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Psychology of Body Mechanics

Class 3 starts today! Class 2 (Psychology of Body Mechanics) wrapped up last Friday – and it feels like it went by in a blur. When our little story left off, I had just shot some "video reference" of myself acting out the movement I'd be animating for my first assignment of the last class, which would again feature our friend Ballie. Selecting from a list of options, I chose to animate Ballie walking down a set of stairs. I worked from the video to lay out the following "blocking pass" – rough storytelling poses that describe the main action of the shot.

Given this is a class in body mechanics and not acting, there is not much of a story here. But in order to make it a little interesting (for the viewer – and, at least as importantly, for me, since I have to stare at this frame-by-frame for four weeks), I tried to put a little personality into it. Rather than just walking down the stairs, Ballie starts off sneaking down the stairs, and then something startles him into rushing to the bottom of the stairs and jumping into place.

The next week's assignment is what the school terms a "blocking plus" pass: adding some more information to flesh out the movement and finesse the timing. Since a lot of the sneaking movement has to do with how Ballie eases in and out of each step, I could focus on the way he picks his feet up and how quickly or slowly he brings them down. With advice from my mentor, I also adjusted the way he rounded off at the bottom of the stairs.

Another bit of advice from my mentor was to (temporarily) give Ballie a nose, since it can be difficult to track his rotation because his body is a giant, featureless ball. I sculpted him a little Flexo beard and tacked it onto the center of his face, then rendered another copy of my blocking plus.

And then, just because I'm constantly amused by the ease with which the computer accomplishes such silly and magical things, I rendered the same thing with just the Flexo beard – floating freely in space. (Hilarious!)

From there, lots and lots of tweaking, and drawing dots on my computer monitor with a dry erase pen to track the movement of ankles and knees (always with an overhead projector transparency in between, of course). What you end up with is the following jaunty little bit of business.

Tune in next time, when I decide to animate a parkour move, get more than I bargained for, and vow to kill myself, my mentor, or both!

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