Chapter 16. Character Animation

Table of Contents

Introduction: Lights, Camera and... ACTION !
General Tools
The Armature Object
Naming Bones
Parenting and IK chain
The Armature Panel
Vertex Groups
Weight Painting
Action Window
Non Linear Animation
Working with Action Strips
Constraint Types
Constraints Evaluation Rules and Precedence
Rigging a Hand and a Foot
The Hand
The Foot
Rigging Mechanics
Pivot axis
The Armature
How to setup a walkcycle using NLA
The path to success
Moving hands while walking

Introduction: Lights, Camera and... ACTION !

As we have seen in the section called “Rigging” Blender uses Armatures for character animation. An armature is just like a skeleton which once parented to our character mesh, will let us define a number of poses for our character along the timeline of our animation.

An armature is made up of an arbitrary number of bones. The size, position and orientation of every bone in your armature is up to you, and you will find through this chapter that different situations will require a particular arrangement of bones for your character to work properly.

As you animate your armature you will find that it is better to organize several related poses in something called an action, which is more or less the same as in the real world. When we walk, we can imagine ourselves passing through several instantaneous poses as if we were in the frames of a moving picture, the whole process of the walk is an action in the end. But there are actions and actions. As an animator you will need to acquire the capability of knowing how to split any natural movement or action into several simpler actions that will be easier to deal with. Working with simpler actions commonly saves time and work (and why not: money!) since these actions are usually reusable.

Once you have set-up your first actions you will be able to combine them using Blender's powerful Non Linear Animation (or NLA) editor, giving your character a living mood and natural manners.

In this chapter we will cover every single detail of Blender's functionalities related to Armatures, Actions and the NLA Editor. Furthermore we will see several armature set-ups that will give you a starting point for your own creations and ideas. Relax and enjoy.