Maya: Animation



Todays Class

Poses and Timing
Lines of Action
Different Posing Styles
Audio Files



download and unzip, load maya and set your project directory.

Open 01_MorpheusDialogScene.mb


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Preferences > Settings > Time : 25fps
Preferences > Time Slider > Playback : 25fps



Posing and timing are everything in animation. As such posing is one of the most crucial elements in character animation. In the words of Mark Pullybank posing can be broken up into the following sections

– Reference
– Lines of Action
– Silhouette
– Twinning
– Balance
– Upper/Lower body countering
– Exaggeration/stylisation

Some more great posing tips here from Anim School…



Reference can come from many places

Real Life is best, observe and then stylise in your own artistic way
Video of situations similar to what you’re animating
Record yourself or a friend acting out your scene

Collect as mush reference as possible, although I’m leaving this section short it’s the most important aspect. I’ve rarely seen anyone collect too much reference. It always pays off.

Reference is absolutely massive and I can’t overstate it, the more we find from real life the more authentic our animation and performances will be. See how much disney relied on reference here…

Here’s a nice vid by Jeff Gabor an animator on Ice 3 with his acting on video. Please note how he hasn’t literally animated himself, only the appropriate parts and then he’s stylised from there.

IA3 Comparison Reel from jeff gabor on Vimeo.


Lines of Action

Lines of action are a great tool for simplifying a pose into an overall gestural line. It helps us to see the pose as a whole rather than breaking down each individual part which can kill off any sort of life rather easily.

A line of action is usually one line that best describes our pose, it’s usually a simple convex or concave U curve.

Another cool line of action example.

Here’s a couple of great pages that break this down for us…

Posing At Vector Tutes

Matt Jones Lines Of Action

And a Video…



Silhouette is a pretty easy concept. Turn the lights off in maya and you have your Silhouette. Silhouettes are used extensively in design but they also help us read our poses, make them clear and communicative.

Charlie Chaplin is a performer who understood the silhouette extremely well. He knew the position of the camera was and performed to it. Take a look at this great example…

Feng Zu on Silhouettes in Design



Twinning is the bad habit of keeping poses and motion too symmetrical. We usually try to avoid twinning as it’s easy to keep characters unnaturally mirrored with the effect of leaving them stiff and lifeless.



Without gravity in 3d it’s easy to pose characters who are not balanced. Keep this in mind. Also try to see how the character is positioned in three dimensions as although the pose to camera is most important, bad posing in the other angles will affect in-betweens and shadows etc.


Upper/Lower body countering

Due to the twisting motion of the body the upper and lower parts of the body often counter each other and it brings a nice dynamic to the pose. There’s many exceptions but it’s a good pay attention to the countering of the upper/lower body, shoulders/hips.



Animation is an art form that’s adept in caricature. More often than not you’ll be wanting to stylise the posing of your character. Even in realistic animation such as creature animation you’ll find yourself pushing poses further than they might occur in real life to emphasise the dynamic.


Straights and Curves

Another excellent principle is that of straights and curves. great for designing charcaters but also whilst thinking about out posing.



How To Draw More interesting Poses



Chaplin – Lion Tamer, Clip

Download .mp4


Meryl Streep – Julie And Julia, Clip

Download .mp4


Bill Murray – Lost In Translation, Clip

Download .mp4


Princess Mononoke Clip

Download .mp4


ParaNorman Clip

Download .mp4


Pocoyo Clip

Download .mp4


Queen Of Versailles, Clip

Download .mp4


Wreck It Ralph, Clip

Download .mp4


Aeon Flux, Clip

Download .mp4


Burning Safari, Clip

Download .mp4


Ninja Scroll, Clip

Download .mp4



Animation Mentor Notes What Makes a Good Pose

Joe Bowers Talks about Pushing Poses
A Video Interview we did with Animator Joe Bowers on his work on Disney’s Tangled, and Bolt. In the video Joe breaks down his thought process and work flow, as he goes Frame by Frame on his animation.

JoeBowers Interview from Frame By Frame on Vimeo.


Andrew Silke

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