Animation Principles Completed Sequence

Well, here it is, the completed sequence. I've actually had this done for almost a week now but I was too embarrassed to upload it! 

I'm really not at all happy with how the cleanup stage turned out. I feel a lot of character has been lost in the process and the animation just looks a lot stiffer now than it did before. The stair climb, especially — I originally animated it on ones but shot it on twos and it's really suffered for it. I can still see so many mistakes — missing inbetweens, dodgy arcs (particularly on that angry walk) but I think there comes a point you just need to say "I'm done working on this." Have I said that on my Digital Skills blog already?

I opted not to add the bannister on the stairs. I found it difficult to draw without it completely getting in the way and it just looked sort of odd, floating there — plus I quite like the idea that the character is almost a kind of mime — though that excuse would work better if I'd not drawn the stairs ;]

Still, it's nice to see it finished after so much stress and strain. The sound isn't too sophisticated... a bit hastily slapped on but I think it adds a nice little finish. It sounds a bit squiffy when burned to a DVD for some reason so I may need to look at tweaking that a little.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm typing at the moment. Feeling pretty tired, so forgive my incoherence!

Whilst I'm here, behold my DVD/menu designs:

I'm secretly quite pleased with these. Normally I'm horrendous at this kind of thing; design and presentation aren't usually my strongest points (gulp) so it was nice to see these come together fairly well. Simple but effective I feel! Not yet gotten around to the box design but it will be in a similar vein — I'm thinking of using the scene with Gustave at the bottom of the stairs or something. We'll see what Mr Photoshop conjures up...

Animation Principles rough sequence

Pretty much the completed sequence at this stage. Certain parts I'm really not happy with — resuming the walk after kicking the ball and landing in the puddle, specifically. Two very minor things that are causing me immeasurable frustration. I think I must just be really tired — I can't seem to focus, can't seem to get them right and it's really, really getting to me.

Obviously there is no visible puddle yet... still need to add that in, which I'll probably do during the refning stage. I'm thinking I may repeat the 'happy' cycle once more just to give the puddle a bit more time to enter the screen.

It's still not quite long enough though, only 19 seconds — and he's off-screen for at least two of them. This is really worrying me as aside from repeating the happy cycle and shooting the stair-climb on doubles, I'm not sure how else I can extend the time. I don't want to stretch and pad out what's already there too much — might make it feel a bit artificial and lose credibility/presentation. aghhh

Happy walk V2 w/ inbetweens

That didn't take long! Quite pleasantly surprised with how it's looking so far I must say. I think it could use another couple of inbetweens here and there to smooth out the arms and add a bit of interest to the legs but otherwise I think it's turning out alright. I think I messed up on the arms — seems to be a point at which I get confused and they switch places but it's not too noticeable in motion. There's a weird kink in the back arm and it kind of flails a little bit but that should be easy enough to rectify.

Happy walk v2

Long time no update! Essays and Digital Skills catchup have been dominating much of my life these past few weeks but I've been happily animating away all this time and have the majority of my animation blocked out in rough, which means I can spend the Christmas period simply cleaning up my lines. All I need to do is adjust certain parts of the sequence to get it all in order and it's ready to go!

I have about 18 seconds so far, around 300 — 400 frames on a mix of ones and twos. I think that once I've made the final tweaks to my sequence and doubled up some of my frames I'll be well within the timescale. Vimeo is currently still processing it so I'll whack that up later today, but in the meantime here's the last part I've been working on:

I needed a happy walk cycle for the section after he kicks the ball, something really quite jaunty and upbeat with large, high steps and swinging arms. I took a lot of inspiration from Milt Kahl's "Pinocchio" style walks. Some people very kindly animated Milt's thumbnails on Youtube:

There was also a very nice Milt-style walk in the Animator's Survival Kit that I kept glancing back to to make sure I was getting the posing right. 

In the end, this is what I came up with: (Keyframes, doubles, 12fps until I get the inbetweens done)

It's not tremendously original but it's been a very useful exercise in observing timing, not to mention drag/overlap on the arms. If I can get the inbetweens finished today then I'll be sorted! The day is still young!

Sad character walk V4

In between coughing up the contents of my lungs, I finally plucked up the courage to re-tackle the dreaded sad cycle! I want a medal.

I'm still not totally happy with it (as always) but I think (or hope) it's better than before. Still needs a few more inbetweens to get the timing right — mostly where he picks his feet up, I just feel it needs to be a little slower.

There are some arc problems with the hips, especially on the front leg's up positions. It should be easily fixable, I think I just need to bring it back a little bit. I don't really think the arms are working either. The swing seems a little excessive for his mood — I wanted the lower arm to appear really heavy and swing very loosely from the elbow to give the feeling of weight but I don't think it really worked. I animated the arm separately and it looked fine at first, but adding it to the body really changed the way that it reads. I think I need to drop the shoulders a little lower as well, to make him seem a bit more sad.

The more I look at it the less happy I am (dammit Alex) but hey-ho, they're all things that can hopefully be fixed fairly easily...

Angry walk V2

Technically V3 or V4 but I was stupid and didn't post the previous revision...!

(sorry, it's a little hard to see — should have looped it!)

This is for the scene just after he steps into the puddle — so he'll land in it around the centre of the frame, get annoyed and then storm off-screen in a rage.

Made a number of revisions to this, mainly in the legs. I removed a lot of redundant inbetweens and changed the way the legs move. Rather than striking the ground with his heel on the contact post I felt it would have more impact if his foot came straight down onto the floor. I think it serves to give the whole thing a greater feeling of weight. I think I'd like to tweak the foot a little more and have it tilt upwards very slightly just before it comes down. I think that might give it just a touch more power.

The arms and head were driving me crackers for ages — I just couldn't seem to position them correctly and was having real trouble visualizing how they should move. Nick was really great and sat with me for ages, helping me figure out what to do with them. I have no idea if you're reading this Nick, but if you are — thank you again. You're a godsend.

