Creating a new Jump parkour animation using reference (body mechanics)

After the number of issues with the previous animation based on a parkour jump (in the previous blog post) I have completely remade this animation. Using a real time clip from the same video ( I have used this footage as reference to animate the Simple bot rig to help me understand basic body mechanics in characters. Below are the different stages of my animation using the playblast setting in Maya to help show the various adaptations in the different files I have made for this animation. 

This the reference footage clip from the link below that I have edited in Premiere pro CC to help me have a short clip that will help to develop my understanding of body mechanics in character animation. Watching this clip through carefully I will be able to develop and refine the animation using the reference to help get the keyframes and key poses for the character.

The video above is the first playblast for the jump parkour animation, where I have watched carefully through the reference footage in Quicktime player. Using the footage I scrolled through each individual frame, setting up the simple bot rig into a pose in frames of 6. This allowed me to get a basic timing for the animation so I could block the keyframes and poses that would show the jump across the blocks. As the reference footage had an environment I used the cube polygon primitive and the move/ scale tool (W,R) to help me move them into similar positions.


As seen in the screenshot above I have a basic blocking animation with a stepped graph, allowing me to get the basic keyframes in each frame. This will then play through each of the keyframes step by step almost like a animatic where the images come up to get the basic blocked poses.

After getting the blocking all down I decided to change the graph editor into plateau rather than stepped this was because, I could then develop my blocking to see how the character moved naturally rather than going to individual frames. As you can see above without editing the animation with the plateau graph, there are lots of parts where the legs slip or move unnaturally so I will go through with the graph on the side and edit the animation to have smooth arcs in the graph.

This is the final playblast where I have smoothed out the animation using the graph editor below to help me get those natural movements that match the reference footage. However gaining some feedback from my brother I saw that the beginning of the animation looks a bit unnatural and stop and start. Looking through I realised that (if you can notice) the character hops on the same leg at the start rather than going from leg to leg like the reference footage. Plus the drop to the next step looks like the character floats down rather than stepping down so I need to edit these in the graph editor to help develop my animation.


This graph shows all the natural arcs that I have edited in the final animation with the hips and legs to move with those natural arcs. Furthermore after making the necessary adjustments to the animation I will need to add some facial expressions and some movement in the antennas. So perhaps I could add some blinking or breathing actions in the mouth to make a more interesting animation.

Above is the final render for the side view of the jump, parkour animation where I have developed the animation from the previous playblast, by changing the hop into one step from the other allowing me to have a more natural movement. Looking at the side view I can see that the animation looks more appealing compared to the original movement as the drop does not float now but drop naturally as a step. Furthermore looking at this side view I can see that the hips move up and down allowing me to have that basic body mechanics.

This is the front view for the animation, where I have shown the refinement I have developed in the facial expressions into the animation. So after refining the movement in the animation, I decided to add some extra features to help bring a personality to the character. Using the facial controls I added some mouth movement to show breathing, as well as some blinks to give that more natural look to how the a real life person like in the reference footage would act when they are jumping like this.

This is the perspective view on the jump parkour animation, where I have made sure that the graph has those smooth arcs, providing a natural hip movement when the character bounces up across the scene. Looking at this view I can see that the character bounces naturally through the steps, making some appealing timing for the movement of the steps providing me with a similar animation to the reference footage.

These two scenes above have been animated using the camera to help match the reference. So using the camera I think that I should of animated all of the animation to the camera. So for next time I shall animate the character to the camera, which is what I should have done. Furthermore I need to animate everything in the blocking part of the animation, allowing me to refine the animation later on, having the key frames for all the components of the character.

But I think this animation has come out nicely with the hip movement looking natural. But I shall develop the graph editor a little more as looking at some of the movement it looks like it stops and then starts compared to the reference footage that shows the person never stopping. So the next stage is to fix the changes that I have come across and get some feedback to make some further improvements. Next time I shall animate to the camera rather than using the basic perspective view, but I shall go between the views to help move the parts of the character.


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