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Animating blinks

From: Character Animation Fundamentals with Maya

Video: Animating blinks

Up until this point, we've been animating mostly the body of the character. Let's go ahead and look at some facial animation. We're going to start with one of the simplest tasks you can do in facial animation, and that's the blink. Now, blinks shouldn't be dismissed; they actually can give a lot of information about the character. The rate that the character blinks will determine his mood. A blink can also draw the audience's attention to the eyes. So if you have a change in eye direction or something like that, a blink can signal to the audience, hey, look at the eyes because something is going to change.

Animating blinks

Up until this point, we've been animating mostly the body of the character. Let's go ahead and look at some facial animation. We're going to start with one of the simplest tasks you can do in facial animation, and that's the blink. Now, blinks shouldn't be dismissed; they actually can give a lot of information about the character. The rate that the character blinks will determine his mood. A blink can also draw the audience's attention to the eyes. So if you have a change in eye direction or something like that, a blink can signal to the audience, hey, look at the eyes because something is going to change.

Blinks also let the audience know that the character is alive. If a character stands in a scene for a long period of time without a blink, it'll appear like a doll, and it won't appear like it's alive. So blinks have a lot of different uses. So let's go ahead and just do some very simple blinks. I have my full character up here. The actual scene is called Head CU, and it's basically just a close-up shot of the head. So all of the facial controls are here in this little box here. So the controls that we're going to be concerning ourselves here are the eyelids, and you can see here we have upper and lower lids.

So let's take a look at how these work before we actually animate them. So we can bring these down, and we can actually only bring these down about three quarters of the way, and that's fine because we actually have lower lids which can complete that lower part of the blink. So in order to completely close his eyes for a blink, we do have to work with both lids on this character. Now, other characters may be different, but this particular character is built this way. So one of the things you want to make sure is that you don't overextend the lower lids.

There is a point where they start to poke through the upper lids. So go ahead and play with that and get used to it, and let's go ahead and move on to the actual blink. Now the most important thing with a blink is the timing of the blink. So let's go ahead and do just a standard stock timing, and that's usually about a quarter second down and a quarter second up. So at 24 frames per second, which is how we're animating, it's six down, six up. So let's go ahead and select the upper and lower lids.

So I'm going to select both of these, all four lids, and we're going to go ahead and set a keyframe at 1. So I'm just going to hit S to set a keyframe. And then let's go ahead and start the blink at frame 10. This will give us a little bit of run=in time, so that when the blink starts, we'll have a sense of who the character is. So let's go ahead and hit S again to set another set of keyframes. So, now we have the eyes open at 10. So let's go six frames, in to frame 16, and we'll go ahead and close the eyes.

So I'm going to select the upper lids, bring them down, somewhere around there, and then take the lower lids, and then just match them, so that they're pretty much closed. So now we have the eyes closing, very simple. Now if we want to open those again, all we have to do is basically select all of these, so I'm going to select the upper and the lower lids, and I can basically just copy this keyframe. So I can right-click here, Copy, go over to frame 22, which is again, another six frames in, and just paste those keyframes.

So again, we're just pasting the open-eye pose or the keyframes that define the open eye. So now we have our blink. So let's go ahead and take a look at how it plays. Okay, it looks pretty good. So again, this is just a standard blink. Now if we want, we can slow this down or speed it up to give a different mood to the character, so let's go ahead and slow it down. I'm going to select these keyframes, these last two keyframes, so from frame 16 to frame 22.

So I'm Shift+Selecting on the timeline, and let's go ahead and move those back, say four frames, to frame 20. Then you'll select the one at frame 26 and move those another four, to frame 30. So now we've got a 10-frame blink. So this is actually going to be a very slow blink. Let's see how this plays. So you can see that this plays a little bit differently than the other blink, and this one is kind of more slow. It's more like a blink of realization, like he's suddenly coming up with an idea or something like that.

As easily as we can slow it down, we can also speed it up. So let's select our upper and lower lids again, and let's go ahead and move those keyframes around one more time. Now, another timing I like to do is called fast open. Basically, it means you close a lid as at a fairly standard rate and then you pop them open a lot more quickly. So I'm going to select the keyframe in the middle, the one at 20, and let's just move it back to 16. So again, we'll have six down, and let's make the up a lot faster.

So instead of at 16, let's put it to 19, so six down and three up. So it's going to open twice as fast as it closes, and this will definitely give a different feel to the blink. So, you can see it gives a much brighter feel. He opens his eyes a lot more quickly. So the whole point of this is that the timing of the blink is important. It conveys a little bit about the character mood. It also conveys a little bit about who the character is.

So a more alert character will blink faster; a slow, lumbering character may blink slower. So I'm going to go ahead and put this blink back to normal. I'm going to go ahead and select this keyframe at 19 and move it to frame 22. And let's go ahead and do a little bit more with this. So with this blink here, it's basically just the character is pretty much rock solid; there's really not much else going on. And again, this makes the character look more alive, but it doesn't make them look completely alive.

