Workflow Methodologies Part II

April 2, 2010

I’ve animated a simple backflip to better illustrate my current (and ever changing) workflow, to put it simply, I got hold of a video reference, did some thumbnails to figure out the key poses, then threw it into Maya for blocking, splining and polishing. (Note: youtube is cutting off the last second of my animation for some strange reason. I’ll have to re-upload them later, or switch to Vimeo)

Video Reference

I downloaded this clip and covert it to .mov format so I can frame through it. Then I watch the clip over and over again taking note of the weight shifts, overall timing and whatever nuances it has.


I thumbnailed the key poses to get a better sense of the overall action. This step is really important, thumbnailing lets you sift out the “noise” present in all video reference, condensing it down to simple shapes, and in doing it you get a better sense of the poses and body mechanics involved. Don’t get over eager and skip this stage, I cannot emphasize enough how useful this is.


I usually work in stepped mode, that is, with stepped default tangents. This allows me to quickly make any changes I need and allows me to keep my focus on the poses. Depending on the animation, sometimes I go down to keying on twos to get the animation to read. I used to rush through this stage, getting into splining as fast as I can, that’s where all the animation takes place right? No. Blocking is animation, and it’s the foundation you build your shot on. Don’t fall into the trap of going “I’ll fix this in splining/polish”


I hate moving from blocking into splining from blocking. It makes my carefully crafted poses go nuts.

Holy crap. What. Happened.

Thing is, it’s normal for the animation to look a little crap when it goes into splining. Especially in Maya, the default tangents don’t work too good. Now we just need to go into the graph editor and start cleaning up the tangents, all the time keeping a close eye on the resulting animation.  But first, lets work on the hips and the legs. I’ve kept it fairly simple, it’s not final but we’re on the right track, moving along..

Now that that’s done, lets move on to the arms. Again, it’s not final, there’s some weird gimbal or strobbing at certain places but we can fix that later.

Then the head, and we’re done. I didn’t really do a polish pass this time round. Only fixed up some pops and weird gimbals, other then that I’ve left it as it is. It looks ok-ish to me now, so I’m just gonna stop here and move on to another clip 😀 In all it took me about 7 hours(including planning) to get to this stage. I’ll definitely want to do it faster the next time round, hopefully I won’t get too many gimbal issues tripping me up.


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