Got some good feedback from Ron on it as well who helped me tweak the arms and figure out the kinks in the initial head movement. I think I've got it to the stage where I'm mostly happy with it now! All that's left is to clean up the lines. My plan is to get as much animation roughed out as I possibly can before Christmas and then spend as much time as I need over the break refining the lines if necessary. As long as the basic movement is there it should be fine.

I'm now at that awkward position where I need to figure out what to work on next — everything I still have left to do is pretty tricky so I'm afraid to tackle any of it! I should really get back to that godawful sad walk cycle at some point...

Angry walk V1

Naughty Alex, working on things completely out of sequence...

Mucking about, trying to get an "angry" walk for the last section — I think it's going alright, just having some trouble getting the arcs on the hips right as he brings his leg up and over. I find animating walks on the spot much more difficult in terms of planning arcs — I'm going to try spreading it out so he walks across the screen to see if that makes it easier. I think the trouble is that he raises his leg too high when he brings it up. I could probably make it work if I tweaked it hard enough but I think I might just try dropping it down to see if it makes it easier.

I think I need to try delaying the knee slightly as it's in the air to help give the leg more power when the heel comes down to strike the ground. Probably need to bring the leg on the contact position forward a bit too.

Rather than having the heel rise up on the up position I might try keeping the heel flat on the floor. I like how the pose looks with him really thrusting forward but I'm wondering if that's causing difficulty with getting the leg arcs right. I think he needs to drop down more on the inbetweens between the up and contact positions. His leg bends but his body doesn't drop much — I think I probably messed up the leg lengths!

I'm trying to shoot things on twos instead of ones to cut my workload in half. I'm not very good at planning things for twos — always comes out looking too slow!  

(Agh, I know what I mean to say... it's been a long day and I'm tired!)

Happy walk draft scribbley thing

Blogger's stupid video upload hates me. Arrrgghhh. It doesn't really seem worth waiting in Vimeo's 30 minute processing queue for a silly scribble like this. Ah well! Enough moaning.

Volume problems! Volume problems everywhere!

Still desperate to avoid looking at that sodding sad walk cycle for what feels like the fifty billionth time, I decided to have a crack at getting something drafted for the happy/confident/strut after Frenchy kicks the ball. This is what came out. As I was making it I was astonished that — gasp — I was really enjoying myself. I felt fairly okay about knowing the rules of walk cycles, and almost-but-not-quite feeling confident in breaking them. I was enjoying seeing my character (to quote Withnail & I) "prancing like a tit."

I dunno, I was kind of happy with how it was going at the time (despite obvious problems which I'll discuss in a moment) but I may have just been on a bit of an 'animator's high,' but looking at it now I'm not so sure. It's not really what I'd planned for the walk initially, and that's not so much what bothers me — if I keep working at it, it will definitely still work with the scene I have planned. I'm just feeling iffy about whether I should continue it or just re-do it another way.

The first step looks alright so far, aside from some arcing problems with the hip that I need to go back and adjust. His hip rises up on the front leg as he drops down — I think it should go back and stay at the same level, before rising back up and over as he brings it forward. I think. I'm not sure? The second step I just need to completely re-do — I think I need to add a little more drag to the leading leg as he swings it forward to give it a little more life.

I think the body overcomplicates matters with its changing shape and volume. I keep getting lost as to where the hip should be — I think if I make it a basic circle (as I did with the stair climbing) it will be easier to consider things like rotation/tilting of the body and help me track the position of the hip more accurately.

Stair climbing V1, take 2


Unfortunately not too much progress today, but I figured I'd post what I've got so far. I've tweaked the stair climbing very slightly — now he walks across the screen to reach the staircase. I'm still really unhappy with the first walk cycle so I will certainly go back and re-do it to smooth it out a little. 
Not too sure how happy I am with the slow down as he stops, but unfortunately it's difficult to animate without having a finalised walk cycle leading up to it. I'm thinking of it as a placeholder for the time being.

I've started trying to nail the arm movement as he goes up the stairs — the first part I'm actually fairly pleased with as he brings his hand up and over back onto the banister, but then it seems I lost my groove on the last step as it just kind of jiggles about uselessly. I'm going to go back and re-do it so it matches the earlier movement.

I'm feeling a little better about things. Though I don't think I've made too much visible progress I feel like I've learned a whole lot. Something as simple as his hip rotation as he drags his weight up the stairs has been astonishingly beneficial. I'm feeling a little more confident about arcs and limb movement and such. Certainly haven't mastered it yet but I think it's getting easier! (Or maybe I just lucked out...)

Stair climbing V1

Hopefully I'm not going to jynx it, but I had a much better day today. Managed to get the stair climbing all drafted out and ready to go!

I'm not sure why but Vimeo appears to have skewed the frame rate/overall duration very slightly but hey-ho. It took me a while to get the hip rotation right (major thanks to Ron for suggesting it!) but I'm actually fairly pleased with the results.

It's far from perfect of course, I'm sure there are still countless things I could fix, but I think it's working. I'm satisfied that I've managed to actually do something and get results. Dare I say it, I might even be a very teensy-tiny bit proud that I managed to keep working despite how crappy I've been feeling.

Anywho — unfortunately he's just an egg with legs at the moment... next I have the challenge of the arms and head. I'm actually quite pleased with the little drawing at the beginning of him standing at the foot of the stairs. It sounds daft but I'm hoping that it might help me to balance out the first walk cycle a little bit!

Touch wood that this good streak continues...

