Hi my name is James Salter and I’m a student at Gnomon School of Visual Effects. I’ve been drawing with anything I could get my hands on for as long as I can remember. You name it, I’ve probably made a mark with it. My combined love of traditional drawing, theatre and computers eventually lead me to a career in animation. I recently graduated from Gnomon and here are some of my animation tips.
I’ve been a fan of martial arts since I was introduced to Walker: Texas Ranger as a kid. I am fascinated by the combined strength and fluidity. Add to that a marathon viewing of the Kung Fu Panda movies and I had a good kick in the pants to animate my own martial arts shot.
I started by searching on YouTube for reference of the specific moves I had in mind; a jab/cross combination, sidekick, and a kip up.
Once I had gathered my basic reference, I began looking at tutorial videos and articles for each move. This helped me to understand better the body mechanics and gave me a head start on the key poses.
I find that when I let Maya interpolate my key poses, I do not exaggerate enough
Blocking Key Poses
Using my reference, I did a series of thumbnail sketches to lock down the gesture of each pose.
At this point, I finally moved into my Maya workflow. I posed all my key poses and did a basic timing pass.
I worked in stepped mode during this phase of animation. I find that when I let Maya interpolate my key poses, I do not exaggerate enough. Working in stepped mode makes me think about my poses and actions, and I consciously design each movement.
Related link: How to model and texture anime fanart
Splines, Arcs, and Clean-up
I worked in stepped mode until I was happy with the flow and timing of the animation. About one pose every two frames. I then switched my animation curves to spline mode.
Using a program called EpicPen, I plotted my arcs and tweaked my poses to have a good flow. Next, I did a final animation pass to add small details and polish.
Wrapping It Up
Finally, the animation was complete, and I could spend some time on the presentation.
I rendered this scene using Maya’s DirectX 11 shader in Viewport 2.0. This allowed for real-time rendering, which saved me a lot of time during my busy class schedule.