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Animation.Time axis, keyframes

Animation in the 3D Esquimo runs on the basis of time measured in frames. In short, the essence of the animation process is about setting keys for objects in different places on the timeline - frames. The keys are objects that tell which parameters belong to the object in the frame where the key has been placed, that is, for example, in which position it is in different times during the animation. Name - key - comes from the fact that they are set for each object in the specific situations. For example, if you want the object created by you to move around the perimeter of the triangle, it is sufficient that in the relevant moments of time of the animation you will move this object in places where the vertices of the triangle are placed and put the keys. The trajectory of motion for the animation will be then calculated on the basis of these 3 keys and their properties.

If you have used any other animation software surely you understand the process of keyframing. If you meet that issue for the first time, try to make a simple exercise, that makes the cube moving along a trajectory of the triangle. On this simple animation I will gradually explain the options available for animation.

  1. Create a new scene ( CTRL + N ). Let’s leave the standard settings of the scene. Frames per second: 24, Total frames: 100. You can check them in the tab called "Scene" (ALT+5). Go forward to the tab called "Geometry" (ALT+1) and select the object - Box.
  2. Go to the tab called “Light” (ALT+3) and select "Point Light”. Activate the mode of object movement ( 3 or corresponding icon, you can view the functions of icons here) and move the light a little in each axis (5-10 length of the edge of the cube you created), so as to illuminate the object from some distance.
  3. Go to the top view (ALT+C or click the corresponding icon). Zoom the window to full working area (W or the corresponding icon), it will be easier for you to deploy the object in the key positions.
  4. Zoom out a little the view, in order to have a space to move the created box. The workspace should look more or less like this:

  5. Turn on the "animation" mode (A icon right next to begin of the timeline) if is not active yet. Move the box to the position indicated in the figure as #1. After you release the object an animation key for the new position will be created. The key is created at every modification of the position, angle or scale of the object. In some circumstances you might want to create the key manually, then press K or click on key icon right next to "animation" mode icon.

    So, after you moved the object, the key was created in the first frame. To be specific, the position key. The exact key parameters will be discussed later in the way of working with the timeline. By doing this simple exercise, you can turn on the Timeline view (ALT+4) and observe the changes. More about working with the timeline, see the section Timeline editor.

    The default behavior of the program causes that while creating a new object, the key for this object is not created. It is created either manually (K button) or by any manipulation of the object if the "animation" mode is turned on. However, it is possible to change the settings so that while adding new object to the scene there is also added the key for current active mode of manipulation or set of keys of all the modes (move,rotate and scale). You can accomplish the changes in Tools -> Options (ALT+O).

  6. Go to the frame nr 30. Click on the corresponding position on the timeline (more on navigating through the timeline, you will learn in section called Navigation, scene player) and move the box to the position #2 as shown below. Go forward to the frame nr 80 and move the object to the position #3. Go to the last frame (100) and move the cube to the initial position. Placing the cube in the same position can be troublesome and there would be a need to adjust the position in a large zoom. However, you can copy the key from the first frame. Go to the first frame and copy the key (CTRL+C), return to the frame nr 100 and paste the remembered key (CTRL+V).

    You should get a result similar to that shown below (move the mouse to see the animation in motion). The result of keyframing of position in the editor the trajectory is drawn with marked keys of position with the number of frames. You can turn them off in the options panel (Tools->Options or ALT+O). Trajectory of movement is calculated on the basis of Bezier’s curves. The length of its displayed part measured in frames can be change by the parameter called "Motion length" in the options panel. With each key there appear the handles, with help of which you can locally modify the curvature of the trajectory.    

    Top view Perspective view
  7. Try to add a rotation to the moving box. Note that the set keys apply only to the translation. They were placed when the move mode was active. Go to the frame 50 and switch to the mode of the object rotation (4 or the corresponding icon). Now we will put the key for rotation. As you can see, after switching the active mode of working with the object (move>rotation), the keys on the timeline changed their color to blue. The keys concerning the active mode of object manipulation are highlighted in yellow. Press K button or use the corresponding "key" icon. The key for rotation in the frame nr 50 was set and marked in yellow. When you switch to the move mode, the key set for the rotation will change the color to blue, because it will not concern the active mode. Switch back to the rotation mode and go the frame nr 100. Rotate the object counterclockwise (using the top view) of 100-120 degrees. The key to the rotation will be created automatically after the rotation of the object. Otherwise you would have to create it manually before the rotation (K). You can also manually add the set of keys for all parameters (move, rotation, scale) at a time by pressing SHIFT+K.

