Blender's State Of The Art Character Animation Techniques?

Hello, I’m getting started with character animation in Blender and I’m wondering if anybody point me to the most current tutorials about character animation.

The problem I have is that many tutorials seem to be using
Blender’s older techniques (stride bone, etc) and I do not want to spend time learning outdated Blender character animation techniques.

Is this
character animation technique blender’s state of the art? And should I be studying the mancandy blend file mancandy rig from this page?

Just looking for an overview of Blender’s latest character animation techniques so I don’t spend lots of time learning ways to animate characters only to find out there’s new, better ways to do it in Blender.

Thanks for any ideas about this,


Tony Mullen just wrote a book, Introducing Character Animation with Blender, which is up to date. The Blender Summer of Documentation Intro to Character Animation is also up to date.

It’s always a good idea to do a search (ie: on mancandy) to make sure you’re getting the latest version.

Thanks for the ideas and links Orinoco.

I did the BSOD tutorial a month or so ago…but it does not seem to get the walk cycle to move around…it just walks in place…and I think there are updated techniques in Blender now to get the character to move around nicely…(not stride bone)…I think it may be called something like an offset bone? I’m still getting familiar with these things. I need to get the Tony Mullen book soon. Also thanks for the idea to check for latest mancandy rig.

Well, I’m just looking for the best ways to get groups of bones to do things as I wish for them to do…I guess that’s basically what rigging is all about…so we don’t have to move each bone individually for the whole animation. so I’m just curious what the very experienced character animators in Blender are using as their common techniques to move groups of bones around in easy, efficient, and creative ways? Is everybody using constraints all the time…and bones floating around that are used to control other groups of bones, etc? And mostly using IK chains? And also, what are some of the common problems character animators run into in Blender? and what are their solutions and/or workarounds?

I’d love this thread to turn into discussion about all kinds of character animation ideas, tricks, tips, techniques, etc. relating especially to the most current rigging and character animation techniques in Blender.

I’d love right now a really good tutorial all about Blender’s most current character animation techniques, and how to get them to work well for us, so I don’t have to hack away at so much trying this and that, not really knowing what I’m doing.

As it is now, I’m just experimenting with trying to get certain bones to control other groups of bones in creative yet predictable ways, by using IK chains, constraints, control bones that I create in order to move groups of bones, limiting certain rotations of certain bones, etc…is that basically what everybody else is doing too? Or is there some common character animation concept or technique that I am overlooking?

Its’ all kind of tedious work actually, but I guess that’s what it takes to get characters to do interesting things well. Everybody’s just going through all the work of rigging and then getting groups of bones to move in ways we want them to move, right?

Thanks for any other ideas about this.


I think you’ve pretty well nailed it, frew. It’s the rigger’s job to make the animator’s job easy, and right now it seems like it’s more an art than a science. Blen-rig by jpbousa is the most realistic rig in the Blender community right now, BlackBoe’s Renamon rig comes close. toloban has been working with rigging for a while, and makes semi-realistic to very realistic rigs. Calvin has been working with rigging on his low poly cartoon characters. And of course Bugman2000 wrote the book. Bassam built and rigged mancandy. Virgilio built and rigged Otto. I’m sure I’m leaving out some people who are active riggers.

Anyway, the reason I’m dropping all these names, is so when you see them post, you’ll take a look at what they have to say.

Sometimes threads turn into discussions of technique, but the community is more focused on specific problem solving than general discussions. Post something along the lines of “Here’s what I’ve done, but it takes five bones. Can you show me how to do it using only three?” and you’ll probably have better luck luring them into divulging their secret rigging arcana.

Don’t worry about it, just start animating!

For every person who is producing and presenting work in progress or finished animation, there are probably 50 who are bogged down in making the perfect rig, or the perfect textures/hair/skin or whatever for their project.

The end result of complex rigging and character design might be what you see on the big screen, but without Pixar type resources your not going to be able to do more then tiny projects and those are going to take ridiculous amounts of time to complete, or end up unfinished.

If you really want to animate, start with a character or object that doesn’t require more then a basic rig to set up, and get started. Rig your walking characters with simple IK leg systems combined with FK arms. You can always refine them with lattices and such for segments of your animation where and IF it is needed.

Think about what your animation will be, storyboard it and do a rough camera blocking so you don’t waste time animating stuff no one will ever see, then if you need to have your character walk more then a few steps it MIGHT matter for you to understand the new “walkcycle” system. If not, don’t waste time on it… there’s probably tons of other things you will need to do. BTW what is it with walk cycles anyway… who wants to watch someone (or thing) just trudging around from place to place? Heck cinematographers go to great lengths to save us from such boring shots, yet here we are spending hours getting something to LOOK like its walking while on a treadmill.

The Blender developers will keep coming up with new things that will make your projects go faster and easier with each one you do, but it’s more important to be doing them then worrying about what system or process to use. Dive in and animate, avoid over complicating the process, and remember that there are plenty of folks that will help when you get stuck. :slight_smile:


Orinoco, thanks so much for the confirmation that I’m on the right track conceptually regarding rigging… Often it deeply helps, as we go along in the journey, to get confirmation from someone that is experienced that we are indeed beginning to understand what something is basically all about. Helps us to keep going without so many inner questions that can be distracting from getting on with the work, so your reply is much appreciated. And thanks so much for the names to watch for. Also I see what you mean about threads so I’ll probably be posting then with specific problems as they arise.

Pappy, yes I have become bogged down at times with technical studies, and the actual results get put sort of on hold and it can be very frustrating. so thanks for the encouragement to jump right in and animate more even without feeling that I yet have a really good grasp of rigging techniques. I guess balance is the way to go…to do both…keep learning technique as I dive right in and animate. I also have wondered about walk cycles and their obvious repetitions that do not look so appealing generally. Somehow I cannot help but wonder what system or process to use though for whatever it is that I’m doing in Blender at the moment…this feeling that there’s a better way than how I’m doing it. Better in the sense that it may get more interesting results more quickly and more easily…so I search around a lot for techniques to use. I do spend time experimenting too, to find my own ways. I must admit though, when someone tells me a great idea to try that gets nice results fast, I do love that.

About the tiny projects idea, just curious, what do you mean when yu say we’ll only be able to do tiny projects…tiny in what sense?

Thank you very much.


About the tiny projects idea, just curious, what do you mean when yu say we’ll only be able to do tiny projects…tiny in what sense?

Total animation length and story (or lack of story)… In almost EVERY case I have seen where the hopeful animator working by themselves has put large amounts of effort into the technical details of their work, all we EVER see is quick little tests showing off these details. This has been true both here on the Blender forum, and for the 8 or 9 years I was heavily involved in Animation Master.

It’s simple really… 3d is HARD - the technology changes faster then you can master it, and other users/developers are ALWAYS coming out with new tips, systems and techniques that look like they might save time, or are just cool. Heck, the ONLY projects I’ve completed in the last 10 years are the paid ones. Clients don’t have time for you to mess around with the tech, you just dive in and get it done. The reward comes in their happiness and with the check!

It’s amazing how fast you can figure out things like the new walkcycle system, or particles etc. when you HAVE to have that part of the animation done