Organised Keyframing

Organised Keyframing: A method for 3d animation.

A few years ago I sat down with my friends from AvP and we went through our individual approaches to animation. My hope was to pick the best ideas to create something we could teach new animators. What we discovered was that over the years and with very different backgrounds we had all gravitated to the same idea.

The idea was this…

Keep it Simple

How it works

  1. Start pose to pose. Block out the motion, and key the all the character’s limbs at each key pose
  2. Adjust timing. Slip all keyframes in each pose together as a block.
  3. Add in-between poses. Again, key the whole character at each new pose. Keep arcs and accelerations smooth unless there is an impact.

Then we simply continue: checking arcs and accelerations, adjusting timing and adjusting or adding in-between poses.

Simple isn’t… well yes! and thats the point. Computer animation gives us the power to create fantastically complex animation set-ups with multiple layers doing different things at different times. We had all tried and rejected this complexity and chosen this very simple and clear way of arranging things. It allowed us to quickly see what was happening. We could instantly see when and where we need to make adjustments.

Key the next extreme point

If you imagine a bouncing ball the extreme points will be the highest point it’s in the air or the impact on the ground. When you’re blocking out your character’s animation, work through the extreme poses keying all the bones at each point in time, even if the bones don’t move. As you add more poses, in-between your initial set, keep looking for the point when the body is just about to change speed.

Set keyfames on every node at each key pose.

Computers interpolate between keyframes. This means we’re not inbetweening by hand, and thats a good thing… But, if you don’t set keys on all nodes then you can end up fighting the interpolation .

Line Up Keyframes.

Keep your keyframes lined up until you have almost finished and you are just fine tuning. If your keyframes are tidy it’s much easier to see the significant extreme points of your animation and quicker to make timing adjustments. Slipping keyframes is fine to quickly create overlapping motion. But, if you do it too much, it can just create a mess. I might slip a single key to a new frame to quickly look at the the effect. But very soon I’ll want to tidy things up and I’ll key a whole pose a the new frame.

Collapse animation layers as soon as you can.

Develop the confidence to work with just the base animation Layer. Once you’re done collapse it and forget it. Don’t use layers as a security blanket. If doubt gnaws your next idea, save your work with a new version number and keep on going. It is much clearer to see what the keys are doing with just one Layer… remember keep your keyframes tidy!!

It’s about skill not software.

So the real art is in seeing the physics and the aesthetics of the motion not the technical aspects of the software. Animators can apply this same methodology to any animation package and be up and running very quickly without going crazy and learning all the inner workings of the software.

Sure knowledge is power, and more tricks in my bag give me more options. But in the end it boils down to old skool cell animation skills.

Keypose – inbetweening – keypose. 

Nothing more, nothing less.

Later we discovered that other people were thinking the same thing .