Arm Rig Research- Human vs Mechanical

Focusing on the arm rig this week (from a different angle) I wanted to explore the different possibilities and looks that good be applied to making the arm look either mechanical or human.

Human arms follow more of a natural arc when moving from point A to B, much like Keith Lango described. However Robotic arms lack this fluidity and move straight to the points. I had a look at some examples of both these arm types.

Human Arms

Love the emotion expressed through the over exaggeration in these. Video courtesy of ultra sandwich.

The character at 0.26seconds of this show reel is my favourite. The strange arm movements are amazing. Video courtesy of AnimSchool.

The motions of the girl on the lounge chair are beautiful. Video courtesy of  CGMeetup.

Robotic Arms 

I liked the character still applied to this arm, it has its own little personality when pouring the drink, reflective of the person controlling it. Video courtesy of Mist.

The speed in the movement of the arm is also more varied than humans. It speeds through certain actions, holding some longer before springing to another. Video courtesy of Jamie Hamel-Smith.

I found some really cool shorts demonstrating the difference in human and robotic movements as they appear alongside each other.

‘SuperBot: A Magnifying Mess.’ This video shows the reflective human characteristics in the Robot’s movements, however its rigid robotic movement are still evident. Video courtesy The CGBros.

‘Wire Cutters.’ Looking specifically at the movement of the head how it is more ‘jittery’ than a human. Video courtesy of Jack Anderson.

‘Tea Time.’ Video courtesy of MadArtistPublishing.




Arm Rig..2

Ok so the next rig was to animate the arm again (though this time its upright, like a human arm). Based on the videos I watched previously, I went for more of a human look to the rig.

My first, not so good, attempt of an arm.

Alec demonstrated this  arm movement to me in 3D Dojo- yes I need all the help I can get.

I really like the anticipation I achieved in this arm movement, and the follow through from the claw.

Forceful arm motion- I think it needs more follow through at the end.

The Worm Rig

OK so here are the worm rigs that I animated for this week.

I had a little go, as a warm up exercise, with making the worm react in simple ways (I was struggling with the actual movement of the character).

So, first I made him watch the ball bouncing in front of him.

I was really happy with the movement of this worm rig as the stretch and squash gives it a good sense of the weight of the character as he moves along.

I then wanted to try and add some character to the worm- in this case I went for a ‘Snoopy’ style feel by making him sleep on the box.

Finally, I made him jump into the air, trying to push higher into the sky.


Revisiting the Arm..

So my arm rigs looked OK first time round’ however, I wanted to experiment with different arm motions following the overlapping and follow through principles.

Ok so this was a bit of a weird one for me. I wanted the arm to have a snake like quality to it, while it swung back and forth I wanted it to slither nearly.

For this, I wanted to explore what a stiffer arm would look like, like a mechanical arm.

For this I wanted to look like an actual human arm swinging for a ball. I really like how the follow through actually look as the arm swings back and pauses.



Further Animation Principles- Emotions and Blocking

So this week Alec sadly lost his voice- and so we had to do our own research!

Emotion in Simple Shapes– Alec has tasked us with making a worm blob move in a way that shows an attitude i.e. happy, sad, angry. He suggested we have a look into how certain expressions are conveyed and relate to our worm rigs. For example, happiness- humans often smile or could bob in joy, our worm could jump in joy. I wanted to have a look at some facial rigs, to explore the different emotions that could be conveyed.

Video courtesy of Dario Triglia.

Video courtesy of Jason Baskin.

Disney’s Floor Sack emotion poses. They show the use of emotion through a featureless creature.

Arcs– “arcs describe the path of action (travel) that various parts and things plot out when they move”- Keith Lango. Basically when something, such as an arm, moves from point A to B it doesn’t go in a straight line. Instead it swoops in an arc, looking more natural. Certain parts of the arm should move slower than others, giving a greater sense of flow.

Keith Lango showed a comparison video of the movement in an animation with the arcs and one without them. As you can see the first video looks very robotic whereas the second has a more characteristic human feel to it.

Video courtesy of AlanBeckerTutorials.

Staging– this is presenting an idea so that it is clear to the audience. Animators need to draw attention to the most important element in a scene, and the layout of a scene helps this.

Video courtesy of Gilles Charbonneau.

Stepped vs Splined- Alec advised we looked into the use of stepped and splines animation as shown on digital tutors.  Both are used for blocking animation poses, however with slight differences.

Stepped animation allows a cleaner animation as it prevents the computer filling between key frames. Basically you block out the key poses and then add the arcs manually.

Splined animation allows the computer to fill in these frames, timing can be altered with adding keyframes of moving them.

In these tasks I found that stepped animation really helped me, especially with the arm rigs, as it allowed me to control how I pictured the rig to work.

Stepped animation (or blocking pass). Video courtesy of Jesse Baumgartner.

Pose to Pose– this is creating or deciding the key poses for a character, then adjusting frames between these to create a smooth animation. Alec suggested we once again look at Keith Lango’swork, which was really helpful again. When working on my arm rig I attempted to place each pose then add the in-betweens.

This video shows the key poses in Disney’s Ratatouille. Video courtesy of googboog.

Do You Want to Build a Snowman progression. Video courtesy of BehindTheAnimation.

Lango also made an amazing summary of all the things we need to look for when animating, from line of action to silhouettes, he covered it all.

Breakdowns– another post by Keith Lango describes this in a lot more detail. Basically breakdowns are described as;

“a type of in-between, but a very specific type that links two keyframes. When you draw your keyframes and begin in-betweening them, the very first in-between that marks the midpoint between Keyframe A and Keyframe B is known as a breakdown.” –

breakdown_disney.gifCaptain Hook breakdowns.

