Backflip – Animation Analysis

I thought I would share with you my approach to animation. Not all my animations follow this approach. But if there is time on hands(Ya.. right!!!), and under an ideal setting this is how I would approach my animation.

1)  Sit in  a chair and plan out the action in my head. (this takes time btw… and all my friends think I am asleep.. huh!!!)

2) Get up and act it out to get an idea of the timing. (Oh! but what if the action cannot be acted out? go back to step 1 and spend more time there)

3) Draw out a rough/stick figure representation of the key poses of the animation.

4) Flesh out the sketches (if there is time on hands)

5) Block in many passes the entire action (in stepped tangent mode)

6) Refine in splined/Auto tangent mode

7) tweak the curves in the graph Editor.

That said… Lets see the breakdown of these steps…

I sat on a chair for a long time and planned out the way a person would do a backflip. I couldn’t really go to step2 and act it out myself and then live to talk about it. So, I spent more time on 1, planning the action in my head.

I should have probably looked at video references. I did not do that specifically because I wanted to try this out from my own imagination and my understanding of weight distribution in the body.

I went to step 3 and drew a rough key pose test. Since, I had some time on hands, I fleshed out this stick figure action sequence too. This is the result:

I never really planned to do a 3d animation from it. I intended to do only a 2d sketch of it. But after about a year I did decide to start animating this in 3d.. actually… that was just a week ago.

Now, The way I went about is:

1) I wanted the animation to happen in 120 frames. So, I had to allow for room for anticipation, action and the reaction in these many frames.

2) I wanted to be more creative and try out some new poses while still sticking to the same keyframes.

3) I blocked just the torso first, hiding all other body parts. Then added the legs.

That’s where I am now. When I find time again, I will go back in and animate the hands, neck, head and face expressions and eyes.

While animating, I also felt that my vision of the key frames was not entirely right. After doing the keyframes exactly as I had drawn, the jump did not look convincing to me. After looking at it many times, I realised it was because, usually when you are in the middle of a jump and turning around… its more like a diver jumping from a diving board and twisting in the air. He would curl his body into a ball till the twist was complete and then open up his limbs. When I added that touch, I felt the jump looked much better.

Here is what I got till now, played at 24FPS

And, played at 6FPS, you can see the animation much better here:

Things to change:

– I am not entirely happy with the spacing of the jump… need to play around with that. I might have to tweak the arcs too.

– I have stretched and squashed the spine controllers. But right now, there is no time lag between them .They all start and stop to squish/squash/bend at the same time. I have to move them over by a single keyframe or two to make it visually more interesting.

– When he gets up after the jump, I think he gets too stiff by the end. He needs to have better arcs while coming to a stop. But, then again animating the neck and head might fix that more. So, I want to get to fixing it after animating the neck and head.

– I also want to add multiple hands and legs during the anticipation. Right now, his movements might not make sense, but once those extra arms and legs are added and animated as well, it will start to look much better. (think of  the road runner preparing to start to run….. you see many legs appear before it darts off, right?)

I will update this blog more when I finish up the animation.

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