In the first episode of the Wildcard Work and Chill series, viewers are given an exclusive backstage pass into the intricate world of game animation. Hosted by Woody Smith, the Animation Director with many years of industry experience, the episode serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding the art and science behind animating characters in Wildcard. The session kicks off with Woody sharing his personal journey into the realm of animation, offering valuable insights into the industry and his role in it. This segment sets the foundation for the audience, preparing them for the technical deep dive that follows.As the episode progresses, Woody transitions into a live demonstration, showcasing the animation process for one of Wildcard's new characters. This hands-on segment provides viewers with a rare opportunity to see the animation process in real-time, from concept to execution. If you're intrigued by game development, particularly the animation aspect, this episode is a thorough exploration that covers both the creative and technical facets of the field. Become part of the community today: https://discord.gg/playwildcard
I've been in the industry for 24 years now, and been doing animation the whole time. So I am very blessed to be in an industry like this. My parents said that I knew that I wanted to be animator when I was two years old. Unfortunately, when I got to be like, eight, nine years old, I realized that my draftsmanship, my hand skills, and my patience weren't going to do it for hand drawn animation, which was what I grew up on. But luckily, I grew up at just the perfect time. And right when I was getting into high school, computer animation was coming into its own. So I was very lucky to get into computer animation in my freshman year in high school. And then the rest is history. I went to Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in computer animation.
And then right after that, I got my first job in the industry. And it's been magic ever since. So just been having a great time. And now I'm at my favorite company ever, Wildcard. And so here we are.
Dreams do come true.
Dreams do come true. Yes. Dreams and hard work. Yes. Now, I am very happy to be able to share kind of what I've learned along the way. And I would say that as with all artistic crafts or creative crafts, there's probably about 14 different ways to do any one thing. So whenever I show somebody something, I always caveat and say, well, this is the way that I do it. And I'm sure that there are more efficient ways or ways that other people do it, but this is the way that I've learned to do it. So I will leave it at that. I will just say that, do your own research and go and find better ways, because there's always better ways to do stuff.
And a million different ways indeed.
Like in Photoshop, there's a million different ways to do anything.
Okay, well, what are we working on today?
Well, let me share my screen and let's get started. So, like I said, I have to share my entire screen. So if something does pop up, I apologize. There's like some notifications and stuff. So you guys should be able to see my screen.
Now, the downside is that I can't.
See the chat when this is up. So if somebody does have a question, if you want to call that out, or if you want to just ping me, then let me know.
Okay. Can everybody see this?
Okay, so this is one of our new characters. This is called a know all rights belonging to Illumination Studios. This is not the Minion from GRU's Group, but this is the code name Minion right now. And he is a character that is going to be running around in groups and carrying a battering ram. But when that battering ram is destroyed, they're going to be left kind of their own devices. So what I'll be working on is an individual animation for just one of these characters. You may notice that on the right hand side, there's a bunch of different characters that are visible. And I'm just going to turn those off and on just to show them. So we have four different characters and we just call them 1234 for now, but they're each individual. And I'll just go ahead and use let's just go for two.
Two, I think is my favorite. Wait, which was three is the one.
Who has the four has the little.
Earrings that are going to be in there. So he's kind of like a pirate.
So we'll go ahead and use him.
And what you're seeing here is what we call the rig file. So this is the file that has the character and all of the controls in it. And I'll just kind of go through that really quickly. When the character is built or modeled in a 3D modeling program, you have what's called the mesh. And so the mesh is the 3D object that the character is made up of. It's made up of these little squares and triangles that are called polygons. And this is a 3D object. So you've got an object that is sort of existing in 3D space. It's like a little clay model. And you can see that it's pretty simplified. It's not really that dense when it's modeled. It's a very dense structure. And then we knock it down so.
That when we rig it's a little bit easier. And when I say rigging, what I.
Mean is there are these things called joints that we put into the model.
And I will show those.
So you can see that there's this structure inside of the model that is very similar to what a bone structure within your body would be, right? So you have the hips, you have the spine that runs up these arms. And then you've got fingers. And then each of these are called joints. And so these joints in turn bend and move the model. We call it deforming the model. If I take this thing here and I just kind of rotate it, you can see it kind of bends and moves the model.
But on top of that, we have.
What is called the rig. So if I show another thing here, this is called the rig. And the rig is what we use to move the character around. It's these controls that I can grab and then they in turn move the bones, which move the object.
So it's a little bit of a.
Complicated process, but it's very functional, meaning that we can get these and we can move them around and animate them so that they look like a real little character running around in game.
So there we go.
This is the basic introduction of what a rig is. So in here we have a rig with all of these controls. I'm going to move these controls around and that's how you do animation. And I'll kind of talk a little bit about that once I get into the animation file.
But now that I have this rig.
File done, I'm going to go ahead and save that and I'm going to.
Open up another file.
This will be the animation file. And I'm going to be working on animation called a melee animation.
And that's, simply put, just an attack.
So this character is going to attack. And there's a number of animations that make up how a character moves in game. One of those is what's called a basic attack. And when the character wants to do damage, this is the attack that they will play.
So you'll see that it is a blank file.
It doesn't have any of that stuff in it that we had before because I have not brought in the rig file. Now we use a system called referencing. And what that does is when I.
Have animation file, I point to.
Another file, which is the rig file, and then I do all the motion and animation in this animation file.