Sad character walk Flash test

Deciding it might be a good idea to try working in Flash for this project as opposed to Photoshop. Despite the lovely textures and lines Photoshop gives you, the lack of anything vaguely resembling an onion skin is a complete deal breaker. It's making things pretty complicated for me, so I'm currently trying to convert my sad walk cycle into Flash:

I don't think it's going so well. Flash has considerably less options when it comes to frame exposure (in Photoshop my frames were set to display at 0.06 of a second but played back at 25fps, creating smooth movement and rather nice timing) In Flash it's literally singles or doubles which has jarred up the timing on my walk cycle massively. This was shot on 2s and it looks jerky as all hell, so my only option is to whack in more inbetweens or just leave it as it is. Aggghhh. The hips are problematic, especially on the front leg when it comes forward. I know it should be coming up and forward (shouldn't it?!) but...

I'm really not happy. It's looking so awful so far, I just cannot seem to get this to work. I'm having such difficulty with the arms and I don't even know why. I've tried acting out the walk myself so many times and really paying attention, but I just can't seem to nail it. I think I'm being blinded by panic again which is stopping me from working consistently.

Sorry, I can't even type a coherent blog post at the moment. I think I need to take a step back from this bit for a while and try tackling something else. I'm feeling very conscious of the time constraints and though this is something I can comfortably tackle over the Christmas period, I'm feeling frustrated by my lack of progress.

Assorted character tests

I was getting really quite stressed and upset over the stupid walk cycle so I took a step back and moved onto something else to give my brain a break. I ended up knocking out some very quick tests in Flash which made me feel a bit better.

I found that animating in Flash is distinctly less stressful than Photoshop. I think because it's actually an animation software — the onion skin makes things much easier in terms of figuring out movement and such. In Photoshop you lack the ability to view previous frames at once which makes things significantly more difficult.

That being said, these are still pretty crude but at least I'm beginning to sort of get somewhere.

This is a test from the scene after he reaches the top of the stairs. Originally I wanted him to sort of scuttle along the rail but I figured that a slow sort of sliding-creep thing would be more fitting.

I shot it again on 2s which I think looks a bit better:

Still needs inbetweens and cleaning up, but it's mostly just a test for the movement and such.

I also started messing around with the ball kicking idea:

It's little more than a few quick scribbles but I'm just trying to nail the poses and rough movement. It's very difficult — I'm having trouble working out how to get the actual kick to have any power. I want the kick to be pretty exaggerated and then have him come forward, back down onto his kicking leg, straight into the next walk cycle. Don't know how easy that will be.

I dunno. I'm still feeling pretty crummy about the whole thing. I really don't even know what's wrong with me — I'm just having such difficulty finding my feet with this project. Feeling very overwhelmed with it all!

Sad character walk V3, take 3

Had another extremely difficult day with this one. I really, really struggled to progress any further. I ended up "cheating" slightly and trying to rotate some of the limbs in order to figure out what was wrong with the arcs and I think I got something relatively satisfactory out of it (don't worry, I'll certainly go back and re-draw over it!)

I tried several times to figure something out for the arms but I'm finding it quite tricky. I don't think they should have much swing to them — kind of just hanging there, swaying with the motion of the body. I tried it myself a few times and noticed that when my arms hung loose like that they swayed forward with the leading leg, as opposed to a conventional walk cycle where they swing with the opposing leg. I'm not sure how well this will translate to animation however! It could look pretty awkward, so I think I'll mimic the same movement but have them swing with the opposing leg.

The leg movement isn't quite what I'd hoped it would be but at this stage I think I'm going to need to just move on as soon as possible. I'm feeling very concerned about this whole thing...

Sad character walk V3, take 2

My head feels like it's stuffed with cotton wool and my bed is calling my name, so forgive me if this is a little garbled!


Started adding inbetweens and whatnot — I don't know if it's just because I'm so tired but it's really starting to give me a headache. I just can't get it to look right.

There are still problems with the crossover — I keep messing things up when I re-draw the frames for the opposite leg — I think because the rear leg is slightly smaller so I need to be careful and make necessary adjustments to make it fit with the angles of the front leg.

I think I need to perhaps tilt the foot upwards a little more (and perhaps delay it for a bit) before he brings it back down to help give it more power. It's a little too soft at the moment. He's quite a heavy character so the down step needs to carry more weight.

Also, when he comes down, the volume of the trailing leg/foot radically changes, creating a bit of a 'snap'. Need to look at adjusting that and perhaps add some more inbetweens to pad it out a bit

I'm really disappointed in myself — I wanted to get the legs completed to a satisfactory standard tonight so I could focus on the arms or something tomorrow. Oh well — there's no sense in working whilst in a flu-induced stupor, it'll just create more problems later on. Let's see what the morning brings!

Sad character walk V3

Here we go again!!

Rather than struggling on editing my old walk cycle, I decided to just start fresh using my old frames as reference. Sometimes it's quicker just to start with a blank canvas — tweaking my old animation was just needlessly complicated and frustrating, because you kind of end up locked into your old mistakes and limited by what's already there... if that makes sense?!

Andy gave me some great advice on the position of the legs. Previously it appeared as if the toes dragged through the ground. Here I've tried to rectify the problem by marking where the hips would be, allowing me to easily give them a little torsion (is that the right word to use?) and lift the leg a little further off the ground, mostly solving the problem.

The mood isn't quite there yet — obviously without inbetweens the timing is off, making it look a bit angry!

I attempted to act out the walk a few times and I noticed that, rather than in a "conventional" cycle where the heel brushes the ground and the foot smoothly strikes the floor, I tended to bring my foot straight down very suddenly. When dragging my feet, my toes were very slow to come off the floor and they were dragged almost reluctantly upwards. I'm going to experiment with this timing by delaying the lift of the toes until the last possible moment when they're dragged upwards before coming straight back down much faster.

It's interesting to note how, without any inbetweens, this walk is very similar to how an "angry" cycle might look. In an angry cycle the character might bring his feet up very fast and slap them straight back down with very little pause — similar to here. This could save me a lot of time later on if, for my angry cycle, I can refer back to this cycle and simply make minor adjustments to timing.

