Introduction to Character Animation
By Ryan Dale

“Introduction to Character Animation” is one of the ten projects chosen for this year’s Summer of Documentation project.

Ryan took the approach that the best way to learn character animation was to actually animate a character. In doing so, he created one of the largest and most comprehensive tutorials that I have seen to date. In an effort to make this tutorial accessible to the widest range of users, Ryan introduces new topics and concepts as side notes that beginners can read and advanced users can skip over.

He starts off with step-by-step instructions for making the character you will be using throughout the remainder of the tutorial. Once the character is modeled, he then shows you how to apply materials/textures.

Realizing that not everyone would be interested in modeling the character from scratch, Ryan supplies a blend file download for those who want to jump ahead and get straight into the animating. In the next section, he introduces the various aspects of rigging the character for animation. He covers envelopes vs. vertex groups, the different methods of adding IK constraints, the troublesome área of elbow and knee bones and foot rigs, and then goes on to explain the use of the fairly new “Stride bone”.

Once your rig is built, you are shown how to skin/weight paint the rig to work well with your character. There is even a section on custom bone shapes.

Since the goal of this tutorial is to end up with a short animation, and lip-syncing is often required, Ryan shows you how to set up Shape Keys and some basic shapes for the lip-synced portion of the animation. The next segment covers the various áreas of lighting and camera setups used for the final animation.

The final segment of the tutorial covers the nuts and bolts methods of animation. To create the finished animation, you will be learning how to use the timeline, IPOs, the action window, setting and adjusting keys, adding sound and how to blend it all together in the NLA editor.

As you start this tutorial, don’t expect to work through it in just a few hours. At over 150 pages of printed material covering everything from modeling to final animation, this project could easily take days to even weeks to complete. But believe me, it will be time well spent.

The amount of information presented is amazing and Ryan did a wonderful job presenting it in such a way as to make it easy and painless to learn such a complicated topic.

While I consider myself a better than intermediate user, I learned quite a bit while doing this tutorial. It alos brought me up to speed on the newer features that I had not yet explored.