But if I ever want to update.
Any of the character, if I want to make a change to his model or his texture or the rig, I want to add pieces, I want to subtract pieces, I want to fix a problem.
I do that in the rig file.
And the reason that we do that is we could have as many as 100 animations on a character. And if you want to fix something, you don't want to fix it 100 times, you want to fix it once. So we point back to this rig file and then reference that into the animation. So if I update the rig file, it'll go and update it in all.
Of the animation files. So very simple process.
It also makes it so that I can't mess anything up. In the rig file, things are exposed and I can do things. But in the animation file, I really.
Only can move the character around and.
Not really mess any of those things up.
So it's a little bit of a safeguard too. So what I'm going to do is.
I'm going to go up here and this is a program called Maya. By the way, I'm working in Maya, which is a 3D program. It's been around for about as long as I've been in the industry. When I got into my senior year of college was Maya. 0.5 was what were using. And so I've walked with Maya my entire career. And that's what we're using primarily for animation on the project.
So what I'll do is I'll go.
Up here into my file menu and this, like any Adobe product or any other product you've ever seen, has just a simple menu system.
I'll go up here and I will.
Go into my reference editor and I'll.
Open this up and I'll just go.
Up here and I'll go file and create reference. And what I want to do is I want to point to this Minions.
Rig and I will open that up.
And you'll see that it will bring that in. And there is my character. So the same thing I was looking.
At in the rig file, except over.
Here in the left, you can see that the names are sort of messed up, right? So it's got this Minions rig and then it's got a colon. And this is what's called a namespace. This just tells me that this is a reference file. I'm not working in the actual file.
So what I do is I actually just shorten this to a very simple.
Thing so I can still read all.
Of it over there.
And then once that's done, then I'm just going to close that out.
I won't need that anymore. So now I've got this character, I.
Can move it around. I'm going to need to do a little bit of a setup though first. There's a couple of things that I tweak. One of those is I set it to 30 frames a second. Down here we're going to be animating in 30 frames a second. And I set the first frame to zero. This is sort of a personal preference. I always like to start on the zero frame.
It just gives me the math is.
A little bit easier. I'll say that if we ever do a looped animation, I like to do it on. I'll do 40 frames and then you know that zero to 40 is your animation. If you do it one, you kind of got to do one to 41. So the math gets a little bit weird.
I just do it easy for the math. So I set the first frame to zero. So once I've got this character referenced.
In, then I'll just go ahead and save this. I will be saving my file a lot. Things tend to crash when you're working in advanced programs and Maya is no exception.
So I just going to save that out. Now you might be asking, what are.
All these things over here? So let me show you. We use a rigging system called Advanced Skeleton. And Advanced Skeleton is sort of a pre rigger and it gives you a lot of different functionality.
That would be very difficult if you.
Were just an individual building your own rig to do it would take long time. But for us, this program allows us to create the same rig on multiple characters and do it very quickly. We just set up where we want the bones to go and then it builds the rig on top of that. So it makes things a lot easier. So up here is my little menu system. And you can see I've got my little shelf over here on the left hand side with a lot of these options. I won't actually be needing that today. What I will be using is I will be using this little picker. And this is probably my favorite part.
Of this is it has this thing.
Where you can go and you can just click on things and it'll select them. So instead of going over here and finding each of these little finger joints over here, I'm just going to go and I'm going to click it right there. And you can see that it does the same thing.
It selects it.
The other thing that I use a.
Lot is over on the left hand.
Side, I've got these things called selection sets. And this allows me to select a part of the body and animate it relatively quickly. So if I just go over here to my arm, my R arm, and I say select set members, it'll select the arm and you'll see how that'll come into play a lot when we're doing the animations. So now I've got my rig file. It's all referenced in. I've got my picker.
So the next thing that I need.
To do is because this is an attack animation, it has to flow from and to what's called a pose. When our characters are in the world, we don't want them just kind of standing in this sort of neutral pose. This is a rigging or a t pose, and it's very boring. So what we do is we create a unique pose. We call that the idle pose. And then we animate the character in that idle pose. So if they're not doing anything, they just stand around in this idle pose and play a little animation. Now, I don't have my character in that pose right now, so I need to get him into that before I even start my animation.
So I'm going to make sure that.
I'm on frame zero.
I'm going to open up this little thing here.
And this is called pose, man. And Pose Man is a little script that I use that I can capture a pose from another animation and I can just bring it in.
So what I want to do is.
I just want to go up here and I want to right click and say select Set members. This is actually going to select all of my animation controls.
And then I'll go ahead and click this.
And you can see now my character Boom is in this idle pose. So this is the pose that I want the animation to start in. And it's the pose that I want the animation to end in. So I won't be needing my Pose man anymore.
So I'll just go ahead here and.
I'm going to hit S. S is the key that I use to set my keys.
But you'll notice that I've got this.
Little thing ticked down here. It's like a little red square with.
Like a circle in it.
And what that is it's called auto key.
So that means if I go to.
Another frame and I move an object, the computer is automatically going to set another animation key. And this is really the basis how all 3D animation is done is I'm going to say I want this object doing this at this frame.
And then I'm going to go to.
A later frame, which is a later time. And I'm going to say, I want the object doing this at this frame. And the computer is going to fill in all of the things in between.
Now, like I said, when I was.
Young, I wanted to be a 2D animator, but a 2D animator has to.
