the poses until I started working on the inbetweens.  So I take two poses, spread them out, and think about what the character (Stewie) should be doing halfway between the two poses.  More often than not, his “mid-pose” won’t be exactly in the center of the two poses; it will “favor” the first pose or the second pose.  I use the sliders on TweenMachine to create this pose easily, though I still have to manually move some things around so that they will travel in arcs and not straight lines.  Move the hand down a bit, add a bit of drag on this rotation, move the foot to the side a bit more, etc.

Then I play through the poses and move them around time-wise to try to get the timing right.

Then I do the same steps on a smaller scale, between the first pose and the newly-created inbetween pose.

And I repeat these steps until I’m done, usually with only about 2 to 5 frames between the poses.  And I end up with this:

Isn’t that just great?  Yes it is.

But before moving on to the next step of polishing, we have our director or animation supervisor (or, in my case, my Animation Mentor mentor and fellow students) take a look at it and point out parts that could use some improvement.

Here’s my list of areas to improve:

1 – Around frame 74ish, the head pops back to looking forward too fast.

2 – When Stewie puts his arms under the box around frame 70, the box should sink just a bit into Stewie’s front hand — it should not look like it is magically trapped in space.

3 – Around frame 101 and 103, the box seems to slow strangely in it’s ascent — the timing needs to be reworked there.

4 – Head pop on frame 96 to 100!

5 – The front foot should not slow into it’s position on the floor on frame 151… it should hit the floor with a bit more speed; Stewie is *falling* onto that foot.

6 – Frame 160 to 183 — what the heck? It’s supposed to be a bit of an overshoot on the settle, but the timing doesn’t quite work, and the front hand on the top corner of the box goes a bit funky (especially on frame 167). That whole area needs attention.

7 – More drag on the front hand throughout, especially during its bigger movements.

8 – When Stewie moves to the side on frame 119 to 120, but more drag on the box; he can’t move it to the side that fast; it’s heavy!

9 – On frame 17 it looks like both hands hit the box at the same time.  Maybe one should hit before the other?

Here are some of the main phases this animation went through, ending with the final shot:

So, we tackle these issues, then go into our graph editor and spline it.  When we first spline it, a bunch of issues are obvious: unwanted overshoots, jiggers, and pops.  Some of these can be fixed visually by just looking at and fixing wonky curves in the graph editor.  But there were a few things I needed to give special attention to.

Firstly, the spacing on the head as Stewie comes up was full of pops and strange spacing.  The main problem was that the position of the head was the sum of the joints in the spine, which all bent at different times and speeds.  The only fix I could fine was really to go into each of those spine joint curves in the graph editor and try to orchestrate their changes in such a way that the spacing on the head was more or less even.  This was quite difficult.  The end result is passable, I think, but could’ve been better if I had had more time (and experience, for that matter).

Secondly, the elbows popped a lot, especially the back elbow near the beginning, when Stewie first starts tilting the box.  In the final shot, you can see that I bent his back sideways (towards the camera) – that’s just to make that back elbow not (without having to edit the hip translations).

The spacing on the box was also a problem, one that I never fully fixed.  You can see that in the first few shots the spacing was – weird.  It started going too fast too fast, then went too slow too fast.  Or something like that.  By the final shot it was much better, but still wasn’t quite right.  Oh well; it was due, so I had to turn it in.

I think the overall animation works, but with the spacing and timing issues it’s still a bit wonky, especially in the head and the box itself.  In the future, I will try to put in more inbetweens in the “blocking plus” phase, really trying to define the arcs and the timing and spacing more specifically before going into splining.  Really I need to do little “spline test” – spline a short duration of the shot just to see what exactly splining will do, then switch it back to stepped mode and make the changes I need.

And that’s the practice animation of a box lift!  Next up: practice animation of a heavy box pull and push.  Whew.

Categories: Animation


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