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Advanced Bouncing Ball

April 30, 2014

When planning for the advanced bouncing ball, the only thing that I had decided was that the animation would be cartoony. Keeping this in mind, I began researching other bouncing ball animations which could inspire me and help me think of an idea. This research helped me decide on animating a ball with a tail, however it didn’t help me with the idea of what the ball would do. My initial concept came about from remembering the old ‘Road Runner’ cartoons where the coyote would chase after the road runner only to end up running off the side of a cliff.

Wile Coyote and Road Runner cartoon

Wile E Coyote and Road Runner cartoon

For the first plan, the idea what that a ball would be bouncing normally but then slide and skid to a stop upon reaching the end point of the cliff. The ball would then squish down providing anticipation for a big jump to cross onto another cliff. The ball doesn’t make it and lands on a tree branch hanging of the side of the cliff, which then launches the ball to the other side.

Animation plan

Animation plan

This plan was then used to help the initial blocking stages of my animation in Maya. The set was modeled roughly and some joints were placed in the tree branch model to allow a fling movement. A ball rig was provided for use which included a tail. The blocking stage was done in ‘stepped tangents’ which allowed me to concentrate more on the timing and spacing of the animation. At this point only the ball and tree branch where blocked in and not the tail. The pose-to-pose technique of animating was used for the blocking stage.

1st blocking pass

After blocking in the first pass of the animation, it was suggested to me by my teacher to make use of composition and staging, that is, utilizing the ‘rule of thirds’. Additionally, that the cliffs should have some variation where the cliff that the ball is aiming to land on is taller than the one it jumps from. It was also suggested that I try out different ending scenarios to my animation.

Taking this feedback into consideration, I created a different ending scenario where instead of the tree making the ball land on the other side of the cliff, the tree actually flings the ball into the cliff resulting in the ball being squished. This ending fit into the cartoony style of animation I was aiming for and also made the animation more comedic. I redrew another plan based on this new ending and also on the advice given to me by my teacher. The next stage of blocking took place with the new ending where I also added squashing and stretching of the ball.

Second revised plan

Second revised plan

2nd blocking pass

After blocking was completed, I began working on the breakdowns and the in-betweens and proceeding to start using spline tangents. However, when putting my curves in the graph editor to ‘auto tangent’, the animation fell apart. This was because I did not have key frames on either side of my key poses. For example:

No key frames on either side locking in pose

No key frames on either side locking in pose

Key frames on either side of the key frame in the middle (key pose)

Key frames on either side of the key frame in the middle (key pose) locking in pose

By putting a key frame on either side of the key pose frame, this will essentially ‘lock’ the pose in place so that when changing the type of curve tangent, the key pose is not lost. Putting a frame on either side also allows editing of the spacing of a curve. Additionally, the curve in the Y axis for the bounce of the ball had a sharp contact key which was set to a ‘Linear tangent’. This was done to get a bounce which looked like it had weight and hit the ground fairly hard.

As I moved forward from blocking, I began to adopt a more ‘straight ahead’ technique of animation. This straight ahead technique was used even more when the ball in the animation had to drop onto the tree branch and follow the branch dropping as if it were sitting on the branch.

Revised Pass

When animating the ball coming to a stop and sliding at the end of the cliff, I found I needed more frames so that the movement wasn’t too fast. I also had to increase the total amount of frames for the animation to accommodate the new ending and again so that certain movements and the animation as a whole didn’t occur too fast.

When most of the animation was completed, the overlapping of the tail for the ball had to be done. This was one of the areas I struggled in. I couldn’t animate the tail in a way that looked as though it was creating a wave movement. However, with assistance from a teacher, the tail overlapping was created. The reason the tail overlapping was not working when I tried to animated the action, was because I was missing a key pose of the tail in an ‘s’ shape. This ‘s’ shape created the transition from the up and down pose of the tail, and thus creating a wave motion.

With the tail overlapping completed, the only thing left was to polish up anything that didn’t look completely right. This also included checking the graph editor curves for any inconsistencies. It was suggested to by a teacher that the animation could be improved by making the ball have a jittery effect when squishing down for the big jump, making it look as though it was charging its jump for a greater anticipation effect. Also, when the ball jumps into the air, the ball could leave the camera frame for comedic effect and exaggeration. Additionally, the ball’s tail could squash and stretch when the tree branch flings the ball into the cliff wall and then stay stiff for a few frames before dropping down to show the death of the ball. I took this advice into consideration and changed the animation accordingly. This required even more frames for the total animation so that these movements could be introduced.

Below is the final animation:

Bouncing ball with tail made in Maya

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From → Animation

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