Draw every single frame with this.
The computer does a lot of the busy work for you, so you don't.
Need to do that.
For instance, let's just say that I take my root. My root is sort of the center of my character, right? And I want to take that and I want to move that.
Let me get this. Bring it back up. Okay.
So I want to move this around. So this is my character's root. It's the way that he moves around.
I'm just going to go ahead and.
I'm going to go over here to frame ten. And I'm going to move this character.
Up and I'm going to turn him. And you can see now that once I do that, then it automatically does everything in between.
So this is basically animation, right? This is how animation is done. I'm just going to set keys along this timeline and then the computer is.
Sort of going to fill in all the gaps.
The important part is to make what's called the golden poses. We want to make the really strong keyframes that make our character seem to move. And then the more and more frames that you add, the more and more.
Refined your animation gets. So let me just go ahead and delete that. And then I want to do one thing.
It looks like I don't have my root in my keyable set, so I'll.
Just go ahead and do that.
Okay, so we're going to go here to frame zero. And this is going to be where my character is going to start. So like I said, the most important part is really going to be choosing really important or dynamic keyframes, really nice poses. So let's go to frame ten. And one of the methods that I use for animation is I will animate what's called on the tens. I'll animate every ten frames a different pose. And the reason that I do that is because again, the math is easy.
I want the character to look good.
I want the character to have this really cool pose. But I don't want to worry about how fast that's supposed to happen yet.
I just care about how the character looks. So we'll just go ahead and go.
To frame ten, and I'm going to manipulate or change the character around so we can see what a good pose.
Is going to look like. Now you can't see my camera, but.
When the character is attacking, what I want him to do is I sort of want him to do a two hand smash. And this is sort of the ideation, like, with any creative process, you have to sort of think about things before you do them. So I've been thinking about this for a little while, and I kind of came up with the idea that I want this character to do a two hand smash and I want him to kind of, like, swing from over his head. And then I want him to kind of bash something with two hands. And then I want him to return to Idle. So the first thing that I need to do is I need to create a pose where the character has both hands above his head. This is what's going to be called the anticipation pose. And it's a pose that if I want to create force or I want to create an interesting motion, you almost have to do the opposite of it first, right?
You think about the example. The famous example is when they animated Mickey Mouse reaching into his pocket, he didn't just reach into his pocket. He didn't just take his hand from his side and reach into his pocket.
He brought his hand up and he.
Pointed it down at his pocket and then he pushed the hand down into the pocket. And so that anticipation pose sets the.
Person who's watching the animation up to.
Really be ready for the big motion. In this case, the big motion is going to be that downward bash.
So let's go ahead and I'm just.
Going to move my character around. So I've got my idle pose at frame zero. And then at frame ten, I'm going to create this anticipation pose where my.
Character is sort of standing up and.
Leaning back, and I'm going to be really exaggerated with this, right? I'm going to take this to eleven where my character is going to seem really exaggerated and we'll even exaggerate it.
A little bit further.
But I've always found in my animation that if you go more exaggerated at the beginning, you can always draw back.
You always go heavy at first, and.
Then you can bring it back to make it a little bit more believable. But if you don't, if you go the opposite and your character is not really exaggerated enough, it's more difficult to add in that exaggeration. So what I do is I go a little bit more exaggerated at every.
Pose, and then I'll come and I'll.
Draw back if I don't need it. So what he's going to do is.
He'S going to lift this foot up, he's going to have that kind of.
Out in front of him to kind of counterbalance his motion. His root is going to kind of come back just a little bit, and then it's going to arc way back like this. And then his back. I'm going to select these two spine nodes. The spine is going to be what runs up his back and kind of changes his chest or moves his chest. And again, I'm going to lean him way back, and I'm actually going to.
Start moving this up and back.
And you may be asking, well, how can he possibly do that? He doesn't look like he's on balance. I'm not really worried about that right now. I'm more worried about making kind of.
A fun, exaggerated pose. So this is just going to be kind of a quick sketch, right?
And you can always go back, and you can refine these once you've got your animation done a little bit further.
But for right now, I'm just going.
To go pose to pose and block something in.
So let's have him kind of leaning.
His head back a little bit, but he's still kind of looking forward. Okay, so now I'm going to move one of the arms. I'm just going to take his arm. I'm going to bring it way up to his neck.
And then I'm going to take the.
Shoulders, and I'm going to come way.
Up over the head. And again, I'm just going to push.
This and exaggerate this so that my.
Character really kind of almost looks kind.
Of cartoony almost, right? I'm going to stretch these out.
So I'm going to take the elbow joint, and I'm going to pull it way back here. And then I'm going to take the.
Hand and I'm going to pull it way back here so he's kind of arcing his hand way back.
And then last but not least, I'm.
Going to take these fingers and I'm going to clench his fingers in.
Now it looks like his fingers are.
Kind of spreading out a little bit. So I'm going to make a nice, solid fist. And you can see I'm doing all of this in the same way as I'm just grabbing these controls. I'm moving them around and just kind of manipulating the character until he gets into a state that I really like.
So clench that up.
And I've got this thumb that's kind of fighting with my fingers. And most of the time, you don't really worry about little things like this. But because we're doing animation demonstration today, I'll go ahead and make sure it looks a little bit more passable.
Okay, so now I've got my right.
Arm to a point where it's looking pretty good. This is actually looking like it's exaggerated enough for me right now. Maybe I'll push it a little bit.
