Tangents, Translations and the Graph Editor.

It really was a great class tonight with Scott Lemmer. He again harped on keeping it simple and really focus on making short easy to read scenes that are really polished and animated perfectly. The best thing he talked about tonight though was Tangents, Translations, and the Graph editor.

The Graph editor is an amazing tool. Once you have your initial keys (poses / preset positions) set up it's where you go to really get a scene to look animated.

If you leave a scene with just the default computer set animation, it will look robotic, almost piston like, so you have to make movement flow and that is done by sculpting a beautiful translation.

There are 3 main translations translate y, translate x, and translate z. As I'm not an expert I can only really speak to the first 2. Translate y is how an object moves vertically, and translate z is how an object moves horizontally.

Now in the case of the bouncing ball you want your animation to look real. So a ball doesn't simply go up and down at the same speed and angle from start to stop. It decreases in speed and height as it moves further from the start. So that means our translation has to do the same.

So we have to keep our keys reflecting that and our tangents have to accent the same thing. There are a few different options for tangent settings, Weighted / Unweighted, and flat, splined, linear, clamped and plateau. For a bouncing ball though you want your animation to show the accent of the bounce.

So for the Translate Y you want to break the tangents and I like to free the tangent weight and get a nice sharp almost V shape for the keys where the ball hits the ground. For the highest part of the arc you really want to stretch out your tangent to get a nice round shape. Again you want every bounce to gradually decrease in duration and size so that if you were to take a ruler from the top of the first bounce every arc would touch it all the way to the last bounce. Then play the animation and make sure it feels like what you want.

The Translate Z is a little bit trickier. It tracks how far and how fast the ball will go. So you want to start it out with a harsher angle and have it level off to give it that gradual feel. This can be done by adding in a few keys or angling the tangent lines to give it a soft L like shape.
Lastly you have to set up how far you want the Z to translate and how much of an angle you want to give it by adjusting the height and the width of the line. In the end, you should have something that looks like what you were orginially thinking, or referencing.

Too much Devastation!