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Poser Animation 101- the Keyframe and Graph Palettes

For use with Poser 7, as well as previous versions back to 4

Animation is a complex and technically demanding art form, and 3D animation is even more so. Poser provides a simple yet powerful method of animating figures, props, cameras and lights, but getting started can be intimidating. Here's a walk through the basics, with an emphasis on controlling the motions that the figures are making.Poser Animation Basics

While a comprehensive tutorial covering all the animation features, techniques and details that Poser supports would be enormous, this tutorial will cover the "bare bones", describing the typical Poser animation workflow and discussing tools and techniques to make animating easier.

Animating things in Poser is pretty simple, actually; you set the starting positions for the figures and props in Frame 1, then in subsequent frames you position and pose the figures such that they'll move properly to go from one set pose to the next, over the course of the intervening frames. The default Poser scene has 30 frames and spans one second of "real time"; most animations are built assuming a frame rate of 30 frames per second although other frame rates are supported.

You can add frames as needed to make your animation as long as you like- but as a suggestion, take a look at commercials, TV shows and movies to see how long the individual "takes" last- usually the filmmakers only go for a few seconds between "cuts", and continuous scenes in which the same camera is rolling for more than a minute are rare. Similarly in Poser, while you could in theory render out a scene lasting ten minutes or more, it would be a very large and unwieldy scene, and generally you'd be better advised to break it up into shorter shots.

Animation in Poser relies on the concept of keyframes. A keyframe is a particular frame of the scene in which the current position, orientation or other parameter value (joint bending, face morphs, etc.) is explicitly set for the item being keyframed. In between keyframes, Poser fills in the data for that item with tween frames. These tween frames save a lot of work, since Poser is creating all the intermediate steps between the keyframed positions, but occasionally you'll encounter situations where Poser's method of tweening produces some undesired effects.

For example, let's make a scene in which James makes some faces. This will serve to illustrate both the basic animation procedure and how certain unexpected effects can show up, and what to do about them. First, we create a new Poser scene and ensure that the JamesCasual figure is present. From the Camera Controls menu, select Face Camera. James has no expression here in frame #1-

- so let's go down the timeline to frame 15 by clicking in the Frame field in the Animation drawer at the bottom of the screen, and entering 15. Now we can give him an expression. With James's head selected, we can use the morph dials as shown to give him a goofy sort of grin.

OK, now let's go to frame 30 and give him an angry expression-

-and now we can use the yellow scroll indicator to scrub back and forth in the scene to show James changing expressions. Here we'll see a side effect of the tweening process. Look carefully- in frame 15, James is flaring his nostrils, which we didn't want him to do until after frame 15. This is not a major problem- it actually looks appropriate- but it shows the kind of unexpected effects that tweening can cause.

To get rid of the unwanted effect, we start by opening the Keyframe Palette by clicking on the button in the lower right of the Poser workspace, with the little key icon on it. This shows us the timeline with all the keyframe data graphically displayed. Note that the keyframes are displayed as bright green squares, while the tween frames that Poser has generated are dark green squares; items that don't have any keyframe data are displayed as grey squares.

To get to the graph display, click the button with the red spline on it as shown above. The Graph Display will appear. Note that it shows data for the currently selected body part; if we select a different body part (in the Keyframe palette, or from the Current Actor menu in the Pose Room) the graph palette will update accordingly. Also, the drop-down menu in the upper right corner of the graph palette allows us to select the particular parameter of the selected body part- for this example, let's choose NostrilFlare.

As shown, the straight-line progression from no flare to 50% flare starts too early; we can click on the curve (well, it's really a line, but we'll call it a curve) at frame 15, click the Break Spline button, and drag the curve down so that the nostrils start flaring on frame 16.

Now that James is making faces correctly, we can go ahead and have him doing other things- remember, each frame is 1/30 of a second by default, so think about how long you want your actions to take.