Blocking Followup

Sorry its been so long since a post. Its been busy at work. As you can imagine, things are in full crunch on UP and I am busy on TS3. I wanted to address some of the questions that came in.

A question came in about what I meant about blocking on 4′s. Basically, when I block something, I try not to let the computer inbetween more than 4 frames. Its not a rule, I just find that 4′s is what I lean towards. Some people block on 8′s, some on 3′s. It all depends on your work method and what the scene calls for. To be honest, I only start with 4′s. Sometimes I shift keys around as needed.

Victor Luo wrote in some interesting stuff about how the computer either helps or hinders us. How many keys should we be doing? I think this really depends. The computer obviously does not understand animation principles. Its up to us to throw in the breakdowns. Where the computer gets good, is at the minutia of detail. A head shake, and eye flutter, an ease in, etc. We have to be smart about how we use the computer. Most of the magic lies within the Spline Editor. Regarding your question about who the guy was who used linear knots… It was Steve Hunter back on the days of Toy Story 2. He switched over after much peer pressure. I cant talk for Steve, but I suppose animators use linear knots because they don’t want any surprises. Linear knots can be good for alot of things, but give an almost stop motion feel. I am not sure, but I think many scenes from Chicken Little were animated using linear and you can see it in some of the animation. Some scenes had a bit of a stocatto feel. Having seen some of Bolt, I can safely say that it seems that Disney has embraced the Spline. The animation on that film looks amazing! Not to say that Chicken Little did not have amazing animation as well. I am mostly talking about linear vs. Spline.

Abel Salazar wrote in to use step keys on 4′s and 5′s, then go linear, then go spline. I imagine that this method is used by many animators who prefer the xsheet “step key” method. I can’t speak for this because I don’t really use this style of blocking. The whole reason I have not switched over to the step key method is because I prefer to see every frame of animation I am doing. This can be tough on the front end, but better for me on the back end when I am polishing. At that point I am familiar with my curves and know what to fix.

David Beer asked if I key all the major body parts on every 4 frames. Actually, I only key the things that are changing. A Lot of this has to do with the fact that I can see the controls I am blocking very clearly. I’m not sure if I would key every body part if I were using Maya. In general, you want to block with as few controls as possible. Block the core controls on every 4th frame like the hips, torso, neck and head. Again, you can clean up your curves once you get into the spline editor.

Rob Somers wrote in about off setting keys. Hey Rob, I think the question was answered by David, but offsetting keys can work for certain things like how a limb of an arm overlaps or how a body turns. You either have to build it into the pose or let the curves do the work for you. This method works more with the layering approach.

Oliver L. wrote in about blocking arms. Use IK to solve a joint angle. Meaning, if the character is contacting something or holding an object it makes sense. FK is for acting and for general movement. I usually block the arm with some sort of world align on. This give me even more control over the acting patterns and general movement of the limb. It makes it so that I don’t have to counter animate if I am moving the body around. Ultimately, these are all tools, not rules. Whatever works for you is the best method.

Well, thanks again for all the great feedback. Keep it coming. I know the site is still broken in places and I need to know where its broke so I can fix it. I appreciate all the support.