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First bouncing ball animation

Okay, here’s my attempt at a blog…

I’m learning animation. Ultimately I want to learn 3D character animation, but I’m starting at the very beginning, so right now all I’m doing is bouncing balls and other basic stuff.

My main tool is Blender, mostly because it’s open source, and therefore free, but also because of the wealth of Blender-related learning material out there.
But Blender is just a tool. First and foremost I’m learning 3D animation, so whatever helps me achieve that is a good thing.

Right now I’m working my way through the “Animation Fundamentals in Blender” DVD course by Beorn Leonard (available from cgcookie.com), which I can’t enthuse about enough. Before that, I’d tried all sorts of stuff: books, online tutorials, the lot. Beorn Leonard manages to explain the principles of animation very clearly, and then shows you how to implement them in Blender. But even though he’s using Blender it’s pretty clear that everything he’s teaching could be implemented in any other 3D application. The principles are what’s important, and that’s the strength of this course: it’s not a how-to-do-this-one-particular-thing kind of course, it’s about explaining the reasons why things move the way they move, and then showing you how to do that in 3D. Principles first, then implementation.

Since he starts the course teaching the classic bouncing ball I thought I’d start my blog with my own first attempt at it:

(make sure you’re viewing it at 720p or better, otherwise the ball doesn’t appear to hit the ground sometimes; youtube skips frames at the lower quality settings)

Now, I know this isn’t perfect. It comes to a stop too suddenly at the end, and there’s no roll-back or any other secondary motion, but other than that I’m quite pleased with it. Anyway, it’s a start.

I have to say though, this stuff is hard. I went through about eight attempts before I came up with something I wasn’t ashamed to show anyone. I think the hardest thing of all is all the little bounces towards the end. It doesn’t seem to matter how good it looks at the start, if there aren’t at least a few tiny little bounces towards the end (so small you’ll think they won’t be noticed when you’re marking your keyframes) it won’t look real, it’ll just seem dead. Although it might not look like it, there are four tiny little bounces at the end of mine, before it starts to roll.

Here’s the same animated ball but with squash and stretch, making it look more cartoony:

I feel like I really learned a lot just from making a ball bounce a few times. I thought it would be simple, and obviously it was, but as I said, making it look real was difficult. As BL says at the end of his lesson, you can learn a lot about timing, spacing and weight, just from making a ball bounce. So I reckon I’ll come back to doing this kind of thing from time to time, just to see what else I can do.

Right now I’m working on the ball and tail whip from the course; I’ll upload the first of those I’m happy with.



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