Sad character walk V2

I began to attempt cleaning up the lines of my previous attempts and trying to nail the rest of the inbetweens. I'm really, really not at all happy with it. The leg volumes are a little more consistent and I think the timing is very nearly there but it just wasn't working for me at all. 
There are masses of problems with the feet — they don't really flop and drag as I'd like them to. They also delay in the centre of the body at the crossover which looks pretty weird.

Later on, when I attempted to add the body, I found it extremely difficult because I'd drawn the legs first with no consideration of the character's torso. I ended up with all sorts of problems like knees ending up where the chest should be.

You can see I struggled — I really couldn't figure out how to fit the body around the legs. That shouldn't have happened; I shouldn't be needing to try and fit things around other things. Everything really just needs to work together. I think it's okay to focus on the movement of one body part at a time but I really need to consider how the character's body will move in relation to the legs.

In general I think I tried to be too refined and controlled with my lines. I need to relax and be a bit looser in these early stages — I think that's why my first attempt had so much more character to it. Despite being flawed and rough, it had a little more personality to it.

Still, as they say, third time's the charm...

Sad character walk — 2nd draft

Slowly getting there! Added a lot of inbetweens to smooth things out a bit. It's still quite choppy but I think the timing of the legs is mostly there at this stage, though the feet aren't quite as smooth as I'd like and the volumes are pretty inconsistent. Now that the basic movement is there, though, I can work from that and start tidying things up a bit. 

Something with the legs looks really off to me but I can't quite put my finger on it. It's almost like it seems to fast? I think maybe I've just got some dodgy inbetweens that need fixing up. I'll need to re-check my arcs.

The torso is pretty much just a placeholder and I plan on completely redoing it — I should have left it out, having it waggle about is quite distracting.

"Sad" character walk practice

Knocked out a quick test-type thing earlier today; been on the go hunting for cows and windmills all weekend (more on that later...) so not had much time to sit down and animate solidly.
I didn't do much forward planning for this, simply scribbled it out and ran with it. It was mostly an attempt to loosen up a bit and get into the rhythm. It's less than stellar — missing inbetweens all over the place, generally quite messy — but it acts as a sort of framework that I can build from. I'm already able to see what I need to change in order to get the right mood for the character. It's far too quick, for instance. A sad character wouldn't move his legs very fast. He would almost kind of shuffle along with as little leg movement as possible, so I need to look at the timing and try to delay his legs a bit. Make them very slow coming up, a little pause before bringing them back down a little faster and more deliberately.

I think I've got the right kind of idea with the foot dragging and flicking —needs smoothing and refining, but I think it's kind of there? I'm going to film myself (or an unwilling volunteer) as a reference and have another crack at it.

Character maquette

Andy made a great suggestion — making a small character model to help get an idea of how they'd look from all angles. So I did!

I'm hilariously bad at modelling, but it was a neat exercise and I had a lot of fun with it! The beret looks more like a flat cap and one of his arms is really limp and keeps falling off, but I feel quite fond of it.

Somehow, I managed to buy the kind of clay that remains pliable and never dries. Frenchy will forever be squishy :( 

Rough storyboard

I've been a little preoccupied with Digital Skills this week. Finding it a bit tricky to divide my attention equally between projects, but I've managed to get some more prep work done. I feel more comfortable doing extensive prep work before jumping straight into animating — in my experience it tends to yield better results for me, even if I'm just doing goofy pencil tests.
I'm starting to finalise some of the key poses for my storyboard at this point, just to make drawing the keyframes easier for me. It will save me a massive headache later if I'm not having to continuously re-tweak them 'til they look right...
Stair climbing scribbles were referenced from a Muybridge image I nabbed off Google! I'm relatively happy with the puddle poses at this point. I think I could stand to make his reaction a little more exaggerated and flamboyant, with lots of ridiculous hand flapping. I think that "sad walk" with the trailing arms on the left is a bit too much — he looks more tired than anything.

I've drafted out a quick storyboard to give me a solid reference for the sequence of events:

I'm not too pleased with the posing and body language in some of these frames (notably the stair climbing and puddle bits) but I've now got a fairly solid idea of the sequence now, so I can start producing some preliminary tests. I'm hoping to get a few test shots done this weekend so that I can start timing it all with an actor out on Tuesday, ready to start putting it together!

More character sketches

Some quick doodles done during the lecture today, still experimenting  with my character and thinking about how he might move. I wasn't sure whether to post these these up or not, but I quite liked a few of the poses so I thought it might be worth putting them here. I'm beginning to get familiar enough with him to see him move around in my head which is really quite nice, but also kind of annoying — he won't leave me alone. He started tapdancing across my thoughts at 3 in the morning. He has absolutely no concept of personal space...

Walk & ball exercise: Further character development

Spent a little more time with Mr Frenchy today, trying to get a feel for his personality and how he should move. I toyed with giving him a face but I thought it looked stupid and didn't really work, so I'm probably going to scrap that.

I wasn't too sure how old he should actually be — after being briefly inspired by George Hautecourt of the Aristocats fame I toyed with making him a bit of a crazy old coot with a walking stick.

Though I kind of like it, I started worrying that adding props was venturing too far into the realm of 'overcomplicated.' I'm not sure if props are 'cheating' and take away from the movement? Or do they add interest? It's a grey area. Or maybe I worry too much.
Not too sure how well I could work this guy into my initial idea so I played around with it a bit more.  I want to stick with being a bit down to begin with, so he's kind of shuffling along, dragging his feet. Maybe he gets hit in the back of the head with a ball, staggers along in pain — reaches a flight of stairs, and he's afraid of heights, so as he's getting higher he starts getting more and more anxious and keeps looking behind him.
Then I thought that maybe he reaches the stairs first. He climbs up them, slowly, slowly, then reaches the top and he's standing there, peering over the edge, gripping the rail for dear life. His knees are quaking and he starts inching his way along, hand-over hand on the rail. Then he pauses, takes tiny shuffling steps forward to catch up with his arms. If that makes sense.

