After an overview of The Principles of Animation, The next things we learned are walks and runs. Animating walks and runs is simple to understand but infinitely complex in its variation. Everybody has a distinct way of walking. The way a character walks says a lot about a character and his/her mood. For example a confident character will walk differently than a wimpy character. That same confident character will walk differently when he's sad. As you can see, there are as many way to do a walk as there are characters and emotions.
The nuts and bolts basics of how to make a two-legged character walk is fairly simple. However he/she walks, he/she will go through some variation of four key drawings. The first is the stride or contact, where the forward foot first contacts the ground, but before the weight has been shifted to it. The second is the down or squash. Here, the character has shifted his/her weight to the forward foot. Usually, you would squash the character's leg down to take the weight. In real life, this squash is very slight, usually imperceptible; however, in cartoon animation this squash gives the walk and up and down action which is much more lively and appealing. The next key is the crossover or passing position. Here, the rear leg has left the ground and is coming in front of the front leg. Without this frame, the leg seems to pop from one side of the body to the other. The last key is the step or up position. Here, what was the rear leg has now passed the front leg and is outstretched, ready to make contact. After the step, the other leg contacts and the cycle begins again. With these four key, infinite variations are possible.
Walks can be animated from one part of the screen to another, or they can be done in a cycle. In a cycle, the foot on the ground, that would be stationary in real life, must move at an equal rate throughout the cycle, as if it were on a treadmill. Also, the first frame of the cycle should follow the last frame. With a cycle a background could be panned behind it, and it would look like one continuous walk. The first walk exercise we were given was a cycle of a character with extremely loose joints. I took this to an extreme.
Walks can also be done in perspective. The keys are the same. The only difference is the added complexity of perspective drawing. Start with a perspective grid on the ground plane. The length of a grid square is the length of the character's stride. First, using the grid, draw in the stride positions. Then it is simply a matter of animating through the four keys between each stride. The next exercise was to animate the same character from the cycle in a perspective walk.
After walking we covered runs and turning. A run is basically the same as a walk except its faster and at one point both feet are off the ground. With a run there are also four keys. The first is the launch, were one leg is pushing off the ground, launching the body. The next is the mid-air key, where both legs are of the ground. Then the landing, where one leg, usually the one that did not launch, first makes contact with the ground. Finally, in the squash position, the landing leg squashes to take the weight, while the other leg passes in front. The squashed leg will be the one that launches in the next key. In a simple 90 degree turn, after the squash, instead of passing the front leg, that leg turns. Then the step is pretty much the same except now at a 90 degree angle, same with the contact. Here is a quick exercise I did to practice turning.
For the major assignment on walks, we had to animate the pink panther walking in a way that expressed emotion. First he had to walk across the screen, then turn an walk away from the camera in perspective. After four strides he had to stop, turn 270 degrees, then run off the screen. We were to follow the formula on all the walks, runs, and turns, except for the 270 turn we could be creative with. The emotion I chose for him was upbeat. I had him walking with a double bounce, where he goes down a second time during an extended crossover. For the 270 turn, I had him pirouette. To do this I studied youtube videos on how to pirouette.
Since the assignment I have continued to practice walks weekly. There is so much of character animation in this motion. I created another blog for my class to practice walks. Check them out a The Weekly Walk.