    Thus there were created 2 keys in the frame nr 100 – for the move and rotation. It reflects graphical both the timeline and time axis. The key that has been set is half  yellow and blue, what means that in this frame there is the key connected with the active mode of object manipulation and at least one key associated with a different mode. The timeline should look like that after the set of the rotation keys.

And the modified animation like that - from the frame nr 50 the box should rotate:

Top view Perspective view

In the "animation" mode keys are modified or added if in the frame there is no keys like that, at each change in the position/rotation/scale of object by the user. For practice, try to modify the trajectory of the cube motion, so it is similar to the one shown below. It is sufficient to move the cube in frames 19, 52, 88 (this is just a proposal, you do not need to choose exactly those frames) closer to the center of the loop, which is formed by the trajectory of motion.

Additionally, you can modify the shape of the trajectory by the handles tangential to the curves in the key frame. You may have trouble with achieving the round trajectory at the point where the first and last frame are, because the handle coincides with a key there. The best thing is to deal with such situations by temporarily postponing one of the keys for a small distance, pulling out handles comfortably and pushing the keys back, so they are in one place. The figure below presents the scheme of conduct:

Animation after the recent changes looks as follows:

Top view Perspective view

"Animation" mode, "Geometry" mode and pivot point in term of above.

To fully understand principles of animating in Esquimo you need to know te difference between "Animation" and "Geometry" mode. You can switch between them with "A" button right next to begin of time axis.

Geometry mode active Animation mode active
"Geometry" mode "Animation" mode

Consider geometry object like torus or box as a container inside of which there is a set of vertices that form the object. When you move/rotate/scale selected object being in "Geometry" mode you actually modify coordinates of particular vertices. It is like changing a mesh structure. It doesn't look like typical mesh deforming but moving/rotating/scaling vertices does deform the mesh in term of its structure. In a such process mesh vertices takes new coordinates. What's important - this kind of modification is not animated. To understand what "Geometry" mode is about, look at this simple animation.

In the "Animation" mode a few "move" keys has been set. The object follows the trajectory is you would expect. Click on the picture to see it in motion.

After switching to "Geometry" mode the object has been moved a bit to the left and rotated by 45°. The number of frame in which the modification has been done doesn't matter as it affects all the existing animation. You can take it as constant "shift" and this is the point of using "Geometry" mode. Click on the picture to see the motion after the change.

Pivot point

Actually each geometry object in Esquimo has two pivots activated interchangeably for "Geometry" and "Animation" mode. While "Geometry" mode repositioning pivot will affect rotation and scaling in this mode only. Thus it doesn't impact directly on animation. It should be considered as a help tool to make mesh transformation based on rotating/scaling.

Once you switch from one mode to another pivot will change its position (if it was changed in any mode prior). This indicates that from now on you are using other pivot.

To see the difference in their working let's take a sample use case. Let's say you have got a text animation completed. It moves along some trajectory. To make its vertical mirror reflection duplicate the text object and switch to "Geometry" mode. Then you can set up pivot at bottom line of the duplicated text and rotate it by 180°.

Pivot point in Geometry mode

After changes made as shown on the picture above the text object will be traveling with its mirrored copy.

In "Animation" mode pivot does affect rotation and scaling which are performing based on pivot point location - the pivot positioned in "Animation" mode. Let's recreate very simple example. The ball moving along the line and rotating around distant center. The following steps are:

- Being in "Animation" mode set two "move" keys in 1st and 50th frame.

- Click on "Move pivot point" icon and move ball's pivot like on the picture below. You will notice that the entire spline ot trajectory will move as well. This is a consequence of mathematical background within animation mechanism.

- Active "Rotate object" mode and set the key in first frame and another one in last (50) frame with rotation for Z axis=360° (if you put 720 or any bigger nth of 360 it will look like kind of sprial trajectory). The ball should follow along a curved trajectory which is a result of adding linear and orbital motion of the object. Click on the picture to see in it in motion.