HOW TO ANIMATE WALK CYCLES
Creating a human walk cycle for the first time can be over-whelming as you’re not sure where to start. In this step-by-step tutorial, we’ll be showing you the whole process of creating a walk cycle from illustration to animation. Project files are also available for you to download for free to practice.
Before we start, let’s have a look at some terms used in this tutorial.
1. Contact Pose: This is the fundamental building block of a walk cycle. A walk cycle starts and ends with the contact pose, creating a seamless loop. When the right foot is forward, the right arm is backward, and vice versa. By moving each arm in coordination with the opposite leg, it gives balance and thrust to the animation.
2. Down Pose: The bent leg takes its weight and the arm swing is at its widest point as the character impacts the ground. It is the lowest point in the cycle. The foot of the bent leg is in full contact with the ground, and the other has just lifted up from it.
3. Passing Pose: The leg is straight up and lifts the pelvis, body and head slightly higher.
4. Up Pose: The heel of the trailing foot is just beginning to push off the ground, lifting the pelvis, body and head up to the highest point of the cycle. The leading leg is then thrown out to catch up on the contact pose that follows.
To help beginners get a grip on how a walk cycle works, we divide our tutorial into 4 parts: animation-ready character illustration, basic, advanced and cool walk cycles.
ANIMATION-READY CHARACTER ILLUSTRATION
In order to create an illustration for the purpose of animating, keeping different parts of the characters (head, hair, arm, leg, clothes, etc.) in separated layers is not enough. You’ll need to pay more attention to details.
Each part has to be separated as well so that they can move in the animation. For instance, separate the eyebrows and eyes from the face, split the hair into various sets of independent wisps, etc.
In the following video, we’ll show you how we used Photoshop to illustrate our character from sketching to colouring to adding textures to separating layers.
BASIC WALK CYCLE
This walk cycle is easy and basic, ideally for those of you who just start out the animation journey. It’s always a good idea to study, understand and practice the steps of a basic walk cycle.
For the most basic walk cycle, we’ll need 5 main poses: contact – passing – contact – passing – contact.
In this tutorial, we used Moho 12 to animate our character’s walk cycle.
ADVANCED WALK CYCLE
Now that you can create the most basic walk cycle, let’s make the walk cycle animation look more smooth. To create an advanced walk cycle, we’ll need 9 main poses in total: contact – down – passing – up – contact – down – passing – up – contact. These poses, when put together, create a ‘wave-like’ motion as the character dips and peaks in height.
The preview frame rate in Moho is affected by your computer specs and the complexity of your project. This means the playback may get choppy or laggy. One workaround, even though it’s quite time-consuming, is rendering the animation into .png sequences and import them into After Effects to see if you’ve animated it correctly. Once you’re confident with your animation skills, this step may not be necessary.
COOL WALK CYCLE
Now let’s make the walk cycle more interesting and appealing by changing the walk beat. Just like the advanced walk, to create a cool/double bounce walk cycle, we’ll need 9 main poses in total: contact – down – passing – up – contact – down – passing – up – contact.
Dig into our project files and pick up some techniques for your walk cycle animation. The project files are completely free to download. No strings attached. Enjoy!
Software required to open the project files: Photoshop and Moho
(Project files are for educational purposes only. Re-distributing or selling them is strictly prohibited and considered copyright violation.)
We used Richard Williams’ well-known book “The Animators Survival Kit” as a reference for our tutorial, in which he defines walking as ‘a series of controlled steps’. The book is one of the must-haves for animators. It includes general information, tips, tricks and valuable advice from the award-winning animator and director. We highly recommend you check out his book if you haven’t already.
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