Learning By Doing: Character Animation

Welcome! Today’s topic is… character animation!

Altough I’ve spent more than 10 years of my life as a professional 3D artist, I’ve never really done animations and if someone asked me a few weeks ago about my animation skills, my answer probably would have been:”I can set keyframes and move a cube from a to b. Give me a few hours more and I can also add a slight rotation.”

As an indie game developer, I’m trying to do most of the required work by myself to keep the production cost low. My game fortunately only requires quite simple first person animations. But there are a few animations that I’d describe as pretty tough based on my animation abilities. Tackling those is really challenging for me.

Nevertheless, I decided to try it on my own and the first results were relatively awkward. A few days passed by and the results didn’t really improve (so did my mood).

To get out of this valley of pain, I decided to get some professional help and found a pretty nice youtube channel with tips and tricks for animators, called New Frame Plus. The channel helped me to get some inspiration and to find even more useful resources for animators.

I finally landed on the gumroad page of Jason Shum. He offers so incredibly useful content on his page and explains the key principles of character animation. His videos really helped me to improve my animation skills in just a few days and I’m so happy that I found his tutorials!

At this point I wouldn’t call myself an animator or even something close to that, but Jason’s videos teached me how to visualize and block out my ideas so much better than before. I absolutely recommend watching his videos if you’re interested in animation. They’re absolutely worth the money and you won’t be disappointed, I promise!

And finally, here’s a short preview of one of my animation blockings:

 

Stay tuned for more and have a nice day!

Daniel

 

 

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Posted by Daniel in Animation, Cinema 4D, Learning, Resources

First Person Character Rig

Today I’d like to share some insight about the creation of my first person rig inside Cinema 4D.

My initial thought was to use Unreal’s default mannequin skeleton for all my animations instead of creating a whole new rig from scratch to save some time. But I realized pretty early that I needed a very special bone hierarchy to create the animations that I have in mind. I always liked first person animations from games like “Mirror’s Edge” and “Dishonored” because they give you the feeling as if there’s an actual human being behind the camera instead of just a floating camera with attached arms.

To achieve this immersive feeling, I created a custom bone structure and the player’s camera is actually parented to one of those bones. This allows to control the ingame camera in two ways:

  • by player input
  • by animation asset

Here’s a quick example of a roughly blocked landing animation. The ingame camera is fully controlled by the animation asset:

 

I had to ignore some anatomical rules that you should normally follow if you are building a rig for a humanoid character but that’s sometimes necessary to get things look right from the first person perspective. It’s a little bit like Yoda said: “You must unlearn, what you have learned!” and you have to work against your intuition somehow. For example, it’s possible to completely delocate the limbs to create better compositions from the first person’s perspective or to stretch the arms and legs a few meters:

Red: default location of the limbs. Blue: exaggerated dislocation example

 

The default behaviour of the arms is to follow the camera’s movement but they can also stay in place if desired. The camera itself can also be moved seperately:

 

Another important aspect was to create a flexible rig that can be adjusted without too much effort at every time of the production. The first person rig is made up by about 250 single objects, that are interconnected with each other. The majority of those objects won’t be used ingame, but they’re necessary to animate the bones properly.

Adjusting all 250 parts on every anatomical update of the player character’s 3d model would take forever and so I had to find a flexible soulution for this issue. I decided to try out Cinema 4D’s built in “Character Tool” which allows to create rig templates that can be adjusted easily. The tool looks incredibly daunting at the first glance but it’s absolutely amazing and I really recommend learning it if you’re using Cinema 4D. You have to put some heavy work into the creation of your template and to setup all of the internal constraints by hand. This may – depending on the complexity of your rig – take a few days and there’s a constant back and forth between creating the adjustment rules and testing them.

But in my opinion it’s really worth it! Once you’ve finished the dark work under the hood, you can adjust your template with just a few clicks:

 

To save some time during the animation phase, I added a “Symmetry” feature. It’s pretty straight forward and mirrors every animation from the right side to the left side of the rig. My game project requires a lot of those symmetrical animations and doing only half of the work is really a relief:

 

The rig seems to work pretty solid so far and I will post some animation blockings in one of my next posts.

Thanks for your time and stay tuned for more!

Daniel

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Posted by Daniel in Animation, Cinema 4D

Begin Play!

Welcome to my blog!

After working as a 3D generalist for more than 10 years, I’ve decided to do something fresh and venturesome. So I decided to go fulltime indie and now I’m developing my first game in Unreal Engine 4.

The journey will be tough and there is so much work to do – especially if you are a solo developer – but I accept the challenge and I’m really looking forward to the whole process!

This blog will be my development diary, covering the creation of my first game and you’re warmly invited to travel with me.

Ready to go? Let’s start!

 

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Posted by Daniel in News