Then, a ball rolls past him? His fear forgotten, he follows it, gives it a good kick and is really pleased with himself, starts strutting, swinging his arms, swaying his hips?

I'm not too sure where to go from there. I'm toying with the idea of the puddle again. He's not looking where he's going and just walks straight into it. Then he gets wound up 'cause his good trousers are all wet and just kind of storms off. 

I wasn't too sure about this idea at first, but now that I come back to it I'm starting to see potential for little bits here and there. Rather than being a generic, super-deep cartoon puddle, maybe it's just a little one — but it's muddy, and he puts his foot straight into it, and he's standing there staring at his sopping leg in disgust. 

I'm still worrying though — is this too complicated? Is the design okay? Personally I don't feel he's too complex; he's quite fun to draw and I'm having a bit of a laugh with him so far. But the movement — will that be okay? How will I animate the shuffle? 

Just gonna keep playing around and seeing what happens. If there are no crucial adjustments I need to make I might start rolling ahead and seeing if I can start getting to grips with some of the movement.

Character walk & ball exercises — initial concepts and designs

It's been one of 'those' days.

The new part project kind of got off to a bad start for me. I don't know whose hands these are, but the drawings coming out of them certainly aren't mine. It was weird — I was talking to Jazzy and there seemed to be an endless flow of stuff, but as soon as I sat down to get them onto paper, everything just went. Proper idea constipation.
I got a few sketches down — including one with a flamingo that I actually quite liked — but as Andy rightfully pointed out it would have proved to be absolute hell to animate.

I started running loosely with something using the balloon, puddle and football — my idea was to have the character enter, a bit down in the dumps maybe, then to have a heart-shaped balloon with a letter attached drift by. He reads the letter as he walks along; whatever's written there really cheers him up and his whole demeanor starts to change. He maybe starts skipping, totally overjoyed ——
—— doesn't see the puddle approaching and falls right into it (ridiculously deep). He clambers out and is sopping wet, so he's kind of swinging his arms, weighed down with water, really angry and fed up. He encounters a football and boots it out of anger. It ricochets off the side of the screen and smacks him in the face, knocking him to the ground.

It sounds fairly fleshed out on paper but I didn't really manage to get too far with it. The character design tripped me up a bit.

I was really grateful to have Andy floating around today — he was really helpful and introduced me to a little yes/no game that I initially struggled with. Once I stopped overthinking everything I got much more into it!

As a result, I ended up with a fat old French man who can blink and is quite athletic, but doesn't like Mexican food.

Started doodling a few things to try and get a feel for the character. He still feels alien to me but I'm going to keep ploughing through and see what I can come up with. I'm definitely not there yet — still feeling a bit frustrated and lost, but it's definitely progress and certainly a vast improvement over the horrors of the morning. The character idea is definitely fun and quite exciting!

Walk cycle 10, take 3


Cleaned and more refined version of the previous walk cycle. I made a number of small changes to the arms, hands and feet. Most notably is the swing of the arms; I removed the 'break' in the joint as it swings forward. Breaking the joint helps to add a bit of flexibility but I didn't feel that it really fitted with the gentler sort of effect I was going for. I also fixed the problem with the arm lagging as it comes forward — only a minor change but I feel that it's a lot smoother now.

I'm quite pleased with the flick of the hand as his arm is at full extension! I'm less happy with the arm as it swings forward — I think there's a bit of a kink in it somewhere — but otherwise I'm reasonably satisfied with how it's turned out. I'm certainly starting to understand the mechanics of the arms a lot more now.

Walk cycle 10, take 2


Feels like I've been tweaking this forever! I re-did the arms and head at least four billion times each because I simply could not get them to look right. The arms are far too long, I think, and they seem to change length in a couple of places. I'm really not that happy with the head but this was the best out of all five of my attempts. I think it's alright, it just looks a bit 'floaty' and doesn't seem to match up with the body. I can't quite put my finger on it.

I'm reasonably happy with the arms, I think they're an improvement over the last several attempts in terms of looseness, but there's still room for a lot of improvement. The way they swing back bothers me — I don't think they come back far enough and it seems as if they linger in the same spot for just one frame before coming forward which looks a bit strange. The elbow is too low on the forward swing as well.

I kept the hands pretty simple. I quite like the flick as they come forwards, but again, really not too pleased with the backwards swing. 

Overall I think it's passable as a finished attempt but I may see if I can go back and make some minor tweaks to clean it up a bit.

Shoot me again — version 3, take 3

More slight adjustments, mostly cleaning up lines and adding in a few little details here and there. I think there's still a bit more I could do to it but I think it's mostly at the stage where I'm happy with it (maybe I've just gone blind to the faults!)

Had a bit of fun making the hair flap around again — it's not terribly realistic but I think it adds a bit of interest and keeps things from looking too staticy. I wasn't entirely sure what to do with it at the end when he pulls right back. I tried a few different things, like having it flop back a bit before bouncing back up but it didn't really make sense. Having it flop over his eye was more of a happy accident — tried it out of desperation and ended up pleasantly surprised with how it looked.

Shoot me again — version 3, take 2

Started cleaning up the lines a wee bit and trying to fix some volume problems. I added a couple of inbetweens and removed a few duplicate frames to help smooth it out a bit. I think it's looking better now but where he pulls back at the end is still really bothering me. The action just doesn't look right — he doesn't seem to move in an entirely natural way and his height is a bit inconsistent. Scrubbing through it frame by frame is helping to pick out the problems, but I'm having a bit of trouble with it. I think I'm worrying too much which is clouding my focus a bit.

There're some details missing (tail doesn't move and entirely vanishes in some frames) but I'm going to work on refining what I've currently got before I start trying to polish it too much. I need to look at refining the mouth shapes a little more.

