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Character Animation Fundamentals in 3ds Max demonstrates the basic principles of character animation that help bring simple 3D characters to life. Starting with an overview of the character rig, author George Maestri provides guidelines for creating strong poses and explains how to animate from pose to pose in an organized fashion. The course also covers locomotion—animating realistic gestures, walks, and runs; explores the basics of facial expressions and dialogue; and culminates with an animated scene built entirely from scratch.
We've animated the character's body and head, so now that has motor control. We still haven't worked on the arms, so let's do that in this lesson. So let's go ahead and take a look at the character, and just do a quick playback here. And as you can see, he has control over his hips, and his torso, and his head, and that allows him to twist his body, and look over his shoulder, as well as drop his weight, but we still don't have animation on the arms, and those are kind of still flopping around. Now, before we actually animate the arms, let's understand what we're going to do with the arms.
As the character is being pushed back and forth, one of the main things he wants to do is maintain his balance. So we want to go ahead and put the arms out a little bit to kind of steady the character. So let's go to the first keyframe here, I'm going to go ahead and select my left shoulder here, and let's go to Frame 8 here, and that's where we have that first keyframe for the arm. And let's make sure we have Auto Key turned on here, and I'm going to go ahead rotate that arm out to kind of start to get him to catch his balance.
Now, one of the things I've noticed here is that this arm is really straight, and when you have no motor control, and you're being pushed forward like that, the elbow will be straight, because it's just undergoing drag. So if we bend this elbow, it will tell the audience that, hey, this character is controlling the arm. He is not being controlled as much by physics of him being pushed around. So let's go ahead and do a nice bend on the arm, and get that out to the side, so he is catching his balance. So even doing that gives much more intention, so let's just play that.
As you can see, it gives a much stronger pose. Now, if we contrast that to this other arm here, you can see that we've got actually no control over that arm. So let's go ahead and finish off with the left arm here. And I can just use my selection set that I created, and let's go ahead and select that left arm, and you can see that as he pushes himself up, that's good, but then here at 16, he has kind of got a strange keyframe here. So let's go ahead and just copy in a neutral, and then just kind of dial in a nice pose here for the character. Grab that left shoulder, again, put that arm out to the side, and let's go ahead and just kind of keep that a little bent.
So now that character is basically straightening up a little bit. And then at 24, let's just go ahead and just relax that arm a little bit, because he has got his balance. But I don't want to make it completely straight. I kind of want to keep a nice bend to it. And again, if I want, I can select the entire arm, and keyframe it, just to make sure I've got that locked in. So now let's go ahead and take a look at this left side here.
So that looks pretty good. There is a little bit of a hop here at the cycle point, but we can certainly fix that a little bit later. So now let's go ahead and do the same thing for the right arm. So I'm going to go ahead and grab that right shoulder here. So now, as he moves out, I'm going to go ahead and get that shoulder out, and then start bending that elbow, so that way, he has got a little bit more control over his hand.
And by Frame 24, again, I just want to select everything for my right arm, and make sure that I have a bit more of a kind of a neutral pose here. I seem to have rotated that thumb somehow. Here we go! Okay, so let's go ahead and get this character back in position here.
So, I want to maybe even rotate that arm just back a little bit; there we go. Okay. I've got pretty good little animation up to Frame 24, where he starts moving back, so let's get a strong pose as he moves back. So again, we want to indicate motor control. So right there at Frame 32, he's starting to look over his shoulder, so let's go ahead and accentuate that with the pose. So I'm going to move that arm out and up, so that way his shoulder looks like it's more back.
And let's go ahead and rotate that arm just a little bit here, and go ahead and just tweak that in, and let's twist that hand to get a nice little curve here. And then on the other side, we can do the same. We can get his arm out a little bit, because he is still trying to catch his balance. Grab that hand, and rotate it. If I want, I can even work a little bit with these fingers here. Rotate those fingers back a little bit, and even on this one, let's go ahead and relax that hand a little bit more.
That gives it just a nice curve. So now as he goes back, you can see, it gives so much more of a stronger pose, and then we can relax the character back into his initial pose. In fact, what we can do is we can select everything in the character here, and make sure we have that final pose at the last frame, so that should work out pretty good. So let's take a look at this. So that looks pretty good.
I can tweak it a little bit more. But the basic point in this is that we have two types of forces that are affecting our character. In the first half of this chapter, we animated the external forces: those forces that are acting upon the character, so drag, secondary motion; those sorts of things. And then in the second half, we actually animated the character himself, bringing him to life. So when you animate a character, always be aware of whether the forces acting on the character are coming from outside or inside the character, and when they come from inside the character, make sure you understand the character's intention, and that will guide your animation.
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