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Watch as author George Maestri employs the basic principles of animation to bring to life simple 3D characters in Maya. Starting with an overview of the character rig, this course provides guidelines for arranging stock characters into strong poses and explains how to generate locomotion between poses in a modular fashion. The course includes step-by-step instructions on animating realistic gestures, walks, runs, facial expressions, and dialogue, and culminates with an animated scene built entirely from scratch.
Prerequisite courses: Maya 2011 Essential Training.
Let's go ahead and start posing and keyframing our character. I am going to block out several poses, and really this is just about the process of creating the pose for a character. Typically when you start with a character you are going to get him in a neutral pose, something like this, and this really isn't a natural pose. So let's go ahead and make it a little more natural. Before I do that I'm actually going to lock this pose in. I kind of like this pose for one reason and that's because it's a neutral pose and I can always come back to this if I want to unwind the character.
For the sake of this I am just going to go ahead and keyframe this at frame 1. So I want to just take everything in the character and just hit that Key All button that I created in my custom shelf. You should create one for your shelf as well. Now I have this pose locked in in frame 1. Now typically what we'll do is we'll take that neutral pose and we will move it before the start of the animation, so we'll move it to frame 0 or frame -1, so at least we have it, but it doesn't show up in the animation. For the sake of this we can leave it at frame 1.
Let's go a few frames forward. Let's go to frame 3 and let's kind of relax this pose a little bit more. Now with a character like this the first thing we see is the arms and they're definitely not relaxed. So I am going to go ahead and select the shoulders and we are using forward kinematics here and I'm just going to rotate these down. So now that I have that in place, well, it's a little bit more relaxed. But it's by no means natural. I mean it looks like the guy is standing at attention and unless you're animating him in a military lineup, it's really not going to be a good pose.
But I'm going to go ahead and save this anyways. So I am going to hit Key All just so we have it. So now I have a pose at frame 1 and a pose at frame 3. Now let's go ahead and make a much more naturalistic pose for this character. Let's go ahead and start playing with the weight. Now the first thing you want to do with a pose is understand where the weight of the character is and how the line of the character is going to be moving. Typically with a pose I start with the hips and the feet, because that's the center of weight distribution for the character.
The weight of the character is being pulled down by gravity and what's supporting it, what's counteracting that, is the force of the legs supporting that weight. So this is the area where most of the weight distribution of the character is transferred to the ground, so we want to make sure that we get the hips and the feet done right. So I am going to start with the hips. Well, the first thing I want to do is I want to come and get him down a little bit. So let's go ahead and make this kind of a meek pose. Let's start with making him kind of a shy character.
So I am going to move the hips down a little bit, get some bend in those knees, and then I'm going to actually rotate the hips back just a bit. And what this is doing is I'm trying to give him kind of a curved spine. So the first thing I want to do is rotate the hips back, so that way I can rotate all of these spine nodes forward. So I am selecting all of the spine and I am going to rotate that forward just a little bit and you can notice how once I start to get that, you can see how it's kind of a bit of a sad sack. Almost gives him a potbelly sort of look and even just doing that is much better than what we had here.
So this is my pose and then just by shifting his weight a little bit, we get a much better line of action really. And so we can also play a little bit more with things like his feet. So I'm going to go ahead and turn his feet in maybe just a little bit, kind of make him a little pigeon-toed. And again I am just kind of playing with this character. Each character that you have will have a specific way of standing and a specific way of acting. So I can also play with the arms a little bit. Maybe his arms are a little bit out and turned in a little bit. And also once I've rotated that back, notice how this arm is kind of going at an angle and I really want it to be straight up and down.
So I'm going to rotate this and kind of straighten it out. Straight arms like that, they are kind unnatural. So I am going to go to the elbow and give it more of a natural bend and what this will do is actually it will almost mirror the line of action that I'm starting to develop here, so I am kind of starting to get this kind of S-shape with the character. And so if the arms are kind of in that, then it just kind of supports that line of action. It gives it a much stronger pose.
And if I want, again, he is kind of turning everything in. So maybe I can even turn the wrists. They are kind of a little square and again I've got very straight hands, so maybe give some curve to that and we can do the same on the other arm. Now I don't have to do the exact same thing on both sides, because symmetry we don't really want the character to be too symmetrical. So for this particular pose, you know he is kind of just standing there, but again, I don't want a ton of symmetry. Maybe I can even lean him a little bit to one side or the other, just to kind of give him a little bit of variation.
And again I can play with the head and sometimes if he is kind of a sad character he may also be looking down, and again that will support this kind of S-shape that we're getting. So just by kind of understanding how gravity is pulling the character down and a little bit about the attitude of the character we've got a much stronger pose, even just for a default pose. So we went from this to this to this. So you can see how we've got kind of a nice character pose here, and in fact I am going to go ahead and key everything, just so we have it.
And now I want to go-ahead and maybe do one more pose and let's kind of pose him in the opposite direction. So one of the things I am actually going to do is I am just going to copy some keyframes. I am going to select everything in the character and if you notice we've got three sets of keyframes, 1, 2, 3. But what I want to do is actually put him back to that neutral pose, or actually let's go back to this pose. So what I can do is I can right-click, copy, and that copies all the keyframes because I hit Select All, and then just paste.
So now I have a neutral starting place to do another pose. So this time instead of rotating him back, let's go ahead and move him forward, make him a little bit more assertive. So I'm going to actually move his weight forward and maybe even rotate the hips forward, because I want him to be almost like a character. That's in your face. And so that means I want him to start kind of getting into your space a little bit. And then what I can do is then again play with the spine, because he is going to be a little bit more proud. He is going to have a little bit more spine here.
Now one thing I notice is that these knees, again they are little straight here. So I like having a little bit of bend in the knee. It shows that there is tension there. If they are completely straight, it's not very natural. And also you want to make sure that the weight of the character is over the center of the feet. So once we do that, you can see how we're starting to get a little bit of a different pose because he's actually kind of moving forward. And again because he is being kind of more big and boastful you want to make him bigger, almost like how a bird or a butterfly will open its wings to scare off predators.
People do the same thing. So I want to kind of make him give more space. Basically I want to make him take up more visual room because he is a tough character. And so maybe complete those into fists and then kind of put his arms out a little bit more here and again bend his arms. What I'm trying to do here is again I want to give him so that he is occupying more space and again just kind of rotate those and just by doing something like this, even maybe tilting that down a little bit. Because what I'm really trying to do is get him more aggressive. In fact I can even push him forward just a little bit more.
So as I push him forward though, you notice how his head is turning back. I want to make sure that his head is looking forward. So there, so now we have a pose. We've gone from totally straight to kind of meek to a little bit more assertive, and all we really did was just change the pose of that character. Even just putting the feet out a little bit more will also give him a wider stance to make him appear stronger.
So as you can see posing a character is really pretty simple. All you need to do is start with the hips, make sure that the character has a good strong base, and then understand the mood of the character and where you want the character to be, and then just pose him into place by moving the joints. And one of the things I like to do is when I have major poses like this, I like to keyframe everything just to make sure I've locked them in. So go ahead and pose your character and have fun.
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