Notes on smoothing out animation in Maya

Notes on Smoothing Animation in Maya

Here are some animation notes I made for my FYP group members. It’s my methodological approach targeted for animators who want to take their animation blocking further into refined animation. Hope it’s useful to some! :D

Before you start smoothing

[1] Poses must be very strong/clear
A lot keys can be difficult to manage later on making it difficult to make pose changes.
So it’s best to ensure that poses are the best they could be.

[2] Blocking already sells every idea needed in the shot
Making all ideas read is the whole point of animation blocking.
Avoid the mentality of making ideas clearer when refining animation. It usually gets worse.

[3] Bring in all the props that you need
If you work in an animation studio, chances are, the layout department has done this for you. If not, it’s best to address these issues before smoothing your animation. Why?
Refining and smoothing out animation is some what mechanical (especially for experienced CG animators), it’s much like in-betweening in hand-drawn animation. Animators will get into the “flow” of smoothing and we don’t want technical issues, such as outdated props or problematic constraints, to break our flow when smoothing out all the shots.

DO NOT SMOOTH YOUR ANIMATION IF THE BLOCKING IS NOT DONE.

Recommended Methodological Process

[1] Set keyframes for all controls on all key poses
To avoid unintentional CG “sliding”.
Make use of the CG generated poses between key poses to achieve “free” moving holds, slow Ins and outs. This seems to be a Maya exclusive trick.
This will serve as a great time-saver.

[2] Overlap. Arcs. Work “inside-out”
Maya does in-betweens linearly. Control the arcs yourself.
It may seem overwhelming to smooth out every single control, so try to focus on the controls for the COG first, then the limbs, head, then the fingers. We call this the inside-out approach.
Using this step by step system allows the shot to look its best at any given time, without focusing on the nitty gritty details which can be time-consuming.

[3] Offset timing
Graph and the keys can get messy at this stage, but if all the arcs, holds are already in, it’s time to offset the timing for certain movements.
Twinned poses (used cleverly) can be very strong but try to avoid twinned timing because it makes the movement look computer generateted.

[4] Crazy graph smoothing
This step is the final step of the process.
Remove excess keys that interfere with the cleaniness or smoothness of the curve of each channel.
Again, start from the important controllers/channels first; work inside-out.

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