Further, a little bit. But I got the arm way up.
And one of the cool things about this script is that this rig system advanced skeleton is it's got a feature.
Where I can actually take something that.
I've done one side and I can mirror it to the other. So in this case, it's going to be the arm. And I've created these selection sets on the left hand side over here.
You can see them, our arm and our fingers. So what I'm going to do is.
I'm going to mirror it over to the other side. So if I hold down control and select these two, I'm going to select my set members. And what that means is it's just going to select all the controls that make up the right arm.
I'm going to go up here to.
Pose and I'm going to say mirror. And I'm just going to say I want to move the right to the left.
When I hit that, you can see boom, it moves the arm up there. And my character is now super swinging.
Back and getting ready to slam something on the ground.
Let's go ahead and even push him.
Just a little bit further. I'm actually going to push the root.
Up so that he's kind of standing.
On his tiptoes almost. And I'm going to make him kind.
Of stand up on that tiptoe a little bit.
And I'm going to push this leg.
Up and out just a little bit.
Okay, so I've got my character in a pose there.
I'm just going to make sure that.
I have a key for all of my keyable controls. And now you can see he's moving from the idle pose and he's coming back and getting ready to hit. And this is what's called a key pose or a golden pose. This is like a main keyframe in the animation. So I always want this to be something that the player sees.
Whether we're going to pause a little.
Bit on that, we'll figure it out. But right now, this pose is going to be part of the animation that I want the player to see. So then the next big pose, there's lots of other things that happen in between this and the next big pose. But the next big pose is going to be the point where the character contacts the ground, right?
So I'm going to go to frame 20 and I'm going to set my next pose. So I'll take my root and I.
Always move the root first. Like it is the place where all things come from.
It is sort of the source. So I'm going to move my root down and forward.
So he's going to be the opposite, right? He's going to be leaning forward and he's going to be leaning down as.
Opposed to back and up here.
So he's leaning forward, he's leaning down.
And I'll select my feet and I'll.
Just take that roll out of there so that he's still planted on the ground. And then just like I did with the other one, I'm going to mirror, but in this case, I'll mirror left.
To right, so I'll go ahead and mirror that.
So now my foot's going to come down, but in this case, my other foot was forward. So I want this foot to be.
A little bit forward. So he's going to swing and he's.
Going to plant that foot. Now, everything is sort of happening at the same time, so this will look somewhat mechanical. It's not going to look as fluid as it will once we start tearing into the animation and making it a little bit more refined.
But in this case, I'm just going.
To have him leaning forward.
And then I'm going to take the.
Spine and I'm going to move it forward like this.
And then last but not least, I'm.
Just going to rotate his whole body.
A little bit more, okay? And then the head and the neck, I'm going to make those leaning forward as well.
So he's going to be coming and.
Following through right here.
Now, I can make the character hit the ground, but I'm using a system.
For my arms, which is called forward k. And if you think about this from anatomical standpoint, when you're swinging.
An arm or something like that, you.
Are swinging from your clavicle through your shoulder, through your elbow, through your wrist, and those things are following one another. So when you swing your arm, the elbow is following the shoulder, the wrist is following the elbow, the fingers are following the wrist. And so this makes sort of like a pendulum system where the thing at the top of the chain, the shoulder or the clavicle or the chest or whatever you want to say is the master. It's kind of moving things around. But what we want is when he plants down on the ground again, you can't see my camera, but if you think about it, if you think about when your foot is stationary against a ground, or when your hand is leaning on a table and you move your body around, the end of that hand doesn't move, right? The end of your arm doesn't move.
It's sort of fixed in place because it's attached to something.
Well, this is sort of the same.
Thing that we want to do with the arm, right? We want the wrist or the fists that he's making to hit the ground and be planted no matter where I move my character.
And so what I can do is I can actually take my arm and.
I can switch it so that it is now what's called inverse kinematics, meaning that the wrist or the end of it is what's controlling. So let's go ahead and do that. And I'm just going to say change this to ten. Now, you'll see that the arm kind of snaps back over here and it doesn't look very good. So what I can do is I.
Can align my IK. That is. My wrist here to my forward k.
And then I can plant it on the ground. So we're just going to go ahead.
And we're going to do this. We're going to bring it in just a little bit, and then we're going.
To bring it down so that it's kind of connecting with the ground. And that's why I have this ground plane in here. You can kind of see where it's hitting, where it's cutting through the ground. So we don't really want it to do that. We want it to slam onto the ground. And then I'm going to take my clavicle, which is sort of like your shoulder blade, the thing that happens in your chest.
And I'm going to rotate that down.
And move it down so that I get just a little bit of a bend in my arm.
So I'll pull this guy back too. Just a little bit here.
All right. And then last but not least, I've got this thing. Now this is where my elbow is pointing. This is called a pole vector.
So I'm just going to take this.
I'm going to move it in. All right. And then last but not least, I'm going to extend the length of my arm.
So I'm going to kind of play.
With how long the arm is. And you can see that it kind of makes a nice little kind of curve as he's hitting the ground.
So let's go ahead and do the.
Same thing we did before, where I.
Select my arm and fingers and then.
I'm going to mirror them to the other side.
And you can see when I do.
That, it kind of flips the wrist around. There's a little something weird in this particular rig, so I'm just going to.
Go ahead and fix that.