I've also managed to finish the walk cycle from the previous posts, but unfortunately some slight technical problems (water + laptop = BAD) have gotten in the way. I don't think there was any lasting damage done and my computer's been drying out for the past couple of days so hopefully I'll be able to get that up tonight.

Shoot me again — version 3

In-progress retake of the "Shoot me again!" line. This time, I tried to keep the character's expressions and body language more angry or explosive. Originally I wanted him to draw backwards, sort of sarcastically, but I was having terrible difficulty in pinning the body language down. Instead I opted to have him throw up his arms as if shouting the last part — "I ENJOY it!!"

Admittedly I quite like the beginning part — I feel that the little detail of having his eyes blink at slightly different times helps to give him a bit more personality! Overall though I'm not entirely happy with it so far. I think it's more in keeping with the tone of the dialogue but I may have overcomplicated matters with having the entire body involved. There are a lot of proportion and volume problems — keeping the character looking the same from all angles/directions is something I struggle with!

Walk cycle 10

I wasn't happy with how the arms on my previous attempt were looking, so I removed them entirely and re-did them from scratch. I added a few more inbetweens on the legs and I think I'm fairly happy with the way they move now. I'm not sure about the feet — they still feel a bit stiff and lifeless to me so I'll have to see what I can do about that.


I think I'm mostly there with the movement of the arms at this point, they're certainly loosening up nicely and I'm fairly pleased with them, but I feel the flick at the end is a bit too much. I want something a little bit more subtle so I'll have to see what I can do with that. I'm not happy with the rear arm for a multitude of reasons (all of which are hard to articulate) but I'll be tweaking that some more before I really start refining my lines. Once I've tweaked the arms, I'll be looking at adding the head and hands.

Walk cycle 9, take 3 & 4

I tried to solve the jolting problem by lining up the feet more accurately using the grid at the bottom, but ended up making it worse. The upper body is totally out of sync and I really cannot figure out what's wrong with it.

I'd hoped that, if I went in and tried to clean up the lines a bit, the problems might become apparent and I'd be able to fix them as I go. I got a bit carried away though and ended up completely re-drawing most of it! I think it looks better, though I'm missing some inbetweens. Again, I went straight ahead instead of pose-to-pose so I accidentally ended up inbetweening the arms as I went meaning they're much smoother than the legs. The arms are a bit at odds with the legs — the shifting of the shoulders implies a lot of twisting in the upper body but the hips remain quite static. It looks a bit strange. I need to add some more inbetweens for the legs and maybe rotate the hips a bit more, but I think it's getting there.

Walk cycle 9, take 2


Update on the previous walk cycle. It's still messy and lacking in consistent volume but I've added most of the inbetweens at this point. I tried to animate intuitively rather than mechanically, adding inbetweens where I felt they needed to go rather than placing them formulaically where they should go. I'm not entirely satisfied yet — the arm in front lags a bit when it comes forward, so I need to have another look at that.

I think the previous jerkiness was caused by the up position rather than frames being misaligned (though that was certainly a factor). He kind of lurches forward too far and sticks his neck out which causes a bit of a jump. I redrew it slightly so his body was straighter and his head and neck were less stretched. It looks a bit better now but there's still a bit of a jerk in there but I can't figure out what's causing it. Hopefully coming back to it with fresh eyes after some sleep will help!

Once I've got the movement as fluid as I can I'll work on cleaning up the lines and fixing the problems with volumes.

Ninth walk cycle attempt

I finally realised what was wrong. Not just with the walk cycles, but with everything. Disregarding the fact that ball bounces are generally more straightforward, I'd just been really struggling to get a grip on walk cycles. It's a bit hard to explain but I've just been feeling like I was missing something. The inbetweens just weren't coming together and I really didn't know why I couldn't grasp it. It's a relatively simple concept, so am I just stupid?

Then I had a bit of an epiphany. It's arcs. I've not been basing them on arcs of movement. I've always been aware of the idea that all movement is based on arcs, but I never really thought about it until now. It's nice though, I feel as if the penny has finally dropped and I'm excited!

Okay, so it looks terrible so far, but all the while I was working, everything made sense, and that's what excites me. It's currently way too fast, so I need to add a few more inbetweens to cushion it out a bit. The frames aren't really aligned properly, so it's a bit jerky as well.

I did a number of things differently this time 'round. To work out the inbetweens I flipped back and forth between the two keyframes and marked out with a small X where certain parts of the body (e.g. elbows, knees, heels) were on each keyframe. I was then able to see the arc between the two points, allowing me to plot each inbetween far more accurately. I really concentrated on leading the feet with the heels to give them more life. I think it looks better so far but I need to tweak it so the heel strikes the ground more directly.

The ridiculous arm swing was my attempt at making the arms a bit looser. Rather than having the lower arms follow the path of the swing exactly, I tried to have them flick upwards as they started to swing backwards... as you can see I ended up taking it a bit too far! He looks a bit of a prat but I've found it syncs quite well with Billie Jean by Michael Jackson...

I'd already drawn out the keyframes before thinking in terms of arcs so I was kind of saddled with flawed poses to begin with, making getting decent inbetweens almost impossible. If I'd started from scratch and really worked out the mechanics of each keyframe beforehand I think it may have come out much better. But it's a start. I think that once I've cleaned it up a bit and finished off the inbetweens it might be quite nice as a character walk.

Eighth walk cycle attempt

Revisiting the walk cycles again to see if I can tighten them up any more! I've not got access to a light box this weekend but I didn't want to let that stop me from doing anything, so I pulled the frames from my sixth attempt and traced 'em in Photoshop to see if I could tweak the arms and legs a little more.

I still can't seem to get this right. I fixed some slight volume problems in the arms and tried to have the shoulders move back and forth to give the impression that the body was twisting. I think it looks better but it's still way too stiff and robotic — I can't figure out exactly why but I think it may be because it's such an exaggerated walk and it doesn't really work on a 24 frame cycle; it should probably be faster and more lively. I think the upper body is too static as well — it's constantly held upright despite the extreme drop into the down position. If I were to squash or bend or otherwise have the body react as he drops and rises it might help to make it feel more "alive."

