Animation Assignment
Character Walk

This assignment involves a single character.

You are to design a character of any type that you want.  They must have a face with eyes, nose and mouth and full body (clothing is optional).

The assignment is similar to your 1st year walk cycle with a few more additions.

Actions Involved
This assignment will require the character to walk with a specific "emotion" to it, meaning; the character must look and act either "happy", "sad", "angry", or "afraid". Choose one and time the action of the walk appropriately.

The walk cycle may be a 16 drawing cycle, although this is a bit brisk. This could be used for the "happy" or "angry" emotion.For the "sad" or "afraid" emotion, you could double the timing to 32 drawings or more, depending on how slow you want it to be.When you choose the emotion, be sure the character's posture reflects the emotion clearly.

Use the repeat pan background you created in layout class in the 3rd semester and pan it behind the walk cycle.The character is to complete 10 cycles (20 steps). The character is then to trip over an object lying on the ground (this should be a held cel). The object can be anything you want it to be. The only stipulation is that it must be small enough for the character to trip over and lose their balance. The character must not fall down or stop their forward momentum.

The tripping action should be animated "straight ahead".

What is "Straight Ahead" animation?
Simply put, straight ahead animation is where you start with drawing #1 and then you do drawing #2, then #3, 4, 5, 6, and so on throughout the entire scene until you're done. The type of action that your character is doing will determine whether or not you should use straight ahead or pose to pose, or a combination of the two.

The main advantage to using straight ahead animation is that it is very spontaneous and creates a very natural flow to the action you're animating. It's very similar to "improv acting" where you just kind of make it up as you go along.You should be aware that there are many disadvantages to straight ahead animation as well; you can begin to lose control of the action and it can veer away from where you really want it to go in the scene. You won't know what it looks like until you've finished every single last drawing in the scene. With key animation, you can do a pencil test with just the keys, then play around with the timing, and then do your inbetweens knowing exactly how it's going to turn out. For example, let's say the scene is 10 seconds long. That's 240 frames or 120 drawings on two's. If you do two keys for each second, that's 20 drawings. You do your pencil test to the timing you've blocked out, make adjustments and even if you have to redraw all of them, that's only 20 drawings wasted.

If you straight ahead, you have to do all 120 drawings before you can see what it looks like, that's 6 times as many drawings. That's a lot of work.This is not to say that with straight ahead animation, you just blindly start drawing and make up each drawing as it comes along, that's kinda dumb. You should still know what the character(s) are going to be doing and act the action out first. At the very least, plan it out in your head.The real proper thing to do would be the following:

1) Think about what you want the characters to do.

2) Act the action out yourself. Get someone else to act it with you. Video tape yourself, then watch and study the tape intensely. If you can single frame through it, then do it. (Some people think this is cheating - it's not! It's observation and study.)

3) Draw a series of thumbnail sketches that catch the main points of the action. Write notes and draw arrows to indicate what's moving where. Even indicate timing if you can (this action took 1 second or 24 frames, etc).

4) Pencil test the thumbnails.

5) With the thumbnails posted on your desk, begin your straight ahead animation, knowing that you need to hit the poses that you've thumbnailed throughout the scene (this will keep you from wandering too much).

6) If you veer off the thumbnails but the action still works, then go with it, just don't lose control.This is a slight variation of pose-to-pose animation but the key point is to plan. Remember the old saying: "If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail".

Actions Involved (cont'd)
After the tripping action takes place, the character should recover their balance and then link back up into the cycle animation again. The character should then complete 5 more cycles (10 steps). The object that the character trips over must pan at the same rate as the background, so it doesn't appear to be sliding.

The same is true for the character walk cycle. Care must be taken to be sure that the "foot slip rate" is consistent throughout the cycle, otherwise the cycle may turn into a "limping" action.

Principles Involved
The main principle that you will be using here will be the "Seaweed" action. This will require overlapping action as well as secondary action to the movements.
Obviously a sense of gravity will be involved as well as appropriate timing for the actions to read clearly.

On the previous assignments, you've worked with pose-to-pose or key animation. You still need to do this for the walk cycle. For the trip action, use straight ahead.

As per usual here are the other principles involved:

• Thumbnailing
• Scene Planning
• Lip Synchronization
• Keys
• Inbetweens
• Timing
• Slo in & Slo out
• Stretch & Squash
• Overlapping Action
• Effects of Gravity
• Weight
• Realistic Timing
• Use of Arcs
• Observation
• Flipping

Thought Process
Begin the assignment by deciding on the emotion you intend to use for the character walk. In this assignment we are going to begin delving into the realm of character acting. There is no dialogue and so the attitude of the character must read through their timing, posture, and actions.

