2D Animation Principles
Illustration by John Hersey

2D Animation Principles

with Dermot O' Connor

Video: Understanding walk and run cycles

A walk cycle consists of four poses, the contact, It's important, before you begin, to understand the principle of counterpose. To animate this, I'm going to be using the Bones tool in Flash.
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  1. 1m 42s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 18m 9s
    1. Understanding appeal and design
      4m 3s
    2. Comparing body types
      6m 27s
    3. Understanding silhouette
      1m 52s
    4. Creating gesture drawings
      2m 50s
    5. Tying down the drawing
      2m 57s
  3. 18m 10s
    1. Comparing storyboard styles
      5m 8s
    2. Understanding shot composition
      4m 36s
    3. Demonstrating lighting
      4m 8s
    4. Understanding the 180-degree line
      4m 18s
  4. 13m 8s
    1. Understanding X-sheets (dope sheets)
      3m 25s
    2. Comparing frame rates
      4m 39s
    3. Creating sweatbox notes and preparation
      5m 4s
  5. 18m 42s
    1. Understanding arcs
      7m 38s
    2. Squash, stretch, and volume
      4m 59s
    3. Comparing timing and spacing
      6m 5s
  6. 10m 4s
    1. Using anticipation, overshoot, and settle
      4m 2s
    2. Breaking and loosening joints
      2m 43s
    3. Leading action
      3m 19s
  7. 19m 51s
    1. Understanding primary and secondary action
      4m 14s
    2. Using overlap and follow-through
      6m 0s
    3. Applying lines of action, reversals, and S-curves
      4m 34s
    4. Moving holds and idles
      5m 3s
  8. 15m 52s
    1. Understanding walk and run cycles
      5m 24s
    2. Creating eccentric walks
      6m 50s
    3. Animal locomotion
      3m 38s
  9. 14m 31s
    1. Finding dialogue accents
      2m 42s
    2. Creating dialogue through body movement
      2m 46s
    3. Creating stock mouth shapes
      5m 4s
    4. Using complementary shapes
      3m 59s
  10. 13m 8s
    1. Creating thumbnails
      4m 31s
    2. Comparing straight-ahead and pose-to-pose animation
      4m 37s
    3. Adding breakdowns for looseness
      4m 0s
  11. 2m 9s
    1. Next steps
      2m 9s

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Watch the Online Video Course 2D Animation Principles
2h 25m Beginner Apr 11, 2014

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Bring a cast of characters to life. By following the basics principles of animation, you can build characters that interact naturally with their environments, convey realistic emotion, and talk and walk convincingly. In this course, Dermot O' Connor shows how to design a solid character and stage and storyboard your animation before you begin. He'll examine principles like anticipation and squash and stretch, which provide characters with a sense of weight and flexibility, and show you how to animate walk cycles and dialogue. Finally, learn how to thumbnail scenes from start to finish, so you can sketch out the action before you commit to fully rendering it.

These lessons are designed with Flash in mind, but work just as well with any other 2D animation program.

Topics include:
  • Creating gesture drawings
  • Comparing storyboard styles
  • Squash, stretch, and volume
  • Comparing timing and spacing
  • Using anticipation, overshoot, settle, overlap, and follow-through
  • Creating eccentric walks
  • Building stock mouth shapes for dialogue
  • Creating thumbnails
3D + Animation
Flash Professional
Dermot O' Connor

Understanding walk and run cycles

A walk cycle consists of four poses, the contact, recoil, passing, and high-point which you can see here. This entire sequence will take about one second on the screen. It's important, before you begin, to understand the principle of counterpose. And that's the fact that when one part of the body moves in one direction, the other moves in the other to compensate. So, the right foot, for example, is forward while the right arm is back and vice versa. And you can see that in this illustration. And if you look at the front view, you can see also that when the hips are tilted in one direction, the shoulders are tilted in the other, and rotated differently also.

So, we'll keep that in mind, even though we're going to be animating this scene in the profile view. To animate this, I'm going to be using the Bones tool in Flash. Now, please bear in mind that Flash CC doesn't contain the Bones tool. So you'll need to use a slightly older version if you want to follow along in Flash. If you're following along in CG, you probably have access to a basic biped in whatever program you're using. So I recommend you use a very simple rig. So that you can follow along without getting caught up in details, okay? So let's have a look at the first pose, which is the contact pose.

So, how I set this up is I drew a rough contact pose as a reference for my rig. And then I pushed the rig into the contact pose. And moving the rig is a very simple matter, we simply pull the various limbs and joints around. So once you have your first frame done, I copied that pose and then I pasted that pose onto frame 25, which is the completion of the cycle. And then I created the opposing pose. Let me just switch off the reference layer and just play that. And you have to take care that your contact pose on each side is a mirror image of the other, simply with the limbs in the opposite positions.

I also made these little labels for contact, recoil, passing, and high point on the above poses layer. So let's play that one more time. And so as you can see, in the contact pose, we have these two guidelines, the left foot hits the far line, and the right foot, the lower one. And this is the heel contacting the ground, hence the name, contact pose. Okay? So, let's take this to the next level, and this is the addition of the passing pose, and this, where we really create the feeling of the walk And as you can see with this addition of this single keyframe we've brought the thing to life.

So let's go from our contact to our contact, this is the two first keys that we laid down, and then their passing position. So what happens to make the walk feel like a walk at last is that the leading foot, the one that's moving forward, gets lifted off the ground, we've pulled the knee up. Notice also that I have flexed the back. If you look at the flex of the contact pose and the flex of the passing pose, they're quite different, and that prevents the walk from feeling stiff and robotic. And the other big change that we absolutely have to see is look at the bend of the arm and on the other contact pose.

It's bent about at the same angle. Now let's play the first part of that and you'll see that on the passing pose it's hanging straight. On the way back it breaks in the opposite direction, I mean it absolutely breaks, that's quite, this angle here is quite unnatural but yet it loosens it up and it gives the feeling of fluidity. That'll be very hard to achieve otherwise. And also please remember that the passing positions on each side should be roughly approximate. The passing position is also slightly higher in, in, in terms of the body height than the contact position.

Okay? So let's take a look at the recoil. Now on the recoil position, the leading foot is flat on the ground, it's completely made contact. The body has come down just a little but this is a realistic walk, so I didn't bring the body down too far. On the cartoony walk, you can bring it down much further. So there's the degree of the fall from the contact to the recoil. Notice also that the arms are at their furthest extension from the body on the recoil frame. This is the shock of the impact pushing them out very slightly. I wouldn't go too far with it but it, that's about enough, and we do the same thing on the opposite side.

Again, the foot hitting the ground, the foot leaving the ground, and the arms flaring out slightly. And finally, the high point. And this is where we push the, between the passing and the contact, this is the maximum height, where we stretch out the back leg, still contacting that green line. The leading foot is at its highest point, and other than that, it's quite straightforward, and then the opposite high point of course, a mirror of that. Let's take a look at the final scene. Here we go. Now, the principle for our run is very similar.

The main difference of a run if you look at the contact pose is that we lean further into the run and the faster he goes, the further he'll lean into the run, and notice also that the leading foot is flatter to the ground. Other than that, we can follow more or less the same procedure. We do the contacts first, then we add the passing position, then we add the recoil, and finally, we add the high point. So there we go.

That is the method of doing walks and run cycles using the contact, recoil, passing and high points.

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