The Simple Walk Cycle

Our next big project was a simple, yet very fiddly animation. A walk cycle, which is a character walking continuously. These animations are used in games all around, and it was time for me to have my own go.

Prior Research

First of all, I did some basic Research on how exactly people walk. Despite us all walking everywhere every day, I never actually noticed exactly which parts of our body move and how they all work with each other. I did some google images research as well as then creating my own diagram to try and understand the walk.

The Diagram I found was good, however, didn’t offer many annotations. So I used other resources to add them myself and get a complete guide before I started.


The first thing I looked at was the leg movement, which was probably the most simple part. They revolve into each step., The ankle tilts depending on how the leg is angled. The arms are similar, and they just follow the same routine as the leg. The arm is back when the leg is forward on the same side.

The major thing I realised was the fact that the height changed depending on the leg position. Thinking straight away this would be something I struggled on, I annotated different height points compared to the position of the leg.Picture2.png

The black line represents the lowest points of the character, being when the character crouches or bends his leg, and the red line being when the character is in a neutral position of his leg passing. The green line, where the character is at his highest point, stretching his leg.

Learning The Rig

Opening Maya, I used the dex rig which Gary provided on moodle. At first, it looked complicated but in actual fact, it wasn’t too bad. Many of the controls were using the side options in the attribute editor. I started by just moving the arms and legs, getting used to them. The legs didn’t have knee controls, instead, all was based on the height of the rig and the angle of the foot. This was a bit weird but definitely something I got used too. The arms were a hit easier, having elbow and wrist controls.

Animation: Framing

The idea of a walk cycle is that it is going to be 1 second long, then you can repeat it to make it look smooth and as if the character is walking on the spot. In Maya, the settings were 24 FPS, which meant I had to have frame 1 and frame 24 the exact same, to make the animation seamless. Frame 12 would be the midpoint and the ‘Contact Position’, referring back to the image I was basing the animation off.


Animation: Starting and Finishing Positions

Getting frame 1 and 24 right were my first objectives. Creating the starting pose, I could just copy it over to frame 24.

The starting position looked quite good. The arm and leg positions I went for a realistic approach rather than Cartoon. After basic leg positions, I moved the shoulders forward and back to represent the swaying of the character, overall making it less robotic. The hips I did later on. My original renders were without the swaying of the hips, which looked a bit confusing and un-normal. Hence later adding the hip movement worked a lot better.

Both of these positions were set to frame 1 and 24, copied over. The 12th frame simply needed to be opposite. Hence I simply set the positions for the leg to the other leg, swapping them.


Once swapped the legs, Maya did the rest. However, this meant the character just “shuffled” along the floor, which wasn’t very realistic. Unless he was wearing Heelys. So, on frame 6 which was in-between the two contact positions, I raised the knee up and raised the rig up. This reflected the High Point of the sequence and made the walking cycle actually look normal.

Picture7.pngThis was then copied to frame 18, again the 3/4 mark, except with the opposite leg raised.

Principles I Used


For the leg animations I used arc, since the leg gradually moves up, then back down. Instead straight movement I made the leg arch, making it a smoother animation. 

Pose to Pose

Following pose to pose was my idea for the walking cycle. I had set frames for key movements and maya made it move in between. If it ever looked odd I used the graph editor to tweak it. 


I have staged the character as the main focus in the render, and used it as the center for both the lights and camera. 


I have timed the frames exactly within one second too get the most fluent walk within the second. 

Lighting and Rendering

I created 2 lights, 2 spot lights. One was the main light creating the basic shadow for the character, and the other to soften the shadows. I used the background for the main rendering camera as white, and the plane for the background as the same colour. Hence a seamless background. Anyway, the videos of the final render are here!

Render 1

Render 2

Render 3

Render 4

Render 5

Render 6

This Render was a render with Hip movement, so in my opinion, it looks much better.


Final Thoughts

I am going to work on another animation from the Expert section of the task, however I didn’t have much time. I’m thinking about using a Waiter, like carrying a tray since thats what I do, I will update this blog, when it is done.


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