Specialisation Project – Fast Paced Action Sequence (Specifically Timing)

Picking My Specialisation

Picking a specialisation wasn’t as difficult as last time, as there was one that stood out to me straight away, and that was to animate a fast paced action sequence. Animated fight scenes, and fight scenes full stop is hands down the biggest reason as to why I got into animation. I used to watch stick fighting videos constantly on YouTube, it consumed me. Not only that but I would be glued to the TV early in the morning to watch Naruto, Dragonball Z and other anime. It was just such a big thrill, and I would always get hyped up for it, and I still do to this day. While I don’t watch as much anime as I used to there are still a bunch of fight scenes that are really awesome being created constantly. This awesome fight scene was created entirely by one nineteen year old.

The only thing standing in my way of doing my specialisation was myself. Thanks to the fact that I neglected University this Trimester, I didn’t have anywhere near the amount of time you need to animate a fight sequence. Being the genius that I am, I decided to ignore the advice of picking something else and decided to just jump into the animating anyway. Before you begin anything though, you need reference material. I knew that I didn’t have  the time or the knowledge to design my own fight sequence, this meant that I had to find that I could try and animate. One of the first fights that came to mind was the Obito vs Kakashi fight from Naruto. The fight was animated so smoothly, and even had 3D elements in it already such as the environment. With no dialogue and incorporating flashbacks it had a super clean out come, and is one of my favourite animated fights to date. I had it pretty set in my mind that I wanted to animate some of the fist fighting that was incorporated in this fight (there was no way I could do the whole thing).

Originally I had planned to animate roughly ten to fifteen seconds of the sequence, although I realised very quickly that this was incredibly unrealistic, especially cause I had left myself one week to do it all. With the fight sequence I was replicating decided on it was time for more research.

Contemporary Animation Pipelines

Even though pipelines have been drilled into us quite a lot by now, there is still heaps you can learn by doing a bit of research into the specifics. Hell I thought I wouldn’t learn anything, but after going onto the second page of google I was still able to find a pipeline that helped me a lot. When researching my pipelines I used two main sources, one more than the other. One of these was a process video on a 2D fight sequence, conveniently what I am creating. While it wasn’t in 3D it still turned out quite useful, and a lot of the principals are the same. It runs through blocking things out, refining it, polishing it further with colours and values, and then effects. A lot of these steps such as colouring and values are skipped thanks to the benefits of 3D, however it is still good food for thought.

The main website I used for looking at contemporary pipelines was bloopanimation. This discusses step by step the process involved in a contemporary animation pipeline. The steps are as follows:

  1. Shooting Reference Video/ Getting Reference
  2. Posing
  3. Blocking
  4. Splining
  5. Smoothing and offset
  6. Adding Life

Previously I didn’t realise that there were this many steps just in an animation pipeline, however I was clearly wrong. My previous understanding was that there was Referencing, Blocking and Splining. Seeing as I have completed the reference stage, that means I would be up to posing. For this project I will be using Maya 2017 to animate, as it feels a lot smoother and has heaps of tools at its disposal (not saying 3ds Max doesn’t).

Best Practices and Techniques

Rigs

First off I needed to find myself a rig. In a professional environment/studio a rigged character will usually be provided to you for animating, however since this is just a project by a university student a rig being provided isn’t the case. Luckily for me though there are heaps of free amazing rigs. At first I thought of using the Norman rig from the 11 second club however Norman is everywhere. I wanted something a bit different, and while the other rigs on the sites resources are good, they weren’t what I was looking for. I quickly found Ultimate Bony which is a rig perfect for what I needed. The creator of the rig has also made some other amazing rigs which I plan to play with some day. With the rig decided it was time to do some quick catch up research on timing, as that will be one of the biggest foundations necessary for animating a cool fight sequence.