For the happy or angry emotion, a faster pace would be more appropriate. A 16, 18 or 24 drawing cycle would be o.k.

The sad or afraid emotion would look better using a 32 drawing cycle shot on 2's or an 18 or 24 drawing cycle shot on 3's. For a really slow walk, shoot the 32 drawing cycle on 3's.

1 Step every

16 frames - fast walk - 16 drawing cycle shot on 2's

18 frames - brisk walk - 18 drawing cycle shot on 2's

24 frames - 1 step/sec - 24 drawing cycle shot on 2's or 16 drawings shot on 3's

27 frames - 18 drawing cycle shot on 3's

32 frames - saunter - 32 drawing cycle shot on 2's

36 frames - slow walk - 24 drawings shot on 3's

48 frames - 1 step/2 sec - 32 drawings shot on 3's

You'll notice that I've mentioned shooting the cycle on 2's or 3's, this is a simple way of slowing your animation down. While it is not encouraged that you animate this way, you can do it in special circumstances. The main problem with shooting stuff on 3's is that it tends to strobe a bit. I can remember watching the shows "Star Blazers" in the late 1970's and "Thundercats" in the early 1980's and seeing their animation strobe quite a bit. They were shooting a lot of their stuff on 4's which basically cut out half of the drawings and saved a lot on their budgets, but it resulted in jerky animation.

There are the odd times when you can switch between 1's, 2's and 3's in order to get your timing just right. Ideally, if your budget and time scheduling permit, you really should add in an inbetween and shoot it on 1's to avoid the strobe of shooting on 3's.

It's best not to shoot all your animation on1's because it makes it look too "rich". Some sections of "The Thief and the Cobbler" film by Richard Williams were animated and shot on 1's and it seems a bit over excessive. Technically speaking, any time you have a pan background (where the character's feet must register to the ground) you really should shoot the character animation on 1's so that you can keep the background from slipping under the character's feet. The background is moved slightly each frame (based on the character's foot slippage measurement). If the animation is shot on 2's, then there's one frame where the background will move, but the character's foot doesn't. It's not a major issue, but it does make the scene look much better if it is shot on 1's.

Timing Charts
There are certain numbers of drawings that you can and can't use in a walk cycle in traditional animation. Let's look at the options:

16 drawing cycle

As mentioned before, this is a fairly fast paced walk when shot on 2's - 1 1/2 steps per second. The nice thing about this number of drawings is that it can be easily subdivided by 2. If we look at the drawings in the following way, you'll be able to see it better: Drawings #1 and 9 are the main keys (usually the full stride poses, where the legs are widest apart)Drawings # 5 and 13 are the other key poses, I call them "breakdowns" or "secondary keys" because they're the legs in a passing position.

The remaining drawings are inbetweens. 3 is 1/2 way between 1 and 5, 7 is 1/2 way between 5 and 9, 11 is 1/2 way between 9 and 13, and 15 is 1/2 way between 13 and 1. All the remaining inbetweens are 1/2 inbetweens again. This is why this particular cycle is so easy, everything is a half. The resulting timing if shot on 2's would be a fast walk. Shooting on 3's will slow it down to 1 step per second. If you do an inbetween between each drawing and turn it into a 32 drawing cycle, then shoot it on 2's, it will slow it down to 1 step every 32 frames, more of a saunter. Shooting the 32 drawings on 3's will really slow it down quite a bit to 1 step every 2 seconds.

18 drawing cycle

An 18 drawing cycle is slightly more complicated because there is no half way point between the two keys: 1 and 10. The distance needs to be divided by thirds on drawings 4, 7, 13, and 16. Then the inbetweens also need to be split into thirds. While not impossible, it is more difficult. You still must make sure the increments are equally divided otherwise the movements will jerk.

This is only slightly slower than the 16 drawing cycle and creates a step every 18 frames or 1 1/3 steps per second. Not a huge difference for the extra aggravation of having to do those thirds.

If you shoot it on 3's, it gives you one step every 27 frames.

24 drawing cycle

The 24 drawing cycle is slightly easier than the 18 drawing cycle because it can be subdivided down by halves twice on drawings 7 and 19 and then again on drawings 4, 10, 16, and 22. The remaining inbetweens are on thirds. It slows the walk down to 1 step per second which is more of a natural walking speed.

32 drawing cycle

This is more of a sauntering, relaxed walk. As stated above, it's the same as the 16 drawing cycle, just with an inbetween between each drawing.

