3D animation of Flex or simple dance through loops in Maya

Hello! Not so long ago, I had to make more than 20 loop dance animations for different creatures in Allods Online, mostly animals, but the pipeline I came up with can be useful in many loop animations.

The article is divided into 2 parts:


I write about how I found this way of creating animations and what key points I noticed, in general, a retelling of my mental activity.


In practice, gifs, screenshots, buttons and the process of creating animation

So who does not like to read and wants to immediately behind the machine, you can skip the theory)


Unlike creating something from scratch, here I have a ready-made character with a rig at the input, maybe he already has some animations that tell about his character or design. doc, but most often the character speaks for itself with its appearance, and many thanks for giving me the freedom to be a dreamer, I get to know the rig, play with the character, sometimes animations for local gifs of memes come out quite by accident. As soon as I get to know the character, his habits and character, I either immediately start sketching the animation from the head, as I feel, or, in case of difficulties, I look for references, these can be ordinary people, actors, real animals or other characters that are similar to mine.

Conditions and restrictions lead to interesting pipelines.

It was required to do at least 1 animation per day, regardless of the complexity of the rig.

The dance can be simple, up to one cycle

The dance should be rhythmic and perceived as a dance, or at least a flex).

All this makes me think, what kind of dances will I do if I don’t have much time?

The right question is half the answer.

What is dance?

These are rhythmic, plastic movements to the music, these are statements or expressions of emotions with your body, or just entertainment. A good dance can tell us about the character’s character, his experiences, feelings, and also about the capabilities of his body. But the more the dance tells about the character, the more difficult it is. There is a simple version of the dance – this is flexit carries less information, but can be funny, a full-fledged dance and flex is like a story and a joke.

What does a simple dance look like and what is the most important thing in it?

This question is a direct call to search for references, remember memes or google simple dance for example.

I was very cute dance pieces that can be looped from the cartoon aristocratic catsalso video memes where animals dance can answer this question)

I consider this repetitive movement of the torso and head to be important in the dance, they set the rhythm, then the limbs are connected. Those BASIS Animation – this is the movement of the torso and large forms, it is worth starting the animation with this, then work with medium forms – the head, arms, legs, and then small forms and accents – brushes, fingers, ears, etc.

See what a simple and harmonious movement! The pelvis sways lingering in the extreme left or right position, a little rotation in the chest and a noticeable tilt of the head and all these are cycles!

And then – the rhythmic swaying of the pelvis and some accents with the feet and we hear the music to which these babies are dancing!

How to add variety to a simple dance?

There are many options, you can add movement so that the character does not stand still, or play with cycle amplitudes, this is when the character swings either weakly or strongly, or you can make several cycles and change them in turn. In the example below, there are 2 loops with a simple transition between them

and BPM

It seemed interesting to me in my work, I needed to find out the duration (period) of the cycle to make it look like a dance, for what time usually the character should sit down, stand up, jump-land, turn left-right.

I decided to start from bpm in music, namely 120 bpm. 120 bpm is 2 beats per second, which means the cycle will be equal to 30 frames at 30 fps, but it is more convenient to work with a long cycle of 32 frames, since it is easier to divide and lengthen cycles 4,8,16,32,64,128, etc.


Preparation scenes

So, we have already found references or we have an idea in our head, first of all we set up the scene, distribute the grid, skeleton and rig into layers.

We switch the grid to the reference, hide the skeleton.

If the controls of the rig are in the hierarchy of the bones of the skeleton, and when we hide the skeleton with the help of layers – the controls are also hidden, then you can hide the bones in the Show – Joints section.

As a result, if we select everything that is in the scene with the LMB window, we should get out all the rig locators and nothing more. After that, I save this scene separately, I call it for example: croco_rig_anim


In my case, I have a character with a rig and ready to animate, so I skip the steps with building a skeleton, skinning and rigging.