Timing

In most cases you can look to 2D animation for foundations as they are fundamentally the same. This Alan Becker tutorial helps out quite a lot with understanding how frames have an effect on animation and how the more you have the slower it can look and vice versa. Understanding this is pretty crucial as in a fight sequence you want your actions to look snappy and as if they have impact. Other principles of animation are also incredibly crucial such as follow through, arcs, squash and stretch, exaggeration, etc. They all have a big impact on how well an animation looks, I mean they are the twelve principles after all, naturally they are gonna be important.

Another way to help grasp the concept of timing is by creating a ball bounce animation. It is a tired and true method however it gets the point across and thats what really matters. You’ll find in any animation class you will do this exercise (I have had to do it four times now in four separate classes). Here is a really good TED-Ed video talking about timing and spacing which helped me, even after I had done the ball bounce multiple times already.

Using Software To Help

Even pros can’t animate every key frame by themselves without it taking a lot of time. Being efficient in animating is essential, as you have hundreds of key frames and poses that you need to create, alongside inbetweening etc. Thankfully there are many tools that combat this problem, one of them is Tween Machine. Tween machine is an add on for maya that makes the blocking out phase of the animation pipeline a lot easier. You select a bone that you want to key and then select what inbetween you want to key. You can then weight what frame it favours, whether it be the pose before or after the inbetween. It is more or a less a miracle worker, and can crunch the time it takes to animate drastically. Instead of spending all the time blocking out inbetweens for your keyframes you can instead focus on adding life to your animation, which is what it is all about. The other software that I plan to use alongside Tween Machine is Anilyzer.

Anilyzer is a great website which allows you to view YouTube/Vimeo videos in slow motion and even frame by frame. This helps tremendously as you can see how professionals key there poses, and learn from their art. When it comes to timing this is a no brainer as you are able to see frame by frame how others would time an action, usually by artists much better than yourself (well in my case). Using Anilyzer will help cut down my posing time tremendously, especially because I will be recreating a fight scene.

My Pipeline and Practice

For my animation pipeline I decided against making my own and followed the one from Bloopanimation (talked about above). Each step in this pipeline made sense, and was an iterative process the whole time, meaning that it would be as efficient as possible and wouldn’t waste time in any of the phases. The website itself has more information on the steps, linked again here. All animation pipelines are fairly similar I am sure, this was just the cleanest representation of one that I could come across which focused solely on animation and not the whole 3D production pipeline.

Untitled-1
Sexy Action Shot

Because of the time restraints I couldn’t make many different animations, instead I went with iterating the one animation quite a bit. I used the timing research I found before, and key frames from anilyzer, and did my best to make good poses. By taking into consideration all the principles of animation I was able to get some strong poses for my specialisation. It took quite a few attempts to get these poses, as often they would feel lack luster/not have the impact that I was looking for. However after some tweaking I was pretty happy with the result. I will be talking about how my specialisation went in a further post mortem blog.

Header Image – Retrieved from Youtube Video Thumbnail

References

10 killer tips for better character animation | CG Channel. (2017). Cgchannel.com. Retrieved 18 May 2017, from http://www.cgchannel.com/2015/09/10-killer-tips-for-better-character-animation/

(2017). Retrieved 18 May 2017, from http://www.nxp.com/assets/documents/data/en/application-notes/AN4044.pdf

Character Animation Fundamentals: Timing and Spacing. (2017). Pluralsight.com. Retrieved 18 May 2017, from https://www.pluralsight.com/blog/film-games/character-animation-fundamentals-timing-spacing

Maya Tutorials > Animation Blocking Techniques in Maya Tutorial > Pluralsight. (2017). Digitaltutors.com. Retrieved 18 May 2017, from https://www.digitaltutors.com/tutorial/1071-Animation-Blocking-Techniques-in-Maya

The 6 Steps of Animation. (2017). Bloop Animation. Retrieved 18 May 2017, from https://www.bloopanimation.com/6-steps-of-animation/

The Process of 3D Animation | Media-Freaks.com. (2017). Media-freaks.com. Retrieved 18 May 2017, from http://media-freaks.com/the-process-of-3d-animation/

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