Monday, November 19, 2012

GRAPH EDITOR: Off Setting 101

This post is for animation Students but hopefully it gives some insight to non-animation artists for those who are looking for it.  
Dear Curves,


-A Student

      I could write 100 blog posts about the graph editor (graph editor is a tool animators use to move and adjust their characters in the computer. ) but no amount of lectures will substitute raw first hand experience. You have to get frustrated and go through your OWN epiphanies. In my experience with the graph editor I have come across a few tricks/understandings. In this post I will share one of my understandings with you. I will keep it short for I find when something is over explained, it can make a simple subject very confusing.

OFFSETTING in animation:
      -When you break up the moving parts of the body to help show that there are different muscles working at different times to achieve one giant general movement. In the graph editor that just translates to: shifting your curves so that they all are not working at the same time. This is something everyone knows but its tricky to get it to look RIGHT/or ORGANICALLY in your animation for someone who is still learning.
      My tip is, even though we are taught that when things start and end at the same time is bad, TECHNICALLY under the hood (graph editor) it needs to happen at some level. If you look below you will see a very simple turn. (All we will focus on is the body and the head). When you first offset a curve it might look like the example on the lower left hand side of the page I have provided below. Most new students will leave that as is and then wonder why their animation has hitches and pops. You must remember that EVERYTHING moves on the human body at the same time, but somethings move more than others; which gives the illusion that somethings are not moving at all.

My drawings of the curves might not be accurate but its the concept I am trying to get across. 

     So do you notice how my curves will start moving at the same time? Though the curve for the head 'takes off' before the other curve for the head does. The body curve is moving at first but only very very slightly, then it slopes up to catch up to the head curve. When you make the curves harmonize and 'wait for each other' before coming back to a 'flat' stop, it will help with making your movements feel less mechanical and broken. 
EXTRA TIP for a head turn: Using counter animation to your advantage. If you look at the next picture, you will see a situation where you are forced to use counter animation.

       Below: Is how that curve will look in the graph editor. Notice how the 'hump' in the head curve doesn't extend the amount of frames needed but works within the frames given. in maya terms: All you need to do is set a key 3/4th of the way through the head turn and then raise it up in the graph editor.

     I can go more into why I believe these tricks work and, how should i put it.. I can talk more THEORY on the subject but I shall leave you with the solid basics and spare you the dense explanations. Try experimenting with these curves yourself. Adjust according to your needs. My drawings are not accurate to real situations but the curves are drawn only to get the point across. Take my tips and make them your own, you might discover better ways to accomplish what I'm trying to teach here. My way by far is not the right way or the only way. I do hope this helps for those that might be struggling with their fundamentals.



  1. Thanks! I wasn't sure if these posts were of any use or if I was just saying stuff everyone eventually finds out on their own :)