Walk This Way: Character Animation for Your Video – From Walkcycles to Basic Movement

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We create a lot of character-based animated videos here at Design By Day. Characters are a great way to explain your product or service to potential customers.

Characters are often required to move from point A to point B – in other words they need to walk.

Depending on your requirements, budget and deadline, this can be done using one of the following 3 methods:

1. Full Walkcycle / Rigging – [ Advanced Animation ]

The most realistic way to animate a character is to create a full walk cycle by ‘rigging’ a character.

character walk cycle advanced

‘Rigging’ is the process of implementing a kind of ‘skeleton’ onto a character that connects the body parts together in an intuitive, logical manner to animate.

Our tool of choice for character rigging is the absolutely amazing DUIK plugin by Rainbox for After Effects – and guess what? It is absolutely free.

Rigging takes time. All the body parts of the character must be separated on to different layers before importing it into the animation software, in our case; Adobe After Effects. Once in the software the rigging process can begin. It’s definitely worth that extra time and effort to create a believe-able character that your audience can connect with.

When to use:

  • When walking is integral to the video message
  • A character will be doing a lot of walking
  • When time & budget allows

2. Simple Walking – [ Intermediate Animation ]

It is possible to animate a character without actually ‘rigging’ them. This method still requires separating body parts on to different layers – however it saves time to animate less body parts than with rigging. The example below is super simple, each leg is animated as one layer, as are the arms. The head and body simply rotate slightly as the character moves through the walk cycle.

character Intermediate walk

Of course you could get quite complex with this method by separating the limbs into their various components for a better result – however if that’s the case you might as well actually rig a character as you wont save much time here.

When to use:

  • When a more realistic walk is not necessary for the video message
  • When time & budget are a little constrained

3. Basic Movement – [ Basic Animation ]

Sometimes there are circumstances where it is simply not possible to implement a walk cycle or to rig a character. For example the turnaround time is tight or the budget is limited. or simply because it might just not be necessary for the message of the video to be communicated. If the character only moves from A to B one time throughout the entirety of the video – it might be worth questioning the value of adding a walk cycle for that once instance.

character sliding basic

Of course the above doesn’t represent walking and looks more like a chap on an airport travelator. A nice trick that gives the impression of walking, is to simply pull the character to the foreground so that the viewer cannot see his legs and move him up and down as he walks along. A great timesaver for tight turn around projects taking minutes rather than hours!

character closeup basic

When to use:

  • The character wont be doing much walking – and the close up ‘fake walk’ will do the trick!
  • When time & budget are constrained

If you’re looking to set commission a character-based animation and you’re wondering where to start or which walkcycle is best for your project, give the Design by Day team a shout.


Angela Roche