Getting to know the rig

Before you start animating, you should run through the locators (controls) of the rig, see how it works, usually the rig is simple and understandable, but familiarization will help you better feel the capabilities of the rig.

Fixing locators on frames

Select all locators and:

1. Set the cycle to 32 frames and animation length to 64

2. Create a New Animation Layer

3. Select the BaseAnimation layer

4. Move to the 0th frame and press S (set Key)

5. Select the created layer and press S (on the zero frame)

Now we have keys on the layers, this is a kind of fixation, it will help to avoid problems during the subsequent opening and in work (since the locators are fixed on the BaseAnimation layer, maya will not confuse their position in space).

Animation of large shapes

So, to begin with, we make a cyclic movement of one control from left to right to determine the rhythm.

On the 0th frame, we tilt our control to the extreme position, copy the keys to the 16th and 32nd frames, on the 16th frame we change the value of the key to the opposite (from -x to +x). Note that on the x-axis (red curve) the length of the cycle is 16 frames, not 32, this is because I want there to be a downward slope between the extreme positions.

Also to loop our curve we press

Curves>Pre infinity>Cycle

Curves>Post infinity>Cycle

or on the buttons that you will see below in the GIF.

And now we have a cycle, but we see a small pause since the last and first frame of the cycle are the same, the solution is simple, we either set the playback length from 1 to 32 frames or from 0 to 31 frames.

Now we have the loop playing correctly, but the movement is too perfect. (remember the 12 principles of animation, namely the 6th – softening the beginning and end of the movement). We make noticeable pauses during the change of direction of movement, for this we put the keys in front of the extreme positions and see what happens.

Next, we have several options for how to work with the following controls, but the essence is the same – we need to swing the whole body.

You can copy the keys from the animated control to the next and work from this, you can set the keys from scratch – as we did with the first locator, this is already in the mood.

To copy the keys, select the source locator, double-click on the Time liner, right-click there and Copy, then select the locator where we want to paste the keys, right-click and Paste.

In the case of the head locators, copying will not work, since we set the rotation keys for the body, and the movement keys for the head. Therefore, we put them with handles.

And now a little magic begins, we shift the cycles coming from the source of the sway, in this case, the cycles of the neck and head.

But it still looks too smooth, doesn’t it? Let’s sharpen the head.

This is how I changed the curves, the arrow points to a button that allows you to change the curve before and after the key separately.

I think from now on the essence is clear, now you need to swing the rest of the body.

In the case of the tail, it would be convenient to select a frame on which we put it in its extreme position, then duplicate these frames to the opposite position and invert, then set pauses, then we can shift all the curves as we like, so that the tail follows the body or head.

It remains to use the legs, and make a few final touches in the details (the mouth of a crocodile, for example).

In this case, with the legs, the curves will have a different look, I made the leg to be on the ground for half the frames without changes, as you can see, the leg moves and turns in half of the entire cycle.

1. Rotation of the leg with an overlap, the leg rises, but the foot begins to hang down relaxed, and as soon as the leg starts to lower, the foot bends up, this can be seen in the gif above.

2. The rotation of the foot lags behind the movement of the leg, since the reason for the rotation is the movement of the leg, so it is better to make a lag.


So we made a cycle and we already remember and feel our curves, now we can go to rest, get some air and when we return with a fresh look, we will see what we want to tweak a little here, a little anoint here)

We can change the amplitudes by selecting the curve, switch the graph display mode.

display mode switching

display mode switching

While pressing the zoom (I have R by default), hold down Shift and the mouse wheel and drag up or down.

Somewhere we may want to shift the cycles relative to each other, or change something based on what is, it’s very exciting, so let’s have fun! Better animate!

useful links

Huge gratitude Pavel Barnev’s channelthere you will find many useful guides about skinning, rigging, animation layers, loops, etc.

Here you can find short visual guides and inspiration

And so, you can always google Game animation reel on YouTube)

Also useful to read:


Well, of course! Dessert! Thank you for your attention, with all my heart I wish you to do things that make you happy!

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