Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Battleball Process

I decided to talk a little about the process I used when animating on Battle Ball. The thing that made this project interesting was how fast I had to animate. As I mentioned in the reel I posted, most shots were completed in 5-12 hrs...so basically a day for each shot. Here's a hopefully in depth look at how I animated a shot for this project. I've broken it down into steps with videos for each one. This shot took me about 10 hrs to complete.

The first thing I did when starting on this project was research. After coming to the conclusion that my bball skills aren't quite amazing... I decided not to shoot reference of myself and instead search for videos of people who are far more talented than me. I spent a long time basically just looking for videos of stuff that was cool, it was a blast. Later I started combing this videos and making notes...use this dribble, then that dunk...and that celebreation, etc etc. For this animation I combined 2 reference videos..a dribble and a dunk. I mainly just used them as rough reference, as this dunk is one that a human couldn't do in real life and I ended up changing lots of things in the dribble too. I like how in a lot of street ball players would bounce the ball off their opponents face...so I also decided to add that in...but in a more extreme way haha. Here's a clip of the combined reference

I actually animated the dribble in the beginning in a previous shot, lots of the moves in our game share dribbles (as they were the most complex to animate) so I won't go through the step by step of how I animated that...but here it is.

The 1st thing I usually did when approaching these dunks was a real quick pass on the timing of the jump. This helps get a sense of how much hang time there will be. I only animate the root of the character and basically treat him like a bouncing ball.

After I get a rough feel of the timing I switch to stepped mode and start blocking in my keys. I break up the animation in 2 parts - The Jump & The Hanging on the rim. I tend to break up my animations into chunks like this and work on them in sections, it helps me not feel as overwhelmed...especially on long shots. So this is rough blocking for the 1st part of the shot

After I finish blocking on the 1st part, I move on to the second. I now have the whole shot blocked in.

After I get the whole shot blocked I spend a bit of time adding more inbetweens and refining the timing. I try and make sure I have enough here that when I finally spline it I hopefully don't have a lot of clean up to do (which helps save time). The more keys you add in in this phase, the less inbetweening the computer will do...which is good cause they can be dumb :P For adding inbetweens I use the tweenMachine plug in..I find it super useful.

Then I hit the spline button and cross my fingers. This is what the whole shot looks like right after I splinned everything....not too good...but not too bad. The legs and arms are doing all sorts of wonky things (since I'm doing a lot of ik/fk switching) but all in all not too bad. In this step, if things look too broken..or parts of the animation don't quite work/make sense, I go back to stepped and add more inbetweens/rework things, then spline again. In this shot I didn't have to do that.

I now start to polish the shot up. I read a tip by Shawn Kelly where he mentioned he hides the legs when cleaning things up and I've found that to be really helpful when animating more physical shots like this. I again am only working on the 1st half of the shot. I start with cleaning up the root and then work my way up the body. In some of the shots I'd even turn off the arms...but I didn't do that here.

After I'm semi satisfied with the 1st half of the shot I start looking at the last half...following the same plan as before....starting with the root and working my way up through the body. I've also added a little celebration bit to the end of the shot.

Now that I've got the upperbody feeling pretty well. I go back and repeat the process for the legs. It's now much easy to clean them up with the root/upper body more of less finished...I just go through and make sure the footfalls are in the right place and add overlap/drag for when he's in the air. As I've been doing throughout I start with just the 1st half of the shot.

Once the 1st half is cleaned up...I move on to cleaning up the legs in the last half

This is the final shot. I've went back and made sure everything hooks up well with the dribble I'm using and I added the reaction to the second character. There are definitely things I would want to fix, but lots of times when animating on games or in short timelines its about finding a balance of quantity & quality. This process helped me to animate quickly, but also end up with a result that I was satisfied with considering the time constraints. You can see my reel of Battleball animations HERE

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