I just did it again in a scene I am animating, and even though I have done it before, it always requires a leap of faith to try it--to keep myself from blocking in the lower limbs. Because, after all, doesn't that leave the head and upper body just hanging there in space? How can that ever come out right? I ask myself.
Well, it certainly does take some planning.
In my experience, you will want to know the precise perspective of the layout involved. You will want to be sure you understand your character's relation to that perspective. And you will want a solid key drawing--with legs and feet--both before the movement and at the end.
The fact is, when we step over from one position to another on the floor, we do not always bounce noticeably up and down with each step. Walk cycles are usually full of the up and down movement of the body mass, sometimes with a lot of squash and stretch to add weight to the character. But like good dancers, we sometimes shift our position in a way that is more smooth and gliding, and the usual bobbing up and down is then unnecessary and even distracting.
Let's look at the scene to which I am referring. My Old Man character has just opened up his steamer trunk. Aware that he is being watched by security guards off the right side of the screen, he reaches into the trunk and pulls out a cylindrical object which he then holds out for the guards' inspection.
I did not start this scene with the intention of using the "no legs" technique; it just became appropriate in my mind when I saw that as the Old Man lifts out the cylinder, he must take two (or three or four) steps as he turns almost 180 degrees and holds the object out. This move was to be done slowly with a moving hold at the end, involving 30 drawings on 2's and over 2 seconds.
As I began roughing in the extremes of this move, there were other complexities to think of, as for example that I wanted his hand with the cylinder to arrive first while his head and torso catch up a bit later. So I began leaving his legs and feet completely off the extreme drawings between no. 161 and the last drawing, no. 233.
|Here are the extreme drawings nos. 161 at the beginning|
and 233 at the end.
|The X-sheet, showing where I decided to place the contact drawings. Scenes like this|
should not be attempted without charting your timing on an X-sheet first.
And note this: none of those three contact drawings was an extreme pose as regards the upper torso. This is fine, but to me the significance of that is that had I tried to do the legs and feet at the same time as the turning torso, I would no doubt have tried to force the contact drawings onto some of the existing extremes. That might have worked out anyway, but it might also have resulted in something more stilted, less fluid, and less interesting to watch. Using this technique, I was completely free to place the contact drawings wherever seemed best, rather than just on one or another of the available extremes, since by this method all the drawings already existed.
|Now these lowly inbetweens have become extreme contact|
drawings for the leg movement
Here is the link to the video. This is not the whole scene but just the end of it.
This post serves as a reminder that it is often wise to make several passes over a scene, doing things one at a time, rather than struggle with the complexity of trying to get everything in all at once.
By the way, I am certainly not the first to think of doing this. It is mentioned somewhere in Thomas and Johnston's Illusion of Life; when I locate the reference, I will amend this post with the details.