So one of the things I like to do is when the character blinks, I also like to add a little bit of head motion just to, again, give you the sense that the character is alive. So what I'm going to do is select this head control, and again, we're just going to mimic that motion with the head. So I'm going to set a keyframe at frame 1. The start of the blink is at 10, so let's go ahead and set a keyframe there. He blinks at 16, so I'm going to rotate this, and I'm just going to dip his chin just a little bit.

So now, as he blinks, his head comes down. Now you can do this in extreme, or you can do it just subtly. I'm going to do a little bit more subtly. And then we just need to return him it to normal. So again, I'm going to right-click, copy the keyframe at 10, and paste it at 22. So now in addition to the blink, I've got a little bit more head motion. So let's see how this plays. And again, just adding in a little bit of head motion really gives a much more realistic sense of how the character is playing.

So we can go back to frame 16, and we can dip this a little bit more to give a little bit more of an effect. So let's go ahead and make this a little bit more extreme. In fact, we can even tilt the head so he is not exactly on axis, and let's see how this works. As you can see, you can make this either subtle or extreme, and you can play around with it. So those were the basics of blinks. Now remember, just close the eyes, and the most important thing with the blink is timing.

And if you want to add a little bit more realism, just a little bit of head motion along with the blink will help to sell the motion.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Character Animation Fundamentals with Maya
Character Animation Fundamentals with Maya

65 video lessons · 10217 viewers

George Maestri
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 22m 18s
    1. Introduction
      1m 10s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 8s
    3. Character rig overview: Simple character
      6m 19s
    4. Character rig overview: Full character
      7m 30s
    5. Using other rigs
      48s
    6. Using screen drawing tools for Windows
      3m 9s
    7. Using screen drawing tools for the Mac
      2m 14s
  2. 23m 47s
    1. Creating strong poses
      3m 27s
    2. Creating custom MEL scripts to help pose characters
      4m 39s
    3. Using layers to select characters
      1m 10s
    4. Learning the basics of posing characters
      10m 7s
    5. Creating stock poses
      4m 24s
  3. 25m 11s
    1. Understanding forces and character motion
      2m 13s
    2. Understanding drag
      5m 51s
    3. Working with secondary motion
      5m 33s
    4. Bringing the character to life
      4m 21s
    5. Refining the animation
      7m 13s
  4. 39m 30s
    1. Keyframing initial poses
      4m 21s
    2. Creating the blocking pass
      7m 42s
    3. Moving holds
      5m 27s
    4. Animating weight shift
      4m 21s
    5. Animating pose to pose transitions
      7m 46s
    6. Animating a wave
      9m 53s
  5. 42m 15s
    1. Analyzing a walk
      5m 43s
    2. Setting up a character for a basic walk
      1m 22s
    3. Animating a walk: The feet
      5m 55s
    4. Animating a walk: The lower body
      8m 23s
    5. Animating a walk: Making the cycle symmetrical
      3m 10s
    6. Animating a walk: Working with the spine
      5m 59s
    7. Animating a walk: Arm motion
      7m 28s
    8. Animating a walk: The head
      4m 15s
  6. 24m 15s
    1. The importance of the passing position
      4m 52s
    2. Working with foot placement
      3m 50s
    3. Adding character to a walk: Contact position
      5m 10s
    4. Adding character to a walk: Passing position
      3m 20s
    5. Adding character to a walk: Finalizing
      7m 3s
  7. 52m 27s
    1. A run in four poses
      2m 39s
    2. Animating a run: The first pose
      4m 31s
    3. Animating a run: The second pose
      7m 17s
    4. Animating a run: Mirroring the basic poses
      10m 59s
    5. Animating a run: Hip and foot motion
      5m 12s
    6. Animating a run: The upper body
      5m 2s
    7. Animating a run: Left arm motion
      5m 31s
    8. Animating a run: Right arm motion
      4m 39s
    9. Animating a run: Cycling the animation
      6m 37s
  8. 1h 20m
    1. Animating blinks
      7m 56s
    2. Animating changes in eye direction
      5m 6s
    3. Animating a head turn
      4m 35s
    4. Working with audio
      3m 38s
    5. Overview of mouth controls
      2m 44s
    6. Animating vowels
      15m 14s
    7. Animating consonants: B, D, and G
      7m 2s
    8. Animating consonants: F, M, and S
      8m 22s
    9. Animating lip sync: Assigning phonemes
      10m 43s
    10. Animating lip sync: The head
      9m 44s
    11. Animating lip sync: The body
      5m 10s
  9. 55m 55s
    1. Creating the main poses
      4m 18s
    2. Blocking poses to dialogue
      7m 1s
    3. In-between blocking pass
      3m 27s
    4. Animating moving holds
      5m 19s
    5. Creating weight
      6m 19s
    6. Adding secondary motion
      10m 0s
    7. Animating dialogue
      8m 12s
    8. Finalizing the animation
      11m 19s
  10. 24s
    1. Goodbye
      24s

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