These cycles are possible but kinda difficult:

20 drawing cycle

This cycle can be divided by two only once and then the remaining inbetweens are quarters, which is not an easy thing to do.

It's the pace half way between a 16 and 24 drawing cycle, again, not much of a difference for all the trouble you'd have to go through on those inbetweens.

28 drawing cycle

This cycle can be divided by two only twice and then the remaining inbetweens are sixths. Good luck.

These are the one's you really shouldn't try to do:

22 drawing cycle

26 drawing cycle

30 drawing cycle

The problem with all of these is that they simply don't subdivide down by halves. You can try it in computer animation and let the program do your division for you, but I don't recommend trying to do it in 2D. Not saying it's impossible, just pretty darn close.

Here are the drawings of a rabbit that I did in class. I still need to add the details, but the basic action is there. This one is shot on twos.

The next one is the same cycle, shot on threes, just to slow it down a bit. I'll still need to go in and do an inbetween for each drawing and shoot it on ones so that it looks smooth.

Here are the drawings with all the inbetweens filled in and the features on the faces. It's shot in a combination of twos and ones, so the timing is the same as the one shown above here.

The only goofy thing I did was on the faces, they don't cycle side to side properly, I did them in reverse order, so they pop in the middle. I'll go back and fix that in the final clean-up version.

I also need to fix the swish on the tail and I'll also add some wiskers with overlapping action.

So this ended up being a 32 drawing cycle but because it's a combination of ones and twos, it runs for 52 frames, which divided by 2 ends up being the equivalent to a very odd 26 drawing cycle.

Pencil Test
Keep your keys very loose and rough. Don't worry about the details. If you really want to save some time, keep the keys as stick figures, without volume. This way you can see the action without sacrificing a lot of time on each drawing. Shoot your keys of the walk cycle first to be sure it's doing what you want it to.

Add in the major inbetweens (the half way positions) and shoot it again. If you're happy with the results, go back and clean up the drawings by adding volumes and any details you want, then finish the rest of the inbetweens and then pencil test the final version.

If you need to adjust the timing at this point, you have two choices: shoot it on 3's to slow it down. If it's too slow at this point you probably need to go back and redo the inbetweens using a different number of drawings. For example: if you did the 16 drawing cycle, then shot it on 3's and it's too slow, you would have to go back and do the 18 or 24 drawing cycle and shoot it on 2's.

If it's too fast on 3's, you might want to go with 18 on 3's or 32 on 2's or 32 on 3's.

Don't settle for something if it isn't exactly what you wanted.

Inbetweening the cycle action
On the walk cycle, you need to be really careful about the spacing on the feet as they treadmill back along the ground. The space between each drawing must be exactly the same. Any variation in distance will create an uneven movement! Both sides have to move the same otherwise the character will have a limping action.In any walk cycle, the important inbetweens are the drawings immediately after the key drawings of the full stride. This is the drawing where the back leg must have some form of overlapping action to it (otherwise it'll look really stiff and mechanical). The knee should be moving forward, but the foot moves up and slightly back, with the tip of the toe dragging slightly (this is the overlapping action). Sometimes this might also continue into the the next inbetween as well before the foot is fully moving forward.

On the forward foot and leg, this is where the leg must buckle (depending on the type of walk you're doing), right after the key pose.

You'll also need to be careful on the action of the knee and foot during the forward swing just before the key pose to be sure that the foot continues to move forward as the knee doubles back into the lockout pose of the key.

Inbetweening the tripping action
Most of the inbetweens in straight ahead animation are just fill-in drawings to slow things down a bit or smooth out an action. If you did all your drawings and numbered them sequentially: i.e.: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. and you need to add in some inbetweens, just add an A to the number. So, if you need an inbetween to go between 3 and 4, just call it 3A. If you need two inbetweens, call them 3A and 3B.

Be sure to watch your paths of action and the spacing of the drawings so that you don't cluster things together or create a jerking action.

Be careful in the planning of how you're going to get back into the cycle again. It should look natural and not jerk abruptly.

This is a deceiving assignment, so you have to get started on it right away.
Beginning of class
(3 weeks total)

Assignment is worth 20% of the first semester grade

Animation will be graded in the following areas:
• Smooth, repeat pan background that matches walk cycle
• Appropriate, realistic character timing that matches chosen emotion
• Use of overlapping action in walk
• Proper up and down movement
• Structural, three dimensional drawing

The animation must show appropriate squash and stretch, realistic timing, proper slo-in and slo-out on appropriate body parts, torque, tilt, and twist in the head, shoulders, and hips as per in-class lecture demonstration. Character must match speed with the panning background.

Character Designs are of your own making.

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