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Another common task in animation is changing your character's eye direction, so your character needs to be able to look at one thing and then look at another. Now, this is really just involves moving the pupils of the eye. Now different types of character rigs will have different controls for doing this. I selected this way of controlling the eyes, which is to select these two circles here, and then you can just move them however you want. Other types of rigs will have objects that the character is looking at, so you place a null object in the scene and character will always be looking at that object.
But however you adjust your character's eyes, the principles are the same. So let's do a simple change in eye direction. So I'm going to start with my character's eyes on one side, so let's say he is looking to his right. So I'm going to select both pupils, and then I'm just going to set a keyframe here at frame 1. And again, let's just start this at frame 10, so I'm going to set another keyframe at frame 10. So he is looking this way, and then he is going to look the other way.
So let's do this over the course of about a half second. So I'm going to it over the course of 12 frames, because I'm animating at 24 frames per second. And let's just go ahead and move his eyes to his left. So this is all we need. So basically, he just changes his eye direction. Now one of the things when you change eye direction is that they can kind of float. So typically when a character changes eye direction, unless he is like looking at a clock or something like that-- let's say he is doing that, he is looking at the clock--but typically when he is changing eye direction, we will cover that change in eye direction with a blink.
And that can really help to sell that motion. So I'm going to go to frame 10, and let's go ahead and add in a blink. So I'm going to select my upper lid, set keyframe at 10. Then let's go ahead and close the eyes and then open them again. And the easiest way to open them is to copy the keys at frame 10 and paste them at 22. And we can do the same for the lower lids. Set keyframe at 10, close up the eyes, and then Copy, Paste.
So now what I have is I have a blink on top of that change in eye direction. Now when that happens, it gives a much stronger sense of motion. Now one of the reasons is because when the eyes blink the audience's attention is kind of drawn to the eye, so we can see that the eye is changing direction. The other reason is that the blink kind of covers up that floatiness. So as the eyes kind of move from one side to the other, the blinks kind of almost give like a comma, or a pause, in that, so you don't see them float all the way over.
Now another thing you can do, again, is you can add in a little bit of head motion to help sell that. So I'm going to go ahead and set my keyframe at frame 1, set it again at frame 10 and then as he blinks, I'm going to dip that nose just a little bit, and again, I just want to pull him back where he was. So I'm going to copy the frame at 10 and paste that keyframe at frame 22.
So now I should have a reasonable motion. So this looks a little bit more realistic, but again, we can add a little bit more if we want. We can certainly tilt his head a little bit as he is moving, so we can certainly rotate this a little bit. So now we can actually make him rotate this way. So as he is moving, he is doing a slight head turn.
So we can copy and paste this, so now he is starting here, and then as he moves, his head adjusts just a little bit. And again, these little details will help make that character's animation sell a little bit more. So those are some of the basics of eye direction change. The basic concepts here: You can move the pupils within the eye, but they will tend to float, so typically we do that for specific applications, such as when the character is watching a fly buzzing around the room or something like that.
Generally, we tend to cover eye direction change with a blink, but again, this is a stylistic choice; you may or may not want to do this depending upon the needs of your scene.
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