And so now I've got a character.
That is hitting the ground and is hitting it really hard. So let's adjust some of this so I don't get this weird, like, humpback here.
Let's select this and move this up. And then I'm going to point his.
Head down a little bit more.
And the neck.
So there's the neck.
Okay, so now my character is hitting the ground.
And you'll see that you're going to get this weird kind of blend in between. But like I said, right now we're.
More concerned with the key poses.
So in this case, I've got this key pose here where the character is leaning back. And then I've got this pose here where the character is hitting the ground. And like I said, we want him to start and end in the same pose. So let's go ahead and set a key on our keyables. And then I want him to return to his idle pose.
So we'll go ahead and we'll set that at 30. So if I just make sure that my animation isn't too long here, you can see my character leans back, he.
Swings through and he hits the ground.
And then he returns to idle pose.
Okay, so now I've got the key poses. And you can see there's only three real key poses in the whole animation. There is the idle pose, the recoil.
And then the actual impact. So now what I'm going to do.
Is I'm going to go in and I'm going to add in what are called breakdown poses. Breakdown poses are sort of the actions that happen in between the big main key poses and they help to make the character flow. They display physics like follow through or weight. And so what I'm going to do is I'm going to add the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to add in a breakdown pose right here, sort of in between, so that my character doesn't look like he's.
Breaking as he's swinging through this.
And the big problem is that in that blend between what I remember the forward k and the IK, that blend is happening and it's sort of breaking the two pieces. So the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to align my.
IKS with my forward k. So I'll go ahead and align that and then.
I'll do the same thing here.
And again, this is a great thing.
About our rig system. You will see that we're having that.
Same problem with that wrist.
So there's some weird little thing happening there.
But I'm not going to worry about.
That too much right now. Because what I'm going to do is.
Now that my IK is aligned roughly.
I am going to go in and I'm going to change this back.
Forward k so now he's still swinging through and his arms are still being.
Controlled from the shoulders, but it looks.
Like that flow is going to happen.
A little bit better.
And so what I want to do is I actually want to change up this pose a little bit so that.
He'S leading with his root, his body.
Leading into it, but that his spine is leaning back.
So the same way that if you.
Get like you're in a car, you're on a jet ski or something like that and you get whipped around, your spine is sort of following your route. So in this case, the character is leaning back, but his weight or his root, the center of his mass is still leaning forward.
And I'm going to move that up a little bit so that it isn't too low.
And then another thing that I'm going to do is I'm going to make.
That foot plant happen a lot sooner.
So when you think about if you're doing like a lunge or you're stepping.
On a stair to go up, you.
Place your foot there first and then you transfer your weight onto it. Same way with this because it's an attack. And this is like a violent animation. I want that foot to plant so that he's drawing his body forward into this motion. He's pulling his weight forward and he's getting ready to kind of slam into the ground. It also makes a more interesting pose to have the foot planted on the ground. It makes like a big line of action. And I'll continue that by pulling these.
Arms back a little bit.
And I'll do that in just a second.
But what I can do is I.
Can actually select this foot pose and I can go here to where the foot is actually planted on the ground. And I can use the middle mouse button in Maya and I can slide it down without changing any of the pose. It sort of freezes time.
And then I'm just going to set another key.
So now if I just move this around again, you can see that the foot itself is where it's going to.
Be at frame 20.
And it just copied that pose. But because he's not quite there yet, he's not stepping down into it quite yet, what I'm going to do is I'm just going to raise this up.
A little bit and we'll go ahead.
And add in another pose for that foot later on to do what we.
Wanted it to do. So he's raising his foot up, he's swinging through. And then, like I said, I want.
To continue this line of action into his arms and I want to draw.
His arms back behind his body so.
That it looks more like he's following through or the body is sort of leading.
And I'm not going to worry right.
Now about cutting through his ears or his horns or anything like that. I'm more worried about just the kind of the placement of the limbs. So you can see now they're pulled even further back than they were at the very top of the pose. And that's sort of saying that he's moving so fast that all those joints are even stretching a little bit further so it adds to the force of the animation.
So he's going to swing through and then he's going to bang on the ground right here. But what I want is I want.
These arms to actually swing through just a little bit faster so that they.
Meet the ground before the character gets in there.
So what I'll do is I'll add another breakdown pose right here at frame 18. And again, I'll select because I'm going.
To copy the arms from frame 20. I'm going to go ahead and set both of these to be using that.
IK system that were talking about and I'll fix any of these problems that we've got.
Okay, so copying from frame 20 and.
Placing it at 18. So now my character is boom swinging through.
We see this little weird kind of twist up here, but I'm not going.
To worry about that right now. I can fix that a little bit later before we export it. So now my character is swinging through.
And boom, he's hitting.
Now what I want to do is I want to hold this pose at the bottom. So my character now he looks like he's swinging and hitting, and it's a little bit better.
But what I'm going to do is.
I want him to stay down here to increase the impact of that motion.
So right now, he just kind of.
Swings and then he stands right back up. So I'm going to hold him here.
At the bottom, and I'll do that.
By just selecting all my keyable controls.
And again, middle mouse button. And I'm just going to drag this.
Out to frame 25.
And so my character is going to stay down there, but I'm going to change the pose very slightly so.
That my character doesn't look like he's getting stuck. What I'll do is I'll raise him.
Up here, and I'm going to bring his back up just a little bit like this. And then his head can sort of.
