Simple Armature Animation

On July 24, 2007, in Tutorials, by Admin

Place your 3D cursor where you wish to start your armature. With my model, I’ll start it at
the bottom and make 3 bones going vertical. Press the Space Bar and select ‘Add’, ‘Armature’.

You’ll see your armature enter the scene. The tip will be yellow, meaning it is selected. It will
also be in ‘Grab’ mode, so move your mouse around and ‘Left Click’ to put the tip of the bone where you
want it. I’m not sure why, but I decided to construct my armature just to the right of my model and then
just slide it to the left to put it inside my model when I’m finished. Normally, you should begin creating
your armature inside of your model, basically, following all of the appendages creating the underlying

Once you ‘Left Click’ to place the tip of the first bone where you want it, the tip will
still be selected. Press ‘E’ for extrude. You will be able to move and place the tip of the next
bone where you want it. Keep in mind, the tips of the bones will be the Joints of your

Continue adding bones until you have enough. If you have more than one appendage, simply go back
and select the tip of a bone where you need to have a second or more bones originating from and
press ‘E’ to be extruding a new bone. A good example of this might be the tip of a forearm
bone where you might have 4 bones that enter a palm and branch out to 4 fingers.

My completed finger skeleton. I just need to slide it over to the left to place it
inside the center of my finger model.

Enter ‘Object’ mode, select the armature, press ‘G’ to grab it. In my example, I then
pressed ‘X’ to slide it along the x-axis. You can see this by the red line in this image
which indicates my movement is restricted to the X axis.

Before we attach our model to our armature, we need to ‘Apply Scale & Rotation’. Select
your model and press ‘Ctrl A’. Click ‘Apply Scale and Rotation’ to apply it. If your model was
moved or rotated in any way and we attached to the armature without doing this first, the model
would attach to the armature and rotate on its own.

Now that that is out of the way, we’re ready to attach our model to our armature. Right-Click to select your
model first and then ‘Ctrl-Right Click’ to select the armature last. Your armature should be
a lighter shade of pink than your model if you’ve got them in the right order. It has
to be in this order to ‘Parent’ your model to your mesh. If you did it in the revers order, your
armature would be ‘Parented’ to your mesh, which wouldn’t work at all.

Press ‘Ctrl P’ to parent your model to your armature. Select ‘Armature’ at the next menu.

Next, select ‘Create from Closest Bones’.

At this point, I’m going to weight paint to attach all of the desired vertexes to the correct
bone in the armature. For detail instructions on how to do this, you can follow my other tutorial
on Weight Painting.

Select each bone and weight paint the section that you want to follow each bone.

Once you’re finished, switch back to ‘Object’ mode. Select your armature and switch
to ‘Pose’ mode. If you like to manipulate each bone individually, then you’re all ready
to start you’re posing.

If you’re like me, I like to use the ‘AutoIK’. I’ve turned it on as well as the ‘X-ray’ button
as well. That allows you to see your armature inside of the model.

To begin animating, while in ‘Pose’ mode, I can select the bone at the end, press ‘G’
to grab it and move it around with my mouse. Left click to place it where you want it.

We’ll set our first key frame here.

In your ‘Button’ window, you’ll see a number (1 by default) with a left and right arrow on
each side of it. This number indicates which frame we’re currently looking at.

We want to set the key frame for each bone in our armature, so press ‘A’ once or twice until
you get all of the bones selected. They should all be colored blue.

To set the first key frame, press the Space bar, select ‘Object’ and ‘Insert Keyframe’.

At the very least, we’ll obviously need to select ‘LocRot’ at the next pop-up menu to
set a key frame for each bone’s Location and Rotation.

In a separate window, set it to ‘Action Editor’. You’ll see each bone listed by name.
The vertical green line indicates which frame we are currently looking at. The yellow
diamonds indicate there is a key frame there. The Location and Rotation of each bone is
saved in a key frame at that frame.

Before we set our next key frame, we need to change the current frame. You can do this in
several ways. You can grab the vertical green line in the ‘Action Editor’ window and move it to a
new frame. You can use the the left or right arrows on the key board to move forwards or backwards by one frame.
The up and down arrows will move you forwards or backwards by a count of 10 frames. You can also
manipulate the frame number in the ‘Button’ window by typing in a new number, clicking the arrows, left clicking
and dragging left or right to move very fast.

I’ll jump to about frame 10 and re-pose my model.

Select all of our bones again by pressing ‘A’ once or twice and set a new key frame.

2 sets of key frames here, one at frame 1 and one at frame 10. The current frame marker is
at about frame 30.

At this point, you can grab the current frame marker (vertical green line), drag it left
and right between your key frames and see the animation on your model.

Moving your mouse over to a 3D view window, you can press ‘Alt-A’ to watch your animation.

Under your ‘Button’ window, in ‘Scene’ mode (F10), you can adjust the animation settings.
Under the ‘Anim’ tab, right below the Play button, you can set the Start and End frames for your
animation. In this image, it is currently set from 1 to 250. Since my example has the last
key frame at frame #30, my model will stop moving once the frame advances past 30. Adjusting the
End frame here to 30 and pressing ‘Ctrl-A’ in a 3D window will animate the model repeatedly from frame
1 to 30, instead of 1 to 250.

If you want to produce an avi file of your animation, you should make any adjustment under the ‘Format’ tab. Right now,
the image type is set to JPEG. If I press the Animate button now, I would end up with about 30 frames in individual
JPEGs. You can drop that menu down and select AVI. Press ‘Animate’ to produce an AVI file. You’ll see each frame
drawn one after the other. When it’s completed, you can close the Render window. Press the ‘Play’ button to
watch your video.

Good Luck.


Simple Armature Animation


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