For this performance I was inspired by my younger brother playing on a slide. He was trying to struggle his way up the slide the wrong way without much luck. So I thought this would be a good basis for a short performance with a character struggling to climb up a steep slope to ultimately fall down again.
I had fun shooting my own reference for this animation which was difficult as I am too big for most children’s slides. I reviewed the footage in sync sketch which was a very useful tool. The main things I took from the reference that ended up in the final animation were the foot placements and timings, which were unusual walking uphill. As gravity has more influence, the walking pace accelerates to compensate the pull downwards.
I storyboarded the animation in storyboard pro and produced an animatic. I wanted the steepness of the slide to look intimidating so I played around with having the camera at a low angle. I found a free model for the slide online (which I used in the animation) and used it as a drawing guide for perspective in the storyboard along with the Stewart rig.
When I came to creating the animation I used the workflow Blocking, Spline, Polish, which I learnt from the Youtuber Sir Wade Neistadt. For blocking the animation I made all my poses in stepped mode on the frames I had marked out in my reference and my animatic. Once everything was blocked I created playblasts of every shot and used them as placeholders over the animatic.
When I came to do a spline pass I used the TweenMachine plugin which is a plugin I had never used before but now absolutely love. It allows you to create inbetween frames and control the influence the next and previous keyframes have on them with a simple slider. This was really useful when adjusting the easing of the head turn which would normally have taken ages because my graph editor was messy as lots of body parts were animated. but it ended up being very simple as all I had to do was set the inbetween to favour the previous keyframe. Once I was happy with the keyframes, I set the curves to spline mode (but I could have left them on stepped and continued inbetweening), and after some polishing the animation looked great.
Another tip I learnt was to animate on layers, and I now do this for all my animations. Animating things on different layers gives you more control over individual aspects of the characters performance. It’s also none destructive if you want to delete something later on. I now always animate my camera on a seperate layer and lock it so when I accidentally move around in the camera view with autokey turned on, it doesn’t mess it up. To quickly check how my keyframes were looking, I kept duplicating the layer with the blocking poses on, switched from stepped to spline, then went back and make changes. As a final touch I created a layer with the characters chest oscillating to make it look like he was breathing to give him a bit more life. Because this was on one layer, I could control the intensity with the slider to change how exaggerated his breathing was. This could switch him from passively breathing calmly, to panting aggressively, all with one control and 3 keyframes.