Iona Dolidze gave an insight into action animations for characters such as walking, running, jumping, attacks and more.
My name is Iona Dolidze, I am from Georgia. I started to learn Maya and animation by myself when I was 17 (now I’m 24) and had kept self-studying until 2018. Now I’ve just completed the iAnimate Game Animation Workshops. It was a great journey.
I had the opportunity to work on Georgian animated short “GENO” as an animator. I always took part in different animation challenges, and my favorite one was 11 Second Club. Currently, I work at Happy Bat Games studio making mobile games and look forward to work on bigger projects. So far, the journey in 3D animation was pretty interesting and challenging.
I really enjoy making action animations like attacks, dodges, combo moves, etc. but they are quite pretty challenging. I always start crafting my animations pose to pose and I go straight ahead during the polishing phase. For me, it’s the most effective way to do any kind of animation.
The most frequently used animations in games (and not only in games) are locomotion ones and it may sound weird but they are the hardest because walk, run and jump styles can define a character’s appeal, attitude, and personality. We always should be careful of what and how we are doing.
Many times we think we can make it without reference because, you know, we are humans, we know how we move, right? But actually, we don’t. We move subconsciously. When it comes to animating, it is very hard to imagine how every part of your body moves. So it’s very important to take a reference every time when possible. The main thing for defining the character’s personality is to create right poses and time those poses right. Timing, spacing and posing (appeal) are the most important animation principals for me because if done right, they can save hours of extra work and they give life and right feel to your shot.
We can split jump animation into 7 steps (poses):
- Standing (or any state)
- Jump (Contact)
- Fall (Contact)
- Standing (or any state)
When I say “Contact”, I mean it, because the contact poses are very important not only in the jump but in every animation where character contacts anything. Without contact poses, we won’t get right in-betweens from the software choice we’re using.
When making locomotion animations for games, another thing to consider is that the animations should blend into each other well. So, the only way to do this is by testing, testing, testing… I like to use Unity 3D for testing how my animation blends look like. Don’t like the blend? Go back and make it blend. Easy as that. There are many repetitive works to do in animation but they become fun when you approach it like a game.
The way to plan those animations to blend well is to be consistent in your poses. If my walk animation starts with the right foot, I would make my run animation to start with the right foot as well because if something is wrong when blending to walk animation, when I correct my walk, it will be easier and more intuitive to correct my run.
The rhythm is very important in every animation. We don’t hear it but we feel it. I call it subconscious hearing because it is that. No matter what the movement is, locomotion or action, rhythmic timing, and spacing will always scale the feeling of the animation up.
When an Object Is Involved
When the character is holding a sword, for example, things get a little bit complicated. The sword adds its weight to the body and becomes a part of it. This time follow through and overlapping action. Just as the character needs to anticipate his jump, he also needs to follow through his landing. The same thing applies to the sword. Have the hands lead the sword’s actions. The hands drag slightly behind the forearms and the sword drags slightly behind the hand. The rate of the “slightness” defines the strength of the movement of the sword. Don’t forget about arcs. Arcs make the animation look smooth and appealing as well. Linear paths make robotic movement and robotic movement and we don’t want that unless we animate a robot.
Advice for Learners
I always try to avoid floating movements as well as robotic ones. Nothing can ruin your animations more than floating and unbelievable movements. Always consider physics and exaggerate it to add more weight and stronger feeling.
The only thing that makes animation learning process long and difficult is procrastination. It is your main enemy not only in learning animation but everywhere. Always remember that practice makes perfect. This sentence is not a myth or legend, it’s real. Can’t make it? Nobody’s perfect, just do it again and again and again until you do it the way you wanted to. You will do it sooner or later and the most important thing is that while you are doing it, again and again, you face new problems that are waiting to be solved and teach you new things. I am always very happy when I meet a new problem in animation because I know that sooner or later, it will do good for me.
Iona Dolidze, 3D Animator
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev
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