Yesterday I finally tried my hand at animating a walk cycle with the Zaku. This is a bit tough for a few reasons. First off, the Zaku’s lower legs and feet are huge, which makes clearing the ground in the passing pose a bit of trouble. Second, the way the Zaku is modeled, in its “rest” position the knees are actually bent backward (they don’t look it, it’s just the way it worked out since the hip joint is near the front of the leg and the knee joint is near the back of the leg and the ankle joint is a bit forward of the knee – to give the joints more clearance this is necessary) so IK was a bit of trouble. Finally, there’s very little clearance between the lower leg and the foot – so if the two don’t match up closely they’ll intersect.
I used my Blender book to get through the basics of creating keyframes and working with poses in the IPO window. Working with animations in Blender is, for me, like learning the application all over again. It reminds me of how when I started out creating the Zaku mesh, every little thing was a challenge, and even creating a simple curved shape like the shoulder armor (without the spikes or verniers, even…) was a challenge, and even drawing out the cross-section of the leg was an accomplishment. Now, with animation, it’s the same thing. There’s so many things I don’t know how to do yet, which means that I’m sometimes afraid to try things (for fear of messing up in a way I can’t readily correct), and that I sometimes just have a real hard time trying to figure out how to do what I want.
Nevertheless, the Zaku walks – rather decently, I’d say, though of course there’s lots of room for improvement. The arms don’t really swing at all currently – the weight doesn’t seem to “settle” as much as I’d like, the rear leg doesn’t seem to extend as much as it should at the end of the stride, and the heels lift too soon and through too much of the stride… And something’s wrong with the looping. But, like I said, decent. If you look closely, I even got the retractable cleats doing their thing. (I suppose the cleats wouldn’t need to be retracted and extended with every stride – but it’s more interesting that way. I don’t know, maybe it helps the Zaku shake off dirt and such that’s accumulated on the cleat so it can get better traction on the next stride, or something…)
Oh yeah – obviously this is just an OpenGL render… I’m trying to throw together a few decent computers to make a rendering cluster so I can do proper renders more quickly… But it’s good to know how to do OpenGL renders now…