Sketchbook: Shoot me again (re-do)

Andy gave me some great feedback on my lip syncs so far and suggested that my "shoot me again" was a little at odds with the sarcastic tone of the dialogue, so I'm having a bit of a crack at re-doing it to better reflect that. Rather than moving forwards, he suggested that the character should pull back.
Click for full size
Sarcasm is quite a tricky expression to convey in any case, but it's even worse when your character doesn't have eyebrows! You don't quite realise how much dimension they add to a character's face until you remove them.

I had a shot at drawing some 'regular' expressions first, before attempting to translate them onto my character's significantly more simplified features. I've always felt that the aim of animation, and indeed drawing in general, is to convey as much information with as few lines as possible. You need to make each and every line count — if it's not contributing anything to the expression, remove it!

Also trying to pin down his body language at this stage — I want him to shift his body weight backwards, shoulders and arms up in an almost defensive shrug. "Shoot me again — I enjoy it!" I'm having some trouble getting the balance right.
Click for full view
So far I've not liked the way that adding eyebrows completely changes the structure of my character's face, so I'm leaning towards keeping them off. I'm trying to figure out a way of shaping his eyes to suggest the existence of eyebrows. I'm finding it quite difficult, though I think the inclusion of his lower eyelid into the expression helped a lot.

I still need to really pin down the expression and body language. I don't think it'll do too much good to keep working on them entirely separately. I need to start trying to combine them properly to see how they work together.

Finest wines — version 4

Working on this one a little more. I tried to fix the mouth on "we want the finest wines[...]" and I think it looks a bit better, but it's way too fast. It's quite a complicated sentence and I'm finding it difficult to figure out where to put each keyframe, which sounds to stress and for how long. I think the last part syncs up a little better now though.

Not too pleased with the gestures and facial expressions either. Seems a bit artificial and stiff and doesn't have much personality. I can't put my finger on what it is. He's a bit tipsy so he should probably have some spontaneous eye spasms or tilt his body about a bit more or something. He wasn't a particularly impressive character to begin with but he doesn't seem to have quite as much character as my pencil drawings. That's the only problem with Flash, it can tend to make things a bit 'clean.'

Acting workshops — day 1

We had our first acting workshop today. It was great fun, though it's not the kind of thing I'm normally too comfortable participating in; I am by nature a fairly timid person and tend to sit back and observe rather than join in. There are so many big personalities in the room and I think I find it a bit difficult, or perhaps intimidating, to "live up to" that (for want of a better term!). Still, I certainly had a go at it and I think it did me the world of good (though it looks like a career in acting is well out of the window)

Though I didn't get into the roles nearly as well as many others did, I still feel I learned a great deal simply from observing the others. During one exercise we were split into two halves and lined up in height order. The first group would then walk around the room, following the person in front and imitating their walk, posture, mannerisms etc. That person would then move to the back of the line and the next person would take over, and so on. I found it surprisingly difficult to observe the gait of the person in front whilst actually following them — it wasn't until our group stepped back and watched the others that I was able to really notice things like shifts in weight (some walked with weight on their legs or knees, others with hips, etc) and leading body parts. It's also surprisingly difficult to walk like yourself when you're aware of people following and copying you! It's quite interesting how aware (and sometimes even self-conscious) of your own movements you become — until watching some of the others, I didn't realise that I actually walk very quickly. I feel that, after today alone, I'm already more able to easily identify not just the way that people are moving, but how and why they're moving like that. Where is the weight? Which body part is leading?

Overall though it was great fun — the entire room was an explosion of personality and it really made me realise what a great group we've got this year. I'm really looking forward to next week — hopefully I won't be such a bucket of nerves!

Finest wines — version 3

I did a little more forward planning on the "finest wines" lip sync in the hopes that it might make things a bit easier. I really struggled to come up with a character design initially and experimented with something not human, as I thought that a less complex figure might be easier to exaggerrate.  
Click for full size
Click for full size

They all felt too stiff and uninspired as you can probably see. I couldn't picture any of them with the voice in the clip, so I ended up looking at some photos of Richard E. Grant [the actor to whom the voice clip belongs] for some inspiration. The character he plays in the film, Withnail, is a washed-up, drunken actor, so I felt it would be appropriate to try and capture some of that scruffiness.

Withnail is such a dirty character with a multitude of hilarious expressions. It's all in his twisted, gurning mouth and heavily shadowed features. I'm not entirely sure if I'd be able to replicate the sheer genius of his face!
Click for full size
I ended up reverting to a human figure, partly because it was easier; all my planning so far has been using a decidedly human-shaped stick man so it would be a bit more difficult to go back and re-animate everything to accommodate a completely different body shape.

I'm much happier with this design. It's simple enough to animate but with enough hlittle details that I can have some real fun with — knocking his beer glass over, swaying his tie around, etc.

It's still early stages, but I'm mostly happy with the body movement now. It could use some tweaking here and there — the fist slam still bothers me. It's not a terribly aggressive voice in the clip though so I don't want to overblow it completely. I'm half thinking I should simply remove it and just have him drop his beer glass back down onto the table.

I also changed the hand that's holding the beer glass as I quite liked some of the gestures he could make with it.

The mouth is all over the shop and I'm not at all happy with it so far. It syncs fairly well at the end, but "BALLS" just doesn't look at all right to me. "We want the finest wines available to humanity" looks completely wrong as well. I think I just need to make each mouth shape a bit more distinguished and perhaps cut down on the amount of different shapes I'm using, see if I can squash some sounds together. I think his jaw needs to move up and down as well. I can sort of get away with having the mouth just move when he's facing the front, but from the side his jaw is more prominent so it needs to hinge up and down as he speaks.

