Walk Cycles

walkcycle_smallWalk Cycles are one of the most difficult tasks for an animator because you have to understand the mechanics of motion and bring that across convincingly, but then – as if that wasn’t enough? You must infuse a character and personality into that walk through your timing, spacing and poses.


the walkMECHANICS OF A WALK CYCLE: Walk cycles encapsulate all of the principles of animation. They also deal with complex issues of weight and timing, in order to be convincing. Offsets, Overlap and Follow Through on every joint are what will keep the motion natural and prevent it from looking robotic.The bouncing ball is what the fundamental motion of a walk cycle and most all natural motion is based on – arcs, spacing, timing, etc. The locomotion of the body is dependent upon the feet catching the bodies momentum before actually falling. In other words, the body catches itself before the arc hits the lowest level. Some call this the “controlled fall” of a walk. The arc of that bouncing ball resides in the arc of the Center of gravity (COG) as the body propels up and down with the compression of the legs.



walkcyklesTIMING AND PACING OF A WALK CYCLE:
The timing or pacing of the walk can define the character and personality of the walk. The posing of the body and what part of the body that leads the walk also defines the character. Timing, Weight, Posing and Mechanics of Motion all factor into a good walk cycle and this is why it is a great exercise for learning these principles.

To illustrate the difference in timing and pacing think about a mosquito on the surface of a lake flitting across the water. Now think about the timing and poses in an elephant’s walk across the sierra. The weight and body construction will define whether or not you could tap the object with your finger to knock it over or if it would take much more effort to do this. Timing and Poses will define the weight and construction of your character and even add elements of character as well.

There are plenty of tutorials online and in books on how to create a good walk cycle. There is a comprehensive list of walk cycle explanations at the bottom of this page for you to check out. Since the mechanics of the movement has been covered most everywhere, let’s talk about something more difficult to infuse into a walk cycle than the believable mechanics of motion.


silly-walks Character and personality are what make the walk real and make the audience identify with it on an emotional level. Disney always said “the mind is the pilot” and that is where every motion you create must start. Before even drawing a pose, you need to establish in your mind where your character’s head is at. The lead is one quick way to establish this through the posing of your walk cycle.

Remember this is a very simplified approach is not the “end-all be-all”…only a stepping stone to understanding how to infuse character into your animation. There is one little trick that can help you find your way inside the character. This is just one little trick, there are many other facets to a walk that also contribute to a personality, this is just one suggestion.


postures1THE LEAD OR POWER CENTER: The lead in a walk cycle tells the audience where you character’s head is at and how they view themselves and their place in the world. Actor/Actress/Musician/Personality examples below illustrate how the lead in motion can define a character and state of mind. After you familiarize you with the lead of a walk, try walking around the room aware of what part of the body is leading. Observe how this changes your attitude and sense of self.


VANILLA WALKS: Basic walk cycle – Vanilla with no defined power center or lead. The idea here is to create a walk cycle that is clean and simple mathematically so you can infuse the personality later. Remember the hips must move the same distance as the feet to prevent limping.


POWER CENTER FOR WALK : HEAD – Head Power Center for the walk cycle

If your character leads with their head…
They tend to be cerebral, thoughtful, shy, meek or even sad. When animating a character like this, think about the roles these actors usually play and part of the body leads their movement.

Woody Allen
John Malkovich
Winona Ryder (her geeky younger roles)



POWER CENTER FOR WALK : CHIN – Chin Power Center for the walk cycle

If your character leads with their chin…they tend to be royal, regal, conceited, proud or even poised. When animating a character like this, think about the roles these actors usually play and part of the body leads their movement.
Anthony Hopkins,
Fred Astaire,
Kate Winslet,
Julia Roberts



POWER CENTER FOR WALK : CHEST – Chest Power Center for the walk cycle

If your character leads with their chest…they tend to be strong, confident, secure, happy or even a heroic. When animating a character like this, think about the roles these actors usually play and part of the body leads their movement

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Salma Hyack
George Clooney



POWER CENTER FOR WALK : BELLY – Belly Power Center for the walk cycle

If your character leads with their tummy…they tend to be tubby, overweight, awkward or even pregnant. When animating a character like this, think about the roles these actors usually play and part of the body leads their movement.

Rosie O’Donnell
John Goodman
Chris Farley



POWER CENTER FOR WALK : HIPS – Hips Power Center for the walk cycle

If your character leads with their hips…they tend to be sexy, shady, sly, sensual or even suggestive. When animating a character like this, think about the roles these actors usually play and part of the body leads their movement.

Sharon Stone
Jim Morrison
Marilyn Monroe
Mick Jaggar



POWER CENTER FOR WALK : BACK – Back Power Center for the walk cycle…

If your character leads with their back…
they tend to be low or sad in emotional states. Also, from a physical stance, older people lead with their backs too because that is where all of their strength is focused as their age has changed their body.

Abe Vigoda
Angela Lanzbury
Jerry Stiller
Anne Morgan Guilbert



POWER CENTER FOR WALK : KNEES – Knees Power Center for the walk cycle

If your character leads with their knees…
they tend to be a thug, street-wise, a cowboy or even a dominatrix. When animating a character like this, think about the roles these actors usually play and part of the body leads their movement.

Steve Buscemi
John Leguizamo
Tim Roth
John Wayne
Jeneane Garafalo


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