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Juggling Droid

Author: Beady

Tools Needed

  • Poser
  • Any humanoid character

Introduction

This tutorial will walk you through the steps necessary to animate a character and make it appear to juggle, its quite a long one and you will need to work a bit - sorry.

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Step 1 - Starting Off

Load your character. As this character will need to be able to throw and catch balls, it makes sense for it to be a humanoid character. I'm using the Droid from DAZ, because its nice and simple. Exactly the same principles work for any character, so you use whichever you wish. Pose the character so it is reasonably upright, facing front and with its arms bet at the elbows in front of it.

Remember to rotate the forearms so that the hands face upwards. Don't worry about the balls, we'll add them later.

Step 2 - Juggling

Simple juggling requires that the hands and forearms move in an approximate circle in front of the body. Each hand does basically the same movement, but is half-way around the cycle to the other. So we start with a pose that has the right hand at its most extreme position in the bottom right corner, just about to start moving across and up, and the left hand having just released a ball at its highest position.

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Remember that the right hand should be partially closed as it's holding a ball and the left should be open as it's just released one.

Step 3 - One hand at a time

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Ignore the left hand for the moment and just work with the right one. The

first movement is to bring the hand in front of the body. This is done by changing the Right Shoulder Pivot value from its original -5 at frame 1 to 10 by frame 8. So you can either click on the 'Step Forward' button until you reach frame 8 and then change the dial, or you can open the Animation Palette (Shift+Ctrl+V) and work in there.

Step 4 - Animation Palette aside

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Alongside each body part in the palette is a small arrow, clicking on the arrow will display all of the available adjustment dials. Notice the colours, the brighter green squares indicate key frames, these are the points within the animation where a particular value has been set. The paler green colour shows a series of frames where Poser will gradually change that value from its initial setting to the one that we set.

Step 5 - Moving along

While we are still in frame 8 we can set the Y Rotation value for the right forearm. This was 90 in frame 1, we now set this to be 95, which causes the forearm and hand to rise slightly. The next major change comes at frame 15. The Y Rotation value for the right forearm should be set at 115 which will cause the arm and hand to bend straight up quickly to throw the ball in the air.

Step 6 - Letting Go

At this point we need to release the ball by raising the right thumb. However this gives us a minor problem. If we simply set the grasp value to be 50, which will open the thumb, Poser will helpfully make changes in all of the frames from 1 to 15, gradually releasing the grip along the way. The ball would simply fall out of Droids hand if this happened.

What we need to do is go back a couple of frames to frame 13, make sure that the thumb is selected and click on the 'Add Key Frames' button.

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This gives us the ability to control just when the movement of the thumb (and any other parts) begins. We need to control the closing of the thumb by using two key frames again, at frames 20 set the grasp to be 50 and then on frame 23 set it to be 20.

You'll need to use this technique quite a lot in this and most animations to control when an animation starts.

Step 7 - Swinging out

On frame 15 set a key frame for the right shoulder, so that the pivot angle is retained from its previous value (10, see step 3). Move forward slightly to frame 20 and set the pivot value back to -5. Poser will gradually move the right arm back out along the correct path for us.

Step 8 - Almost Done One Arm

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We have now almost completed the basic movements for the right arm, go to frame 30 and set the right shoulder pivot value to be -5 and the right forearm Y Rotate value to be 90.

You can run the animation and just watch the right arm movements to make sure that they look more or less right.

Step 9 - Do It Again

Repeat the above steps for the left shoulder and left forearm and thumb. Make sure that the end and start positions are very close, if not identical so you don't get that 'catch up' jerk as the animation loops.

Step 10 - Waving About

Once you are happy about the basic arm movements you can tweak the other parts a little. I set the head to twist left and right and the abdomen and chest to move as well, so he doesn't look too mechanical in his actions. Remember the importance of making the settings of the last frame very close to those of the first.

Step 11 - Times Three

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If you think about actually juggling, what we've done here will throw one ball and catch one ball. We really need to be able to deal with three. Fortunately the animation palette lets us copy and paste frames. Our animation is currently only 30 frames long. We really need it to be 90 frames, so change the number of frames shown in the frame counter at the top of the animation palette, from 30 to 90.

Now use the mouse to select the frames from the top left of the palette grid - frame 1 of the Body row, down to the bottom right, frame 30 of the Right Foot. Hold down the Ctrl key and press the 'C' key, click on frame 31, in the body row and again hold down the Ctrl key, but this time press 'V'. This will paste the movements into the next 30 frames. Do the same in frame 61 and all of a sudden you have a 90 frame animation.

Step 12 - Thuds

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Now we need to add the balls (juggling balls are sometimes called 'thuds' - that's the sound they make when you drop them). To keep it simple just add one at a time, first make sure you're on frame 1, then add a ball from the Poser props. Scale the ball to 25% and use the YTran dial to bring it up into view. Colour it red and position it in the juggler's right hand. This gives you the starting position. You may need to play around with different cameras and all three of the Tran dials to get it just right.

Step 13- Up and Down, Left and Right

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Effectively the ball will move in only two directions, Up/Down and Left/Right (you may need to tweak a little with the ZTran dial, but that's a very minor issue here). It is much easier to do the animation of the ball if you only need to worry about 1 direction at a time. Remember that Poser will interpolate between two key frames, so watch the animation and consider at what point the red ball reaches its greatest movement in the Left/Right Direction. Actually its at frame 50, by which time this ball should be in the juggler's left hand at a point exactly corresponding to its starting position in the juggler's right hand.

Select frame 50 and position the ball in the juggler's left hand.

Step 14- Moving the balls

While you will still need to tweak the Left/Right position a little you can concentrate now on making the ball follow the Up/Down path of the juggler's hand, use Poser's ability to interpolate between key frames as much as possible, but remember that the hands don't follow an exact path that will match the ball all the way. So you will need to tweak a little for different positions and parts of the path. When the ball leaves the hand it will actually follow a parabolic path, but you don't really need to be absolutely exact, just make sure that it climbs high enough to a point somewhere about level with where the eyes would be, if the Droid had eyes, before falling into the position where the other hand starts to close around it.

You may notice that my blue ball follows a slightly different path when thrown by the juggler's right hand, in actual juggling this happens more or less all the time, so you don't need to be absolutely exact, it makes it look more realistic.

Step 15- The second one

Adding the second ball is basically more of the same (make sure the second and third balls are different colours). It is easier to deal with the ball which is just leaving the juggler's left hand in frame 1 and then position it in the right hand in frame 30.

Step 16- The last ball

The most difficult ball is actually the third one, mainly because its extremes of Left/Right movement don't start at frame 1, actually they occur at frames 20 and 60 respectively, but the principles are pretty much the same.

Go to frame 20 and position the ball in the juggler's left hand, then go to frame 60 and position it in the right hand. Concentrate on that section of the animation first, getting the up and down motion correct as for the other balls.

Step 17- Almost Done

You can then go to frame 90 and position the green ball at a position almost opposite the point of the juggler's left shoulder.

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Remember that in frame 1, which is the next one to be played, the position will be almost identical, slightly more to the right and slightly lower. You will finally need to do the positioning between frames 60 and 90 and also between 1 and 20 bit by bit to get them as close as possible to the movement that you need.

Step 18- The End

Play the animation and if necessary do your tweaking. Then make your movie.