Ease in and Outs– the final research item on the list.

“Ease are spacing that either gradually increases between drawings or gradually decreases between drawings, specifically toward the beginning and end of the transition. This change defines the incremental acceleration and slowing of motion between two positions,”- Keith Lango.

These eases allow the speed and timing of a ball





Overlapping action and Follow Through- Robotic Arms

Animation Principles- Overlapping animation-

“Animators use to offset actions so they do not occur at the same time- i.e. a the end of  a tail finishes after the top of it when it swags….Follow-through motion is when the speed causes an object to continue i.e. an arm moving backwards will continue past the joint.”- Alec

Alec also advised we look at Keith Lango ( for tutorials for these elements, as they’d be really helpful. Below is one of the three videos that I watched on the overlapping and follow through principles in his series of tutorials.

Below are the notes I made from watching Lango’s tutorial. He specifically mentioned the key frame that occurs between the drag and follow through of a swinging motion. This keyframe forms the natural look to the movement and is formed in an ‘S’ shape, as shown in my diagrams below.

To begin my own research I had a look at our Bible (the Animators Survival Guide) for advice. I also found some of the original video tutorials by William’s that helped. I also read into the Disney’s Illusion of Life and found this video that summed up the principles nicely.

Richard Williams explains the principles

Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas animation principles explained

I then went on and found this interesting post on the Principles of Animations regarding this area on

Follow through is the termination part of an action. An example is in throwing a ball – the hand continues to move after the ball is released. In the movement of a complex object different parts of the object move at different times and different rates. For example, in walking, the hip leads, followed by the leg and then the foot. As the lead part stops, the lagging parts continue in motion.Heavier parts lag farther and stop slower. An example is in the antennae of an insect – they will lag behind and them move quickly to indicate the lighter mass.Overlapping means to start a second action before the first action has completely finished. This keeps the interest of the viewer, since there is no dead time between actions.Here is a quote about overlapping from Walt Disney:

It is not necessary for an animator to take a character to one point, complete that action completely, and then turn to the following action as if he had never given it a thought until after completing the first action. When a character knows what he is going to do he doesn’t have to stop before each individual action and think to do it. He has it planned in advance in his mind.

I also found a lot of videos and tutorials on ‘overlapping animation’ on youtube.

CG Spectrum College of Digital Art & Animation– Action and Overlapping Action

Aaron Blaise- overlapping action and drag

Alec has created a little animated Carl Jnr arm, and suggested we try combining our bouncy ball exercises and the principles above to create a swinging arm action. He said we should look at things such as weight and drag i.e. a heavier hand would have a larger drag than a lighter one.


Obstacle Course Research

OK, so in preparation for this week we had a look at some animations previously created.

I really like the use of character in this animation- something I would consider when animating our own course.

The timing and speed in this animation was really nice- I really liked how the ball slowed down and then increased at certain points.

The use of two different weight balls in this was really nice- it gave a sense of how the course could effect different weights.

I thought the movement of the ball in this was rather interesting- it didn’t move as smoothly as that in the other videos. It gave a more lifelike feel to it.


Bouncy Ball Obstacle course

This week Alec provided us with a bouncy ball obstacle course and asked our groups to have a go at moving the ball around this course. Our group came up with an overall route to play with, agreeing we could add our own flair to it.

Our pathway. Our agreed pathway.

I struggled with this this week, and thankfully Gianni (he’s not in my group but shush) is now pro at this and so he was able to help me (a lot) with understanding the physics and timing between everything. He even helped me include a bar at the beginning to push the ball. Gianni showed me this diagram that helped with the keyframing with the ball, such as speeding up the ball when it was in the curve.

Video courtesy of Charles Larrieu. I wanted the ball to follow the arc like that in the video above.  I wanted to replicate the speed and look they had shown. This is the diagram Gianni used when helping me with the keyframes to achieve this look.

Key frames for a bounce by San VFX based of of Richard William’s work.

This was my little course- I think I did quite well with the speed in the archway. Alec suggested that I try and increase the stretch as the ball accelerates from the loop, and hangs in the air. I’ll spent some time doing this this week.


Fixing the Balls

Please try not to laugh at the title- I wanted to go back and fix some of the original ball animations I created as they didn’t look right in some cases.

Alec did a really useful exercise on blocking animation with the balls, showing how Maya fills in the in between frames, but no giving the arcs we need. I used this splined animation idea in my work as I found it easier to show what I wanted to create.

Closest ball has two frames with Maya acting as the filler. I then experimented with Spline and Stepped animation in the graph editor.

Original bouncy ball didn’t seem quite right.

Adding  anticipation and fixing the timing.

I then wanted to experiment again with a heavier ball like a bowling ball- but I wanted the ball to have a little personality. I made it change weight from a bouncy ball to a bowling ball mid bounce.

Weight in Animation

So for these balls we had to consider different weights for the bounces.

Our group decided to animated the balls as the following;

– a tennis ball- middle weight

-a bowling ball- heaviest ball

-bouncy ball- the lightest ball

I wanted to have a look at how different weights can be used in animation. Balls were kind of hard to come by, so I thought looking at humans would be the next best thing.

I thought this video courtesy of Wacom. I thought this tutorial was very useful- it gave quite a lot of things to consider. Timing is one of the key elements when creating this look.

Video courtesy of  Amber Kreinbrink. I movement of the character itself demonstrates the heaviness of the whale.

This 2D video was an excellent reference as it demonstrates the various weights of the ball and what they could possibly look like. Video courtesy of Brackets.