It looks like a basic thing, but animating a walk cycle can be extremely difficult if you don’t know where to start. Want to do better than the rest? Follow these steps and your characters will walk better then Forrest Gump could run.
1. Love the key poses like you love your wife
No, don’t start doing nasty stuff to your characters. What we mean is that you have to take extra care to your key poses. They will make the walk cycle run smooth, give it the perfect timing and makes it better than automated content. So let’s do it.We will start with following poses. Contact, down, passing, up and contact again. When this is done, we will do the same with the other foot in front.FYI, we are animating on 25fr/sec.
For the contact pose we will put the right leg in front, letting the heel touch the floor. The back leg also touches the floor, but with the toes. The arms need to be put in the opposite way of the legs. This means the right arm will have to be put behind the back of the character, and the left arm in front. You can tilt the head and the body a little bit if you want, but you can always do this later if you want. Are you happy
with your pose? Well let’s move on.
No, don’t start doing nasty stuff to your characters. What we mean is that you have to take extra care to your key poses. They will make the walk cycle run smooth, give it the perfect timing and makes it better than automated content. So let’s do it.We will start with following poses. Contact, down, passing, up and contact again. When this is done, we will do the same with the other foot in front.FYI, we are animating on 25fr/sechis. We will start by adding an adjustment layer on top of our comp. On this adjustment layer we will add the echo-effect. (effects & presets -> time -> echo) If we go to the effects control panel we can adjust the amount of echos, the time and so on. This way you can have an onion skin and see what you are doing. You can also place 2 echo’s, so you can see the next and the previous frames. Don’t worry if you didn’t quite get this. We'll explain it in our video tutorial 😊
Now we know where we are going. Let’s continue with the middle pose aka the passing pose. Move the body up. So the head will be above the guideline. Not to far, because the up position still needs to come. Move the right arm to the front. Stop before it reaches the center of the body. Move the left arm to the back. Stop just before the arm passes the body. Next in line are the feet. Drop the foot of the right leg, making it really stick to the ground. Make sure you stay on the guideline. We don’t want a floating foot. Now move the feet to the back. The heel needs to be behind the butt. The other feet is still on the ground. Let's change that. So let’s move it up, to the front. The knee will pass the body (hence the passing position 🙄) but the feet will stay behind the stretched leg.
If we play the animation, with the poses we have, you will see we’ll geta strange movement. Not what we want. So before we continue, let’sblock our poses. Select all layers and press “u”. If everything goesright, you will see all the key frames. Select them all, right click andchoose “Toggle Hold Keyframe.” If we play the animation now, it’s morelike stop motion. The animation jumps from one pose to another.
It’s time for the up and down position. On frame 4, we will make the down position. The character put’s his weight on one foot, while he lifts up his back leg. So we move our body down. If you are using one of our characters, the front leg will automatically bend. We just need the move the front feet to the back. Not to much, only a little bit. The back feet goes up. Turn it a little, just enough so the toes touch the ground. Look at your onion skin for reference. We will move the arms. The front arm goes to the back and visa versa. Not to much. Don’t put it straight in the middle. We want this nice ease. So we move the arms, let’s say, one fourth of the in between distance. Let’s block these frames as well. You can play and check if you’re happy. If so, let’s move on to the up position.
Lift the body up. Left arm goes to the front, right arm to the back. Put on the onion skin to check if you don’t went to far. The right leg goes further backwards. The left leg goes a tad down and way to the front. Rotate the foot and point the toes towards the ground.
Alright. Now we are almost there. Play your animation and adjust if necessary. Happy? Well then, It’s time to copy/paste.
2. The second part is as important as the first one!
Slow down cowboy! Don’t start rushing. We know you worked hard already on the first part of the cycle, but don’t fuck it up by trying to do the second part as quick as possible. Now what you can do is start making a copy of all the keyframes from frame 1 and put them on frame 25. This will make sure you have the perfect loop. Now mirror all you what you did in the first part. The onion skin will make your live a lot easier, because now you have a reference. We will not explain everything in detail again, but here’s a quick some up of where you will put the next keyframes.
Frame 13: Contact
Frame 16: Down
Frame 19: Passing position Frame
22: Up Frame
25: Contact Now
Now one thing you will need to do is shorten the length of your comp. Why, you might ask? Well, dear Watson, it’s actually quite simple. If you play you’re animation, now it will show both the contact on frame 25 as well the contact pose on frame 1. That’s why you will probably see this small stutter. When we remove frame 25, and go directly to frame 1, this problem will be solved.
3. Take it “easing”
Get it? Easing! And not easy?! Because we are going to ease things out. Well it sounded funny in my head… Ok, let’s move on.Select all keyframes and remove the blocking, by clicking “Toggle Hold Keyframe” again.When you play you’re animation, you will notice that everything is a lot smoother, but not perfect yet. That’s why we will have to smooth things out. How you do this is a bit up to you and how you want your character to move. We recommend to start with the body, and ease in/out the up and down position. Making sure you’ll get a nice curve.
When we move on to the hands we want the to like have a lot of ease at the contact poses. So they keep hanging in the air.An for the feet It’s probably the most difficult, cause the movement is more complex. Have some ease when the feet get lifted up and also when it slides to the back. I recommend to fiddle around a little bit and see what works best for you.
4. Secondary animation makes everything come to live
When you finished easing al the keyframes, you will probably already have a pretty descend walk cycle. But if you really want to take it to the next level, you can add secondary animation. What does this mean? Well, it’s the movement that “follows” the movement of the primary animation. Which we just created. For example, this can be the head that goes up and down. Or the body that rotates left and right. And don’t forget the hands that rotate when the arm goes back and forth.This will give that extra attitude to your character. Making it stand out from the rest.Play around with this. Experiment. Try making a run cycle or a sneaky walk. And please tag us or share what you do. We are curious about what you are making.