How to Animate 2 Legs
Updated: Jul 25, 2020
For a walking cycle there are four primary poses to review: contact, down, passing and high point that can be animated depending on the character, on its mood: if it is aggressive, playful, sad, etc
Creating a walk cycle
Walk cycles can be broken up into 4 key frames, namely Forward Contact Point, Passing Pose1, Back Contact Point and Passing Pose 2. Frames that are drawn between these key poses (traditionally known as in-betweens/Inbetweening) are either hand-drawn or using computer software to interpolate them.
How many frames is a walk cycle?
Walking is naturally conserve energy, raising our foot minimum. Here we repeat the cycle but starting with the other foot. In short we can say that a walk cycle consists of 8 frames. In a conventional gait, arms are always in opposition to the legs, to give balance and momentum.
The key to animating a walk cycle is to understand how the legs PUSH THE MASS of the body forward, and how the feet connect with the ground.
When we walk we move our MASS in four stages:
1. The front foot makes contact with the ground,
2. The mass of the body falls on that foot and the leg bends, cushioning the fall,
3. We then use the momentum to propel our mass forward again,
4. One leg supports the body weight while the other passes forward for the next step.
The Key Frames
To animate a walking cycle, you need three key frames (1, 2 and 3 in the list above), and one breakdown position ( 4 ) the passing position.
Most walking cycles work best at 9 frames per step = 18 frame cycle for both feet. The animation presented here below is slower - this is a 24 frames walkcycle (for both legs) at 24 fps: Faster than 18 frames is starting to be a run
Important tips for creating walk cycle animation
The most important question of all is:
1. Where is the MASS?
The mass needs to be above the feet and slightly forward. The more forward it leans, the faster your character should walk.
Look out for a common mistake - check each frame and make sure the body didn't get left behind. The best way to animate is to move the big mass first, and then the rest of the body.
2. Keep your feet on the ground!
Make sure the feet keep good contact with the ground - don't let them slip.
Here is the logic of it: If a foot now supports the body weight, then IT CANNOT MOVE!
SO when you animate - determine which foot supports the weight, and FREEZE it. Disable the tweens. Delete foot keyframes until you reach a frame when this foot must move again - and the other foot takes on the weight.
3. The body mass goes up and down
As we walk, our legs push our bodies upward as well as forward, and we rise and fall with each step.
The lowest part is the bounce, key frame #2, when the front leg receives the weight and bends under it. The highest part is the passing position, where we stand on one straight leg.
7 Common Mistakes in Animating Walk Cycles
Character animation is the most difficult task in motion design which requires an integrated approach and a lot of basic knowledge. If a character looks unnatural, it will be difficult for a beginner to spot a mistake because it's hidden in one of many actions. The list of common mistakes we have complied for you will help you limit your area of search.
1. Phases from hell
Arms and legs on the same side of the body should move in opposite phases. When the right leg is in front, the right hand moves backwards.
2. The simultaneous movement of the parts of the body
All main movements start in the pelvis or torso, while the rest of the body is '"lagging" behind, so the movements should not be synchronized. Hands should be 2-3 frames behind the leg.
3. Moving around a scene is not a cycle offset by the Position
There are two types of walk animations: when a character walks in place and the background shifts, and a walk with a static background and a moving character. When there is a task to create a walk cycle for a character that moves from point A to point B with a static background, many beginners try to solve it by moving a looped walk by the Position. But it doesn't work that way because it results in a very smooth movement and it feels like a character moves on the ground like in the old platform games. In such cases, you should draw the key poses first (Passing pose, Contact pose), mark positions for the future steps in the scene, for the key poses, and create some intermediate poses between them. That is, you should right away take into account the character's position in the scene in order to move it. You can cheat, of course, but ideally, it is better to do it exactly this way, so that there are no problems and the character doesn't float around the scene.
4. The difference between the upper and lower positions is not prominent enough
When we walk, our weight shifts from one leg to the other, thus our body is constantly moving up and down. It happens that you animate the legs and you animate the arms, but you forget that the body also should be going up and down. It results in a character that simply goes straight, it doesn't move anything and it looks inanimate. If there is a vertical movement, but it is barely noticeable, a viewer will perceive the character as weightless. The character will look like it's being pulled and its legs and arms are simply dangling.
5. Asymmetrical poses for the two sides of the body
Asymmetrical poses for the two sides of the body that make the character walk with a limp. That's what we mean by this: usually students begin to animate a walk by creating one step, they create one step, and then they flip the same poses for the second step. This technique will work only if the character is exactly in profile or full face. If your character is drawn in three quarters, the poses won't be identical because the legs are in two separate planes of movement and their position will not coincide. You can't simply copy and paste the pose here, since the coordinates won't match. In this case, each of the legs is animated separately, while the paths will be the same, the location will be different.
6. Uneven movement of the supporting leg (abrupt shifts)
In this case, a character also starts to limp and twitch. While it's on the ground, the foot should move linearly in a straight line and without changes in speed. No Easing should be applied. When a character raises a foot, the graph may be not linear. You should remember that in the Contact phase our body has the least balance, we basically are falling, the body is strongly inclined forwards. In the Passing phase of the leg we seem to pick ourselves up and are in the maximum balance, the supporting leg must be almost in the center under the body. The correct positioning of the leg in this phase allows us to avoid the feeling of an uneven walk and gives the necessary accuracy.
7. Wooden feet syndrome
Our feet take the most active part in walking and should be animated with maximum details, because a foot can be very elastic in different conditions. The character rises on its toes, thus it needs to be bent here if you don't do this, the foot will seem wooden and, in addition, it will go below the floor level. When animating the foot always take the floor into account.
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