Finest wines — version 2

Mucked around with this one a little more, not changed too much, mostly just playing with the fist slam at the end. It's still not quite right. I don't really know if it's working with the voice clip — it's not really angry enough for him to pound his fist on the table like that.

I'm going to have a look at getting some sort of character design roughed out so I can start tinkering with the mouth. 

The audio quality is still horrible... can't seem to figure out what's wrong with it!

Second more refined lip sync

Done a couple of little things today; refined my "Shoot me again!" lip sync a little more, cleaning up odd lines and making some further adjustments to the hair. I also tried Ron's suggestion of keeping the eyes facing the same way rather than rolling back in the head at the beginning, which I think looks a lot better!

It's still far from perfect — the head keeps changing shape/size and the hair wiggles about a bit weirdly at the beginning but otherwise I'm reasonably happy with it!

I started playing around a bit more with another sound clip this afternoon and making loose plans for another lip sync. I didn't do any forward planning and it really shows. I really just wanted to have a bit of fun and get to know Flash a bit more.

Ron suggested that we try animating the body and head movements first and then work the mouth around that — hence why there's no actual lip sync yet! I want to keep working with this one so I'm going to try and refine the movements a bit more, especially the fist slam at the end. It's a bit lifeless at the moment so I'm going to try and loosen it up a bit before getting a face on there.

I'm not quite sure why the audio quality is so bad, it sounds absolutely fine during playback in Flash, just seems to deteriorate whenever I export. Very strange!

Slightly more refined lip sync

Ron gave me some helpful feedback on my work so far, suggesting that I work on making the hair flap about a bit more. He also suggested that I add a few inbetweens to cushion the snap-back between "-JOY" and "it". I've added just one so far — I'm going to see if I can get in another to try and smooth it out a bit.

The hair movement's a bit choppy and there are still a lot of problems with volume and such, so I'll see if I can fix that up and refine it a little more.

Lip sync test, take 3

Third attempt. I'm a bit happier with this one!

It's still far from perfect; it seems to be moving a bit too quickly and I think there's too much going on with the eyes right at the beginning. There's too much movement in a short space of time and I don't think it really 'reads.' I tried to add a bit more life to the hair, making it flap around a bit — could certainly use more care and attention but I think it's getting there.

I also tried using a smear frame to make the "enJOY" part a bit more snappy which seemed to work much better than I thought it would. Overall I'm slightly more satisfied, but something still looks strange with the mouth — I can't really put my finger on it.

Lip sync test, take 2

Second attempt at a lip sync, this time messing with the character design a bit to try and make him a bit more interesting. 

I don't think it came out too well — I think I overcomplicated the design a bit which made it much harder to keep things consistent, leading to lots of problems with volume and shape. He looks like a totally different character by the end! I probably got a bit far ahead of myself and tried to do too much too soon.
I also found that the beak got in the way and made shaping the mouth much more difficult. I think I'll go back to the simplified design and try to smooth it out a bit before I start thinking about more complex characters.

Still, it's a start I suppose!

Some interesting lip sync examples

If you can look past how irritating Penny is, the Rescuers has some interesting little scenes that are heavily dialogue-based. Normally there's something of a rule of 'show, don't tell,' but the animators were careful enough to keep enough happening in the scene so it wasn't just two characters talking at each other. There's some great personality expression here — the emotions and movements are exaggerated without being too over the top or unbelievable. If you watch closely the lip sync really isn't completely accurate — often the character's mouths just kind of open and close in time with the words. This is especially apparent in the Jungle Book scene where Shere Khan uses a lot of 'Oo' words but his lips don't really purse at all.  It still reads very well, though — I guess the sight of Auntie Medusa peeling off her eyelashes is so gruesome that you don't really notice anything else!

The eyes show a great deal. They completely change shape to accommodate the lack of proper eyebrows but remain consistent in volume; so far I've found it difficult to get such flexibility and character in the face without distending it ridiculously. There's nothing wrong with that if done correctly, but so far my attempts have just come out looking stiff and lifeless. I think the problem is that I'm isolating them as their own shape, rather than considering their volume and how they affect the rest of the face.

Lip sync version 1 (unpolished)

First attempt at a lip sync! I apologise for the most uncreative selection of dialogue...

I basically just drafted out the vague mouth shapes on paper and whacked it all together in Flash just to see if my timing was right. There's absolutely no expression or emotion just yet and the mouth is all over the shop in terms of volume and consistency. I plan on doing something more exciting later, but I really just wanted to make sure it synced up correctly.

It doesn't really look quite right to me but I'm not entirely sure why. I'm worried I might be using too many shapes for each sound?

Seventh walk cycle attempt

Another walk cycle attempt, using a totally fresh character. I still can't get the hang of making the arms seem more flexible so I decided to try and incorporate their stiffness into a sort of march.

I was really excited all the time I was working on this and had real fun with it — it was nice to use what felt like a much looser character. Unfortunately it didn't come out quite as well as I'd hoped.

I don't think there's really enough bounce in the walk. The character's quite cartoony and looks as if he should have a lot of up-and-down movement to match the exaggerated swing of his arms. This one has a lot less frames, too — only 16 in total, counting inbetweens. This meant that it was easier to work on and plan out but the fluidity suffers for it.

Overall I don't think it's too bad, but it could really use some cleaning up and alterations to the up and down positions to make them more prominent.

Sixth walk cycle attempt

Slightly better than previous attempts — at least the arms move properly this time, but they still feel very stiff and very slow. I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing wrong here; I think it may be that, rather than just drawing the inbetweens with the frames pegged as normal, I try to line up the heads so they're at the same height. I thought that lining up the shoulders that way meant it would be easier to figure out the position of the arms, but it usually ends up comes out looking a bit squiffy. I guess it's because it doesn't take into account the shifting of the body and difference in height in each frame?

I think I'll try a totally different cycle next time as I can only learn so much by constantly tweaking the same one over and over.