Animation101Title.jpg (8560 bytes)
A Simple Method for creating Walk Cycles
By Mike Brown

Animating a walk, where do we begin. Well first we need a character. For today's lesson we're going to use Mr.Stickman. Next we need a clear and simple method of approaching walks in general. I didn't come up with the technique that follows. I gleaned most of this from Richard Williams book 'The Animator's Survival Kit'. If you find this tutorial useful I highly recommend you pick up a copy. We're going to use a pose to pose method to animate today's walk. At 24fps a walk will usually range anywhere from 8 frames per stride for a brisk pace, to 16 frames for a leisurely stroll. In order to be clear I'm going to animate at 24fps and make each stride 12 frames (march time).  Let's begin animating a walk with the contact poses. This is basically mid stride where the heel strikes the ground. Contrary to what you might think, this is the part of a walk that has the least amount of weight. It's the pose directly after this, or the down pose that sells the weight. We'll get to that much later. For now let's concentrate on this pose. Go ahead and pose every part of your character on frame 1. Make sure the forward leg striking the ground is straight (knee is not bent) otherwise your character may look like he's carrying a load in the back of his pant's. Also make sure you add a little vertical torsion in the hips and shoulders (i.e., twist the torso slightly). Now advance the time 12 frames (frame13) and do the the next heel strike pose. Remember to key everything on your character. The final heel strike pose will happen 12 frames later on frame 25.  It should look something like this.

WalkSideContact.jpg (22105 bytes)
Now that we have the contact poses set let's start breaking it down by adding the passing poses. Go to frame 7 and pose every part of your character in a passing pose. Make sure to keep the shoulders and hips in opposition to each other and drop the shoulder and hips laterally (i.e. curve the torso slightly, see below). It should look like this.
WalkSidePassing.jpg (23067 bytes)
Now are walk is starting to take shape. Once you get this far the rest is a breeze. As long as the contact and passing poses work you can do just about anything you want with these break down poses and it'll work. For now we're just going to animate a generic walk. Let's break it down further by adding the actual weight bearing pose or down pose between the contact and passing poses (frame 4). The forwrd knee drops and bends, the head shifts forward and the Hips and shoulders tilt. It should be something like this (don't for get to key everything on you character or one pose might wind up affecting a pose you've already worked out).
WalkSideDown.jpg (21554 bytes)
Now we'll add the striding or up pose between the passing and contact poses (frame 10). This is where your character bounds upward and begins to fall farward. The hips begin moving back toward the centerline so the body will be ready to catch it self with the opposing foot.
WalkSideUp.jpg (21768 bytes)
We're almost finished. Now it's time to go back and inbetween everything. In your curve editor you'll want to smooth out any nasty bumps or ledges in your curves. You'll also want to make sure you've got a nice steep hard edged curve for the heel striking the ground. At this point the walk is pretty much finished. I like to go through and off set keys on overlapping joints to loosen up everything and give it a more natural feel. Also make sure frame 1 and frame 25 match up perfectly. When you're all done you should wind up with a nice looping walk cycle between frame 1 and 24 (frame 25 is a repeat). Here's what it looks like.
WalkSideInbetween.jpg (31606 bytes)
And this is what it looks like in motion.
WalkFront.gif (15230 bytes) WalkQuarter.gif (17031 bytes) walkside.gif (17083 bytes)
Using this technique anyone can acheive convincing walk cycles of all types. Now that you've completed a faily generic walk why don't you try animating the following types of walks.

A sneaky walk; a feminine walk; a Strut; a sad walk; a drunk walk; a goofy walk; ect

Good luck and Happy animating