Come up here.
But the arms stay planted.
So he slams down and then the.
Arms stay planted, and then he stands back up. So we're getting this kind of weird little rotation that's in here. Let me open up. Let me go here to my workspaces. I'm going to change this to animation. And I will close that and close that.
Sorry about that.
And I'm going to use what's called the graph editor. And you can see this is the graph editor here. It is a curve representation of the key poses that we have on our character or the keyframes. And for this weird IK rotation, I'm just going to run just a little script on it. So I'm going to go over here to curves, and I'm going to say Euler Filter. And pardon me, where is it? Euler Filter. And it's going to run that.
So now I should not get that flip. All right, good.
We're not getting the flip on that arm. Let me go ahead and go do.
It on the other arm. And this is just sort of a.
Way for us to kind of fix any of these problems. It's just a math issue.
So we'll hit Euler filter.
So now we're hitting.
All right, so that's all looking good right there.
So my character has the basics of the animation in there, right? So let's go ahead and minimize that so we can see him at a larger speed.
And let's go ahead and play through.
Now, I don't know what the frame rate is that we're getting on discord.
But you should be able to see the animation kind of moving through. Okay, so this is looking pretty good.
In terms of just, like, the general flow of a character animation, but what it's lacking is it's lacking some of the timing and the impact.
So let me just check in discord.
Here, make sure we're all good.
All right, AMI, are we good?
All right, looks like we're good. I didn't see anything in the chat, but I've got this character and he's.
Going through the motions. He's just kind of swinging through. But what's happening is everything is sort of looking exactly the same. All the beats are happening at the same time. So now we get into the timing component of animation. I've got the mechanics in right. I've got the character moving, I've got the keys set. We can go in, we can add exaggeration and stuff. But now is the time that I'll tear into the animation and I'll make a timing pass. So what I want is I actually want the character to rise up and hold this a little bit longer. And then I want the impact to actually be a little bit faster. So if you think about it, this 30 frames, like right now, this animation is happening over the course of 1 second.
That's actually not that bad.
We can probably make it just a little bit longer. But what's happening is all of the things that are happening within that 1 second are happening at the same rate.
So I have the first half of.
The animation is the rise up. The second half of the animate or the second third of the animation is the slam. And then the last third of the animation is the stand up. So I want to hold and exaggerate certain poses and then make other things happen a little bit more quickly.
So in order to do that, I.
Will select all of my keyable controls.
All my rig, and I'm going to.
Say I want my character to reach this apex a little bit faster. So let's say I want frame eight.
Or frame seven to happen at frame four.
So now my character rises up and you can see that he holds this.
A little bit further.
And I'll just go ahead and take the foot pose and I'll copy it over. So now my character is rising up.
He brings his foot up and maybe want to saturate that out just a little bit.
And like right here, maybe he's bringing it up. So now I'm creating another breakdown pose. And in that breakdown pose, my character is pulling back. Another thing to increase the exaggeration and the interest of the pose is to.
Kind of drag those hands behind so his wrists are still sort of like.
Holding on to where they were. So you can see that he's leaning back and then he's bringing those wrists back. And then I want to take this frame at frame ten.
And I want to push it, let's.
Just say push it two frames. So now he stands up and he holds that pose at frame twelve. And then the actual swing you can see now went from I think it's like eight frames here before he slams or even ten frames to eight frames I'm going to actually reduce that even further. So this first part of the swing, let's just say we'll leave it at three frames. This second part of the swing, I want to happen even faster, like one frame, so you can see almost gets there.
We'll say two frames here, gets there.
Even just a little bit faster. And then this last part, when he slams down, I want that to happen at one frame.
So you can see now the impact is much larger.
Okay, so this is pretty good.
And then, like I said, I'm going.
To extend this to 35 frames and I'll pull that.
All right, so now my character is going to stand back up.
So let's go ahead and run through.
This real quick so you can see.
That my character now, he's a little bit more flowy.
He feels like he's got a little bit more weight.
And I'm going to even exaggerate this a little bit further. And the way I'm going to exaggerate it a little bit further is like, right here.
What I'm going to do is I'm.
Going to pull this character back all the way back there so he's like almost further back than when he was reeling back.
So my character reaches up and then.
You can see it's almost like elastic. He's, like, pulling that spine way back there. And then he's going to slam down. Now when he slams down. Now that I've got this timing into a good place, let's just say that this is what I would call timing locked. So I would show this to a designer. I would show this to the art director. I would show this to another animator, and I'd say, well, what do you think of this general timing? There's lots of problems with the animation itself, but what do you think about how fast this is or how slow this is? We might even take this and put it into the game engine and use it. You can see that it took us.
Like 25, 30 minutes to make that.
So we would take this, we'd put it into the game engine. We'd say, how does it look? If it looks good, then you can invest more time in it. But if it doesn't look good, you've only wasted a half an hour of your day.
So being fast and efficient is just.
Part of being in the industry.
So I'm going to go ahead and.
Swing this guy a little bit further. And right here, when he impacts, I'm actually going to take the hands here and I'm going to scale them up a little bit too.
So right when he makes the impact.
I'm going to take those hands and.
I'm just going to make them a little bit bigger. So he's going to swing and boom.
They're going to get a little bit bigger. And I'll just go ahead and have.
Them settle a little bit there. So my character impacts.
