Class 1 - Week 7 - Tailor Tips

This week's assignment is very similar to last week's: take a segmented
object and give it overlapping action. So what's the big difference
between the pendulum and Tailor? The difference is that with Tailor, not
only are you trying to give your object a good sense of overlap, but your
new goal is also to get the ball and tail to feel like a living creature.
This means that the tail has to feel like it has some control over
itself, like a cat or squirrel's tail, and not flop around lifelessly
behind like last week's pendulum.

To get this feeling, the first thing we need to do is animate the ball,
or body of our Tailor rig. Just like animating the platform first in your
last assignment, animating the ball will give you the arcs, path of
action, and anything else you will need to get your tail moving nicely.
You can hide each individual section of the tail in the layers panel,
which will help you focus on getting the ball looking just right.

Now that we have our body set up, we can start on the tail. There are a
few ways you can go about this. The first method is to animate each
section of the tail at a time, starting with the root and working your
way up through the sections. The pros of this method is that you only
have to focus on one control at a time, which makes things a lot easier
to manage. Doing it this way also means you can use the pendulum trick of
copying the rotations of the first section, copying it down to the next
and offsetting it slightly. However the cons are that your tail might end
up looking disjointed, since you haven't taken the tail as a whole into
consideration, and using the copied curves trick will only get you a
start. You'll still need to adjust each section afterwards.

The second method is to animate the whole tail pose-to-pose, going
through your shot and blocking out the main poses and paying attention to
the arcs of the tail. The benefits of this method are that you can keep
track of the tail's curves more easily, and you also get a better sense
of weight since you're working with the whole tail and not one small
section at a time. However, the biggest disadvantage is that it can be
very easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of controls and lose track on
how the tail curves are supposed to move through your shot.

Choose whichever method you feel works best for you. Both are perfectly
fine to use, and if you find a different way of doing things that works
better for you, then go ahead and use it! But whichever method you use,
remember that the tail should work the same either way. Which brings us
to the next topic:

Tail Mechanics

So now that we have our ball going and our work method figured out, let's
get started with the tail! This actually won't be too long an explanation
because most of it you already know, having done the pendulum assignment.

Unlike the pendulum, which has a loose and uncontrolled overlapping
action, a tail has bones and muscles, which means that Tailor has much
greater control over its movements. It won't flop around behind him but
instead flow with a wave-like action, and settle as he slows down. Here's
an image to demonstrate the motion:

If you imagine the squirrel's hips as a ball, it will give you an almost
perfect representation of Tailor. And as you can see, while the hips
bounce up, the tail drags downward behind it in a C-shaped curve, because
the tail, just like the pendulum, wants to stay in place as long as
possible. Then, when the hips reach the peak, the tail catches up, going
into an S-shaped curve as the base of the tail follows the body and the
tip is still following the upward arc. Finally, the curve reverses into a
C as it drags upwards behind the dropping hips. It's important that the
tail tip flows along the same arc as the base of the tail, only delayed.
You can see it clearly in the first 4 drawings in the image above. Even
though the hips are already dropping to the ground, the tail tip is going
up along the path of the tail, and it's always pointed to where it was in
the last pose.

This dragging motion is what defines a good overlapping tail. If you have
the tip swinging stiffly up and down, or have the tail going up while the
ball goes up, and down as the ball drops down, then the tail isn't
overlapping, but moving against the motion of the driving force of the
the ball.

Here is a great example of overlapping in a tail in action. This is a
clip from the amazingly animated Sword in the Stone, and if you haven't
seen it yet, I highly recommend you check it out. It's a goldmine of
animation to study.

As you can see, when the squirrels start, their tails are curled into an
S-shape, keeping it up and out of the way. But as they start to run, the
tail drags behind, because of drag and for balance, overlapping in a
smooth wave-like motion. Then as they slow down and stop, their tails
curl back up behind them, settling into its original S-shaped curve.

And that's about all I have for this week. Thank you for taking the time
to read my post. I hope it's been helpful, and as always, if you have any
comments, questions or suggestions, you're more than welcome to leave a
comment or send either Beau or me a message on AM.

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