If you haven’t checked out Part One or Two of this write up, go ahead! They talk about the initial animation process and how I got the my works from Maya into Unreal Engine. This part is all about polishing up the animation to create the final piece below.
So I had created an animation that I was rather proud of, but if there was any chance I could push it further, I would do it! And so I turned to the internet to gather feedback. I chose three platforms to seek critique; LinkedIn, Twitter, and the Level Up! Facebook group.
All I can say is that this was really worth while!
At the time of writing this…
… my Facebook post got 315 likes, 22 comments (mostly asking what software I used and telling me that I needed ‘More weight’), and 13 shares… which is nice?
… my LinkedIn post got 2,380 views, 103 likes and 11 comments, which had more focused feedback.
… and Twitter got a staggering 16 views, 1 like and 2 comments – both of which were me giving updates… in case anyone on twitter was interested. Turns out they weren’t.
Come on, twitter. You let me down.
From Facebook I got a lot of people simply telling me to ‘add more weight’. I had a couple of other comments saying that the swinging on the branch felt off, and one comment about the somersault at the start feeling like she was floating. Words no animator wants to hear. Interestingly I got a comment saying that the whole thing has the same pace and gravity. That comment made me think – I had started this exercise by copying poses and timing, I thought as long as it (more or less) matched the original, it was a successful piece. Now I had someone commenting on the pace of the animation, which for me meant a lack of texture, dynamics in timing, and that it was maybe too rhythmic and predictable.
I had never thought of animation like that before.
Short of moving a half of my keys around, there wasn’t really much I could do about pacing in my one day of polish, but it is definitely something to consider in the future. But it made me think – up to now the piece had been a carbon copy (as much as I could achieve) of the original. But at this stage I should really be looking to make it my own.
Where Facebook gave me ‘Add more weight’ (and Twitter gave me NOTHING), LinkedIn gave me an idea of how to add more weight. I got a wonderful couple of comments that gave some detailed criticism. I got the following feedback from Jerome Rodgers-Blake, a 3D Animatior at Kuato Studios;
“Ok this is going to be quite lengthy.
Overall I like your animation there’s some good poses and ideas in here I can tell you’ve spent quite abit of time on this. However.
I feel a majority of the action is moving at the same speed. During some of your landings have her squash for slightly longer to emphasise her weight, then make her spring up into the highest part of her jump much quicker than she landed to emphasise her athleticism and power.
I like your use of the smeer frame as she swings up but I feel the pacing of the following action is too slow and the smeer frame seems out of place because of it.
What I would recommend is to keep the smeer frame as is but have her quickly spring to the highest point of her jump in the next action. Think of the character as an elastic band; when you let go it fires off quickly you can get away with this since she is a ninja in a cartoonish art style.
At the end of the sequence the way she leaps out of frame seems needs work I don’t think you have captured the transference of her weight shifting as she jumps from beam to beam then exiting the frame.
I must reiterate that I actually like your animation. I just feel you can make it better. :)”
That was the feedback I needed. Thinking of athleticism like a spring, and the swing motion like an elastic band – this was the stuff my animation was missing. The swing was too kind, floating around in comfortable arcs that held no urgency. The feedback about pace now made sense – the flow of the swing didn’t gather energy and release it, it was leisurely and lacked that expressive, dynamic explosion of movement. The same went for the jumps at the end. More verticality, more spring, more squash – this gives the feeling of weight.
Now that I had my feedback, I needed to put it into action.
Here is the final polished animation as a playblast render straight from Maya. The reason I have added this is because I find it easier to see the animation without any of the flashy effects, motion blur or complex background muddying the piece up. It also has some facial animation, just to give a bit of life to the character in those close up shots. Unfortunately the facial animation would not export correctly with the current setup, which is why I had to abandon this animation for the UE4 render.
The great thing about feedback is that you can choose to take it or not. There are a couple of elements that I didn’t quite agree with, or once I put them into practace, decided they didn’t work as well. Below are three shots – one, four and five – illustrating what had been updated. I cant promise you will see the difference straight away, but I think, for animation, it is more about the feel of the piece rather than the individual poses, in the same way that you would judge an author by the feel of the writing, not the individual words used.
In shot one, I chose to tweak the spring and height of the somersault, giving the character more of an upward spring rather than the forward spring she had before.
I tweaked a number of things in shot four; there is a little more weight in the steps as she climbs up the environment before the leap across, but I hope you would agree that the major change is in the swing of the branch. Before, she was jumping to the branch, catching herself and gently swinging around. What I needed was for her to aim past the branch, catch her energy and spring it upward in a dynamic snap. This meant adjusting a lot of the poses along the path of the leap before the swing.
In shot five, I had to add a little more time to help remove that swimming feeling she had. A little more time on the contact poses as she preps for the next leap, and a quicker spring with a little more height has helped sell this as more of a believable and appealing shot.
Since finalising the animation, I posted the new video up to LinkedIn (because Twitter failed me), and I have to say I have been absolutely blessed by the response.
212 likes, 23 comments (all of which are encouraging and congratulatory) and 4,135 views.
Now I know you aren’t supposed to merit your life by the number of likes you get, and I try not to, but as an animator who doesn’t seem to get that much exposure, this is a real encouragement. Don’t get me wrong, I also get that most of the views are people watching it again and again, but that almost makes it more worthy. People are wanting see deeper into the animation, to give proper feedback and encouragement, and I have to say, it’s been really great to see.
Linked In has been a great way for me to exhibit my work and, most importantly, get the feedback I needed, and I would like to thank everyone who has given anything to help me make this animation look how it does.
So that’s it for now! Until next time!
Cheers guys, and thanks for reading!