Polishing the Animations

So now that we are nearing the end of the game and all the animations have been complete it comes down to polishing.  That requires a lot of play testing and attention to detail.  Just because an animation is complete doesn’t mean it is done.  You can always improve upon an animation.  It is critical that you go over everything you animate before you send it off with your stamp of approval.  Its essentially proof reading your paper before committing.

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Animating a short film has a different approach then creating looping animations.   For example if I were to create a cut scene animation everything would be controlled by me and the user wouldn’t have a chance to break anything because they wouldn’t interact with it.  However when creating animations for a video game you have to deal with transitions.  Good transitions are something you won’t notice, its a difficult thing to accomplish.  The way I went about making this more manageable was to have a default pose which I used at the beginning of all my animations so once the animation was finished it would go right back to the default pose and move on to the next animation with no one noticing the transition.

A lot of the times what may seem like a good transition in maya might not look that good in unity.  Mainly because it all comes down to user input on the controller.  If you have an animation being spammed over and over it might not look as you wanted it to.  This happened with Kaia’s first jump animation.  I had the wings flap for the initial jump and then flap again on the double jump.  However when you played the game it felt as though she was flailing about to much and did not look how I wanted it too.  I ended up changing it so that she only flaps on the double jump.  This ended up with me changing the animation entirely but there are some transitions that don’t require such drastic changes.  For example the animation between the jump and the glide was not fast enough.  Luckily there is a lot of control unity can give you to help out.  You can tell unity which frame of your animation you want to start at and adjust the speed of the transition itself.  With a little fine tuning and number changes we ended up blending multiple animations much better through the character controller.
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I think the most difficult aspect of the the whole project would have to have been understanding how the transitions were going to play out in the game.  Attention to detail and communicating with the the programming team helped a lot from where we were to where we are now.  Another difficult aspect that many animators start out having trouble with is giving your animations a soul.  What I mean by that is you have to give it a little extra something that makes it unique.  There are many generic walking cycles out there but if you don’t give it that extra quality that defines what kind of walk cycle it is you’ll be missing out on your overall goal which is to give the character life and I think that is what it is all about.  Animation is creating life.

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Animations Blog

Hey!  Here’s an update on where we are at with the animations.  As of right now the only thing we have fully modeled is Kaia herself.  It took a little bit of hard work but I think I now have a good understanding of how I want Kaia herself to move.
I’ll be going over the research I did to bring this character to life.

To start I had to give Kaia her bones and controls so that I could move her anatomy just like an ordinary owl.  This process is called “rigging” and it takes a lot of time to get it right.  To keep it simple I’ll give you some pictures of the progress.

kaianorigHere she is looking so pretty. Now let’s take a look underneath the skin. 

CaptureEwww Gross!  I know right but this is necessary to make the character move.  I know it’s hard to see but each one of those small points is a bone, 98 to be exact.  Each one influences a piece of the Kaia’s body.  Once this was done we need to add controls to the bones cause no one in their right mind would want to move 98 separate bones.  That’s just crazy.  

w.controlsThere we go. So we took away the bones and now you can see only 28 controls.  Each one does something different.  I put a lot of control for the feathers because the animators like it when the controls are well designed and best suited for the type of animating you are doing.

Now to animate this thing I first had to become the owl.  So for a whole day I spent acting out how I would think an curious owl would.  Owls can’t move their eyes so if I wanted to look at something I had to move my entire head.  And if I wanted to move somewhere I would crouch down in a little ball and act it out.  If you think I would be crazy enough to do this in front of everyone you’re right!  We animators are pretty crazy but we have to get in character so that the animations reflect how we want them to feel.  During this time I also looked for inspiration on the internet from owls running in slow motion to watching the movie “Owls of Ga’hoole” like 13 times.  Great movie by the way.

So when you are making a game character you have a list of all the different animations you need to complete for each type of input you want your character to have.  I started with the most important ones so that the game would be playable as of right now.  That consisted of running, idle, jump, double jump, and glide.  There are many more that I have yet to do but I wanted to share with you what I have done so far.  

I hope that you are looking forward to the game cause I can’t wait either.  Right now I’m trying to figure out how an owl would swim underwater!  I’ll update you on that once I get it done.  Thanks for checking in and stay tuned for more!