Not Your Typical Walk Cycle

Warning: There is a GIF at the bottom of the post with flashing images.

Like many of you, I was inspired by the impressive visuals of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (which, by the way, has a website built using gskinner’s CreateJS libraries) and wanted to try to apply some of that style into one of my animations.

On top of that, I’ve had the idea of making a walk cycle with an astronaut for a while and decided it was time to make it. 

Section One: Using Blender 

Making the Model and Rigging It

To start off, I made a rough character sketch to get a general layout of what my final rigged character should look like. 

Sketch of astronaut
You can’t get more rough than that

Once I had finished my character design, I was ready to use it as modelling reference. I imported my sketch as an image reference and got to work modelling my character based on the reference. My approach to modelling is fairly straightforward and is similar to how I approach drawing. I focus on getting the large main shapes right, then work towards details until I’m satisfied. Since I knew I was going to be drawing over my 3D animations later, I wasn’t worried about having a polished model.

image of 3D model next to character sketch
How the reference was set up next to the model
GIF of spinning 3D model of astronaut
Final model turnaround

I then applied materials because animating grey meshes isn’t fun.

3D model of astronaut in color

Once materials were applied, I made an armature so that my character could actually move. After, I parented my mesh to the armature and weight painted the model so that the right parts of the mesh were being affected by the right bones when they were moved.

rigged astronaut model
Ready for action

Animation Time

After rigging, I took out some reference to make sure the walk cycle looked correct. I made sure to have Richard Williams’ Animator’s Survival Kit walk cycle diagram visible at all times while animating so that I could ensure proper motion and timing of my character. At this stage, my focus was on exaggeration and timing and less about details and accuracy.

GIF of astronaut walking
I regret not animating a moonwalk

After animating the model, I needed some terrain for it to walk on. I thought some kind of moon or asteroid seemed fitting so I went to work making a lumpy spherical mesh.

Image of a bumpy sphere
My best 3D model ever

To make the terrain mesh, I started with a sphere and then added both a Subdivision modifier and a Displace modifier with a cloud texture to get a less uniform look to it.

Image of Blender settings
The settings used to create the terrain

Once the terrain was done, I applied a simple animation to it so that it revolved every 48 frames.

GIF of sphere turning in space
Look at it go!

I wanted the camera for the final animation to revolve around my character, so I created a camera track. To make the track, I made a circle curve that went around my terrain and character. Next, I animated the track so it spun 360 degrees every 48 frames to coincide with the terrain mesh and the character walk cycle. 

Then, I created a camera and set its parent to the circular curve so that it followed the motion of the curve.

Image of camera being parented to curve track
Parenting the camera to the circular track so that it follows the circle’s motion
Image of setup in Blender with camera, ground and rigged character
What the final setup looked like

The last part of the setup was adding a bit more tracking to the camera. I added a child constraint to the camera so that it tracked the astronaut model so that it would bob up and down with the motion of the character.

Constraint settings for camera
The constraint settings on the camera

Finally, the setup was complete and the animation was ready to be exported as a PNG sequence.

GIF of camera spinning around animated character
Blender export settings

I saved the PNGs in a separate folder so that it was easy to find them all in one place
Image of what the exported frames looked like in order
Here is what some of the rendered frame looked like in a sequence

Section Two: Styling the Frames in Photoshop

Now comes the fun part! I imported the saved PNG sequence into Photoshop in a stack. That way, all the frames were in one Photoshop file stacked in order with layers.

Photoshop import settings
How to load your PNG sequence as a bunch of layers

Once I had the frames as separate layers, I could stylize each individual layer however I wanted. That included drawing, applying filters and generally having fun with different styles. It was a fun little exercise trying to create a wide variety of styles using different combinations of filters and workflows. I had to keep track of the ordering and numbering of the layers so that I wasn’t misplacing or losing frames.

Image of many frames stacked on top of eachother
This is what the file looked like with all the frames visible
Image of a red silhouette of the character
An example of what one of the frames looked like

After a couple of hours of work, I had stylized each of the 48 frames and was ready to export the final PNG sequence. I saved all the individual frames/layers as their own PNGs in a new folder with correct numerical labels.

A series of final frames from the final animation

Putting it All Together

After saving all the layers as numbered PNGs, I imported them into Adobe Premiere as a PNG sequence. It’s important to double-check that all the files are correctly labeled, otherwise the sequence won’t import.

Premiere import settings
Notice how I forgot to save 2.png the first time I did this?

Once I imported the PNG sequence and dragged it into the timeline, I adjusted the timing so that the loop didn’t go so fast.

Premiere speed settings

After that, I could export my animation either as a video or GIF in Export Settings.

Adobe Premiere export settings


Viola! My very own spinning astronaut walk cycle. If I were to do this again, I wouldn’t go as crazy with the stylistic variety since this animation is a bit straining on the eyes. Still, it was a fun exercise in combining some 3D knowledge with Photoshop to create an interesting rotoscoped end result.

The final animated GIF

Kia Valdez Bettcher

Designer/Drawing Addict

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