Now, it looks really bold when it's here and maybe we need to pull it back just a little bit. But if you watch it in motion, it's almost like transparent. You don't really see it. It just makes the impact just a little bit sweeter.
So let's just go ahead and we'll.
Scale them down just a little bit. Okay, so now that I've got this to a timing locked pose and we got about 15 minutes left in the demo, so what I'm going to do is I'm going to start offsetting the keys. And what do I mean by that? Right, so that's a term that you hear a lot in animation. It was something that you heard back in 2D animation and it's something that we do in 3D animation as well. If you look at all of my.
Keyable controls, all of the things that are happening, his foot moving, his chest.
Moving, his arms swinging back, his foot planting, all those things are happening at the same time. They're all happening on the same keyframes here. So he's back and he's leaning back.
It's all happening at frame twelve.
So when I add overlap or follow through, what that means is I take some of the keyframes on some of the different parts of the body. In this case, it's going to be the head. We'll start with the head and the.
Neck, and I make those happen at.
A different rate, right? So I have them happen at a different time. So when he's coming back, I'm actually going to lean the head forward just.
A little bit like this, so that he is sort of looking back in.
The direction that he was in. And then he's going to lean the.
Head back as he's swinging through. Okay?
And what this does is it gives your character a little bit more weight. It shows that there's physics and forces acting in the world and it makes for a more interesting pose. Instead of the whole pose just being.
Kind of an arc leaning back, I've.
Got this sort of an S curve now with the pose where the character.
Is up on his toes, he's curving.
Through his back and then he's leaning.
Forward with his head.
So I'm going to do the same thing, but I'm going to do it now at the point of impact. You can see that right here, my character is sort of like leaning into the pose with his head.
I'm actually going to take that and.
I'm going to go the complete opposite direction. I'm going to lean his head way.
Back and then right here, before he lands, I'm going to take this key.
Which is right now happening when everything else happens, and I'm going to pull it and make it happen later. So this is that follow through. The head is following through with the spine. It is following the spine.
It's coming after it. So now the head, you can see.
Is kind of swinging down.
And then I'm just going to have.
It leaning a little bit more forward here.
And then when he stands up, I'm.
Actually going to have the head leaning forward a little bit too.
Again, very similar to when he leans back. So now my head leans back like that. All right, good.
So that's looking pretty good. Same thing here with my arms. So right now my arms, when he.
Starts to stand back up, are moving with the body.
So what I want is I want my arms to sort of stay on the ground for a few moments as he stands back up. So he's going to kind of push himself back up. So let's go ahead and take these frames that are at frame 24, and we're going to move them to frame 27. And then, because I'm blending a little bit here, I'm going to select these and I'm just going to set them to fully IK.
And that's it. Fully IK. So now he's kind of pushing off.
And I'm going to lean it down just a little bit so that it looks like it's still kind of connected to the ground.
So, boom, he leans back.
All right, so I'm getting a little bit of popping here. Let me see if I can fix.
That with my shoulder. Move the shoulder down a little bit. There we go. So now he's going to start standing up. And then the last thing I want.
To show you is what we call the settle of a character. So he's returning to his idle pose. He's going back into that stationary pose that he was in.
But when you and I move, when.
We stand somewhere, we don't just immediately, boom, pop into position, stick straight up and down, right? Because we have weight, because our body has mass. Well, these characters have the same thing. And so what I'll do is I will extend this just a little bit.
More, and I'm going to select all of my keys here and I'm going.
To just copy this pose here, frame.
35 to frame 41.
And that's just kind of a guess, right? So 41 is just a little bit beyond that.
And what I want to do is.
I want to have my character kind of settle in. So when he steps with his foot.
And I want that to happen just a little bit faster too, I'll go.
Ahead and have that happen here at.
Frame 31, and I'm going to have.
Him step up a little bit. So the foot's going to kind of.
Come up just a little bit.
And then here in this pose, the root is going to come up just a little bit too. So he's standing up, he's drawing that foot back. He's putting it back down. And then when the root or when.
The center of the character's mass comes.
And lands, I want that to kind.
Of come down a little bit because.
He'S stepping and he's sort of settling his weight.
So we'll have the character kind of step down so he stands up, and.
Then you can see he kind of raises back up. So I'll go ahead and angle him.
Back into the pose just a little bit. So my character is going to come up here and then he's going to come back down. And you can see that he kind.
Of settles into the pose. And we'll do a little bit of his spine too. We'll kind of give him a little bit of swagger. So right here, he's kind of turning and leaning forward. And then right here, when he settles, we'll give him just a little bit of swagger. We'll kind of have him go sideways.
Just a little bit.
So now when my character settles in, you can see kind of sort of smooth moves into this last final pose. And then that way it makes it so that your character doesn't look very mechanical. It gives him just a little bit.
Of weight and we can go in.
We can add a lot more of that. Like with the arms, when he comes up here, the arms are maybe just.
A little bit bent.
And we'll move this back here and so that when he lands, you can.
See they kind of settle in just a little bit as well. Okay, so let's just run through the.
Animation one more time before we got to close it out and get any last questions. But you can see that the pose is looking a little bit more exaggerated. The animation is looking a little poppy. So this would be what the character does in the game. And when we see him in the game, a lot of it is going to be sort of behind him. So let's take a look at what.
It looks like behind him. Okay, that's looking pretty good.
