You can tell by the way I walk I’m a woman’s man
On the last few projects I have used a system that I developed as part of Lonerobot R&D. It’s a walk system called Zimmerframe that is targeted at optimising animation production. The reason I decided to develop something like this was simple – when working as an animator on production, there were many times, especially when I was up against the clock on my weekly allocation that I wanted to eliminate the time it took setting up characters into position in a shot. This was so I could get on with actually animating the performance!
My logic was that there are a multitude of what I call ‘bread-and-butter’ entry and exit shots where characters need to walk in or out at the start and end of shot. On a production, you want to have the walk standardized as much as possible so it struck me that if you stored the distance information of a walk cycle to XML, you could automate the translation part of the animation depending on how many steps you are taking. On a walk it’s pretty much set in stone if you want to avoid foot slip and I also wanted a more precise way of calculating these walk around curved motion paths too.
This was certainly not designed to remove any of the inherent character from the walk cycle – These can be animated however the animator originally wished, except that the actual cycle must be on linear keys to provide a constant speed to the step cycle.
My solution involved adding a helper object – the zimmerframe dummy which stored the XML preset walk data in a parameter block.
Zimmerframe has a small collection of extras to augment it’s operation on this production – A walk cycle maker, A walk browser featuring a custom XML dotnet interface, and footlocker, a simple but useful way of fixing any foot slip around tight corners.
The key to this system is it’s simplicity. However, by combining different walk and run cycles you can build a complex movement animation in a very short amount of time – leaving you to spend the time making the acting good!
Featured here are some screen grabs I made to help the animators on our last production use the system. They are in quicktime mp4 format. I hope it goes some way to explaining how the system works and the ease by which it fits into the max UI and program flow.
1 – Setting up Macros
2 – Setting up a linear run
3 – Removing the helper
4 – Setting up a curved walk
5 – Creating a new walk cycle
6 – Correcting foot slip around corners
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