Download links at the bottom of the page
Getting a walk cycle just right is one of the more challenging aspects of character animation. I thought it would be helpful to create a series of walk cycles and various other actions that you could just apply to your existing rig. This is the first in what I hope will be a collection of those animations.
The download file (links at the bottom of this post) is an After Effects project with a system built in to link the different parts of your rig to the pre-built animation. The file is provided free and if you share, please link back to this page is all I ask.
Just import your rig or build the character pieces and link as you go.
Watch the full video for detailed instructions on how to get the project working for you or scroll further down for a brief overview.
Briefly, here is how to get the system working for you...
Copy and paste your character into the Happy_Walk_Start composition. If you are building as you go, create your first Rubberhose limb.
You may find it better organization to drag your character below the "Link To Layers" and "Controller" layers
Select your Controller layer and, in this case working on the left arm first, deselect all controller visibility for all except Left Arm controller and labels. Then turn off the visibility for all of your character pieces except for the left arm and rubberhose controllers for the left arm.
Select the "Link to Layers" layer and in the Effects palette, click the lock to keep it in place.
Open the Position property for the Rubberhose wrist control layer. Option/Alt click the position property stopwatch, grab the pickwhip and drag it to the "Link to Layers" Effect palette to the "Left wrist"/Layer property and let go. Make sure you link to the Layer property under "Left wrist" not "Left wrist" itself. Before closing out the expression type in the following code at the end (or copy and paste)
This extra bit of code will convert the animation data from 3d to 2d. The animation exists as 3d properties so we need to convert it with this code so it will work with our 2d rubberhose layers.
Your character limb should now have adopted the animation.
Repeat for the remaining arm and the legs using the same procedure. Remember to unlock the "Link to Layers" Effect palette so you can have access to the effect controls of the "Controller" layer. You will need to turn on and off each limb controller if you want them as guides they though aren't necessary.
Once you have the arms and legs complete, next, we will attach the feet. You will need to align your foot design to the existing controllers. You will see a marker on the Controller layer called "left foot align" place the playhead at this point. Move your character foot into place aligning the toes, foot and ankle controls. If the control points don't line up with your design, get them as close as possible. We will be applying puppet pins and so you can always increase your mesh size to apply a pin outside of your design.
With your character foot selected in the comp, add a puppet pin to the toes, foot and ankle centering them on the appropriate control points.
Delete the keyframes that are created by the puppet tool if desired. Label each puppet pin appropriately ("L_toes, L_foot, L_ankle"). Apply the same procedure as above, linking via expressions to the appropriate layer (L-toes puppet pin position to L_toes "Link to Layer" etc.) Don't forget the extra code at the end of each expression! ( .to_comp([0,0]) )
You may find you'll need to tweak the puppet pin positions or the anchor point of the character foot so there isn't too much warping. You could also apply some puppet starch to help control as well.
Apply the same procedure for the right foot using the "right foot align" marker as the frame to reference.
Next we can work on the hands. This procedure is simpler in that we can take any frame and align the hand to the arm. Make sure the control layer for the rubberhose wrist is visible and align the anchor point of your hand as close as possible to the controller center.
Pickwhip the Parent of your hand design to the rubberhose wrist control.
Repeat for the other hand.
Next we will align the body by moving it into place and moving the anchor point to the center of the "Neck Base" Controller. This can be turned on by selecting the Controller layer and in the Effects palette turning on the "Head Controllers Visibility".
We then apply the same procedure, selecting the position of the body, pickwhipping it to the "Neck Base" layer in Effect Controls, and adding the extra code.
We will do the same thing for the Head aligning it with the "Neck Base". You may find you'll need to adjust the anchor point to get the position correct.
Feel free to add any sort of flair to your character (head rotation etc.) to personalize.