Friday, 20 March 2020

Escape Studios Video Tutorial - Animate a Jump

Animating a jump
As we move toward online delivery of all our classes, we are rapidly building our already substantial resources at our online Vimeo Tutorial Channel.

Escape Studios has tutorials on every conceivable aspect of character and creature animation, and much else besides, including modeling, texturing, rigging, UVs, Houdini, FX, and compositing in Nuke.

Today we're focusing on mechanics - specifically how to animate a character jumping. This is something that all our animation students will tackle in their first couple of weeks, as part of learning the fundamentals of locomotion. You can find the video playlist (which, like all our tutorials, is password-protected) here.

Our goal is to animate a character jumping from one location to another. The action should include an anticipation, an action and a recovery at the end, and should feel realistic and believable.

Human jump by Edward Muybridge
Gather reference
First begin by gathering reference, and studying the mechanics. Search YouTube for video reference of people jumping.  Watch someone jumping yourself - study the motion.  Do it yourself - try a few jumps. What are the main poses?  Try to get a feeling for the timing. How long does it take to do a jump? Count it out - "one one-thousand, two one-thousand" etc. Also have a look at traditional resources such as the work of Edward Muybridge (right).

Animator's Survival Kit
Take a look at the pages on Jumps (p 212-216) in the Animator's Survival Kit - a book which all our students should have on their shelf. If you don't have a copy, you can buy it here.

Rigs & sets
No set is required but we encourage all our students to imagine the scene, and tell a story. What is the person jumping over, and why?  There are many free sets available for download at and other Maya websites.

Theory video
Below is a theory video which explains the basics of the action we want to animate.

Try Monty for your first jump
Suggested Work method
Part 1 – Hop with simple biped

1. Set your project and import a rig, such as Monty, the green pea

1. Create thumbnails based on live action reference or the handout. How long will the action take? 2-3 seconds?

2. In Maya, set your timeline from frame 101 to (approximately) frame 149.

3. Referring to thumbnails, block out the main poses. Start with the start position, then do the anticipation position, and so on. Follow the timing in the thumbnails exactly.

4. As you set key frames, make sure you keyframe all the body parts, body and feet. This will make sure the feet don’t slide.

5. Add breakdown positions and tweak your animation. Make sure the main action is working and lock down the feet so they don't slip and slide.

Jump thumbnails by Cliff Nordberg
6. Go through each body part in turn - head, arms etc, and make sure the animation is working. Be sure to save whenever you get to a good point.

Feel free to add a simple set, plus some simple lighting, at any stage.

Part 2 – Hop with Human Biped
Now do the same thing but with a character with arms, such as the Morpheus rig.

Jumps Videos at our Vimeo Channel
To find our tutorial videos on how to animate a jump, follow this link.
Like all our tutorials, it is password-protected). If you're a current student or Escapee, email me for the password.

Online Teaching at Escape Studios Continues
Our students may not be attending class in person these days, but teaching continues. This week Michael Morgan taught his animation evening class online using Zoom. On Wednesday night Plamen Ananiev taught Toonboom Harmony, and Sandra Duchiewicz taught Concept Art.  Jonathan McFall is also teaching his Monday evening class in Character Creation on an online platform.  If you're working from home, and you need to buy a laptop, see our top tips here.

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To find out more about our new BA/MArt, now recruiting for September 2020, follow this link.   To apply, visit the offical page here.

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