- Myth number one: The walking legs
We do not walk with our legs. We walk with our mind and our torso. When we walk, we aim to move our body (or our face, or our behind) from one place to another. Also, when we watch a person walking, we concentrate on their face or their torso. As long as their legs don’t do anything so unusual that it demands our attention, we just assume that they’re doing their job the way they should. Even if something is wrong with the way the legs move, chances are we won’t care until it starts to influence the trajectory of the pelvis.
- Myth number two: The generic walk
There’s one generic walk cycle that we all get to do when we learn about walks. It’s the “realistic” walk which has all the mechanics and no distinguishing personality at all. If you’ve worked in animation for any amount of time you know what that walk cycle is good for – nothing. Well, to be completely honest, there’s one use for it: on a treadmill we all walk like that. But in every other conceivable situation the generic walk is pure fiction.
- Myth number three: Contact – Pass – Contact
Everywhere two or more people come together to learn and teach animation, you run into this unfortunate fellow:
Cute, isn’t he? In fact, when you put him on a timeline, there’s no getting around it – he looks like a lunatic:
Four major things are wrong with this method:
1. It is based on the wrong assumption that the motion of the legs and the way they receive the weight of the body are the most important things to think about.
2. It has no personality, which makes it useless, rather than universally useful like they would have you believe.
3. A, C and E are presented as the main poses – again, based on what the legs are doing. The step, then the transition, then the next step. Those are the leg extremes. However, the torso extremes – its highest and lowest points – are left to the breakdowns: B and D. This is an unnecessary mess. I believe in designing the body extremes first, and then arranging the legs in a way that becomes almost self-explanatory.
4. You can see that he keeps locking his knees. If you do that in 3D, you get the dreaded IK knee snap. What can I say about the IK knee snap that hasn’t already been cried into a keyboard a thousand times?
- Myth number four: Animate in place.
This always seems like a good idea until you try it. Especially in hand-drawn animation – just draw it once, and then reposition it across the screen. What happens in fact is that you animate the perfect walk in place, and then you spend about two more days fixing the sliding feet and wondering why the torso doesn’t look right.My friend Doron Meir has summarized the pros and cons of animating walk cycles in place in his “Say NO to walk cycles”.That being said, animating a run cycle in place could actually be a good idea. Especially if the run is so fast that the strides are long and the feet only touch the ground for two or three frames every step, I’d advise you to bet on the “animate in place” method before you try anything else.
- Myth number five: The Don Martin toe
The inverted toe – trademark of legendary Mad Magazine cartoonist Don Martin.
© Don Martin
Looks OK in a still image, but always messes up a walk cycle. It strobes, it flickers, it intersects with the ground in a way that makes you lift the foot way too high, and it just looks silly. Unless you’re doing something very exaggerated, you won’t ever need to bend the toe this far down. Furthermore, there will almost never be a need to turn the back foot so far that the sole faces upwards. That happens in a run, where the kick is hard enough and the back leg takes longer to change direction. In a walk, by the time it lifts from the ground it’s already moving forward for the next step.