Regardless of whether you are a non-experienced, a beginner or an professional animator, a walk cycle is something that every person needs to know. This type of motion is so natural as we, as humans, unconscious experience it everyday. Also, a wiki page is dedicated to this subject.
In this tutorial I will explain in detail what you should do in order to successfully make a walk cycle. What we are looking for is to obtain an animation as the one below (i.e. Kevin @ The Marionettes).
Animating a Walk Cycle
Animating a convincing walk is one of the most difficult things to achieve, and this is what determined me to make this tutorial. Hopefully this tutorial will help you understand some animation tips and theoretical concepts when animating a walk cycle. I will break the rules and tell you that animating walks is not the hardest thing in the world, you just need to know how to do it right. There is no need to learn how to make various types of walks (i.e. fast, slow, jumpy, sad, etc.), but you need to know some basic steps. All the steps are going to be applied to all walk types; the rest is just tweaking and flavoring.
Basically, animating a walk cycle requires producing two extreme key positions, and twining them in a logical way. As all the components of your character (such as head, arms, body, legs) seem to move independently, and that’s why it appears so impossible to nail the action in a character walk. However, when breaking down the action into sections, the task becomes so far much simple.
A much easier way to reproduce a walk effect is to use a walk cycle. In a walk cycle, the character’s walk is repeated on the spot. However, even though a walk cycle is slightly more demanding from a technical point of view, it saves you a lot of time.
1. “Contact” pose
In a walk cycle we make 2 contacts positions that are basically trace backs one for each other. However, there is a slight difference between them: although our character is in an identical screen position in both of them, in the first contact position the left foot is trailing, and in the next position is forward.
A very important note for the walk cycle is that each leg has his line of movement; the two lines of movement are parallel and they never cross (as shown in the following pictures). In a normal conventional walk the arms are always in an opposite direction to the leg in order to offer balance and thrust to our character.
2. “Passing” pose
For the passing position, the body is merely vertically raised, while the foot is slide back along the ground to the midway position. The free leg is positioned as in a normal passing position. An important thing is that the body moves only vertically up and down (not forward ), while the contact foot is slide back midway.
3. “Down” pose
The Down position is the next thing we need to do where the bent leg takes the weight of the body. This is positioned between Contact and Passing poses, while the foot slides back to midway between these two. The toe of the free leg is still in contact with the ground, so it must slide back the same distance as the contact foot is moved. Note that the arm swing is at it’s widest point.
4. “Up” pose
The Up position, otherwise called as the push off, is when the foot pushing off lifts the pelvis and the head is up to it’s highest point. The leg that touches the ground must have an equal movement between the keyframes to create a sliding illusion on the spot.
Here we are with half of the walk cycle already created! This first half is created with the right leg free and the left leg slide back midway. The weight goes Down just after the the Contact step and the weight goes Up just after the Passing position.
Now we need to proceed to the next half of the walk. This time, we need to follow all the above steps, but with the left leg as being free and the right leg as slide back midway. Just imagine all the above poses, but having symmetric legs and arms.
Now let’s have a look on all walk cycle positions, where position 8 goes back to position 1. Please note that for the all walk drawings the weight of the body is always balanced by the the position of the leg. More importantly, the body is moved upper in the Passing poses than in the Contact poses. Why? Because in the Passing position the leg is straight beneath the body and while the leg does not shrink, it forces the body to be upward moved.
Here we are with the walk cycle! If you find this tutorial helpful for your please ‘love’ this post! And, of course, I would be more than happy to have your insights in a comment right under this post.
5. How to rig the character from scratch
Spep-by-step tutorial on how to rig a complex character from scratch. This is step is required for creating the animation for this character. Steps that you have to follow:
- import images into editor
- create bones and link them to images
- define meshes (deformable surface) for single image animation
- use weight painting tool for better control when deforming images