And then one thing that as animators, we always do is if you just take your animation, and right now, let's say my animation is 41 frames.
So it's like ten frames longer.
It's like 1.3 seconds.
So what I'm going to do is.
I'm going to take this whole thing, the all animation, and I'm just going.
To shorten it by about, I don't.
Know, let's just say four frames, five frames. So my animation is about 10% faster.
So let's go ahead and see what that looks like. And so that's one of the things.
That I found is when I animate, my first pass is generally a little bit slow, especially when you put it in the game and you're seeing it at gameplay speed. So adding that extra little boom, I'm going to back it up and I'm going to reduce this overall speed by.
About 10% tends to make your animation look even better. So I'll go with this.
I would put this in the game and see what that looks like and pass that by a designer. So that is about it. That is the process of animation that we're using here on Wildcard with our characters. There's a lot of little nuance that I'd love to get into in sort of the future art and chills. But that's just the general overview of the process. And I would be happy to answer any questions or if somebody has some thoughts, I'd love to hear them. Go ahead and stop my screen share now.
So I do have one from Leah who's curious to know what your favorite part of animation is and also the hardest part.
Okay, so my favorite part is the blocking phase because it's like you're posing a character. I've done armature animation, stop motion animation. And when you're doing that, sort of the fun is like finding the pose, right? So when you're drawing, like, when you're drawing, you always want to draw the exaggerated pose. The hardest part of the animation is the last 10%. The first 10% is like, my favorite part, and the hardest is the last 10% because you can make mistakes early on and you can kind of tweak things very easily. But once you've started animating and you have something, it's like drawing on top of a drawing that you've been illustrating for 10 hours or something like that, eventually that minutiae and that little stuff just becomes tedium. And that's like when you talk about like a Pixar Animator. We work in the video game industry, so we don't get as detailed as somebody in Pixar Disney DreamWorks.
Those guys, they'll animate on a scene for like two weeks. And I can imagine that at the end of that two weeks, they're probably like, I never want to see this thing again.
So kind of in the same vein. Monte. Sorry, correct me. Monty in Chat is wondering, on a normal day, how many animations do you usually do?
So our characters can have up to 100 animations, but the character that you saw as a minion is a summon. It's like any one of the other characters that's in the game right now. So like lump or sport or any of those characters, they'll generally have anywhere between 20 to 30 animations. The goal should between ten and 15 animations a day. And that sounds like a lot. But when you think about some of those animations are like a jump. And a jump is literally like your character is squatting down to your character is pushing off. So it's a very short animation. But ten to 15 animations a day, that lets us get animation set in for a character in about two days that'll be in that kind of roughed out form. And then when we go back and we refine, probably an additional day and a half, two days.
So probably four days per character is the goal for a summon. If it's more complicated and it has a lot of different stuff, I think. I saw one summon coming down the pipe that had three heads. So if it has three heads, it's probably going to take a little bit longer. With a champion, like a bulgar or a lock, those can take between two and three weeks to get a good animation set in because they have so many animations because they require player input or they respond to player input. So instead of just like a jump animation, you've got to have like I think we have like 15 or 20 animations just for the jump, because you can double jump and you can turn left and right in the air and you can kick your legs and you can do an attack and an ability.
So those take a lot longer. But I would say, in general, if you can get an eight hour day of animation in, you can probably knock out 20 to 30 animations for a summit or for a champion in a day because their animations are generally more specific and short.
All right, Pierre is wondering, how long did it take you to learn to make everything look so natural? And how long did it take you to get to work this smoothly with the IDE?
So I am still working on that. I think, as any artist will tell you, they're in the school of the world, right? They're a student of life. And so no artist should ever say that they are done or that they've learned everything there is to learn. I am just learning every single day. I would say the animation that I did in school really helped me to get started. But you don't really learn your craft until you get out into the industry and you're sort of constantly learning. I would say I was probably a decent animator by the time I had been in the industry, about ten years, and I'm probably like a six or a seven out of ten right now, so I have plenty of room to grow. I would say that I love working in Maya because I've worked in It and I work in 3D.
Max and I've worked in blender. I do animation in After Effects and even some animation in Unreal. And I will say that a lot of it is if you can work in a program long enough that the program becomes transparent. That is the best part about it. Like just pushing through that learning stage is the most difficult thing, so that you can do the art and not have to worry about how the tool functions or working against the machine. The machine becomes kind of an extension of the artist. So I would say that is the best answer that I can probably give. My rigging skills are probably about a seven out of ten, too. So for the first, I guess, seven, eight years of my career, I worked in the cinematic department and then I did cutscenes. That's actually where I met the CEO of the company that we're at now was were working together at Ensemble Studios on Halo Wars.
And so I had to do all the rigging and stuff too. So I did rigging in Maya from the time I was in my junior year in college all the way through, even today. But that being said, those rigging programs, like auto riggers, they're incredible. You could see that the tools that I was using made things so much easier. Like, I worked in a tool set the other day where it didn't have a mirror function. And you're like, oh, God, I got to animate the arm twice, right? So it seems silly. It seems like you're kind of living in a comfort zone, but if you have that many animations to do and at Wildcard, we're a small team. I don't even know what we are now, like, 30 people or something like that. We're punching above our weight. We're looking at teams that are 200, 300 people.
So we have to find ways to make things efficient and fast. And that auto rigor script, that advanced skeleton five, makes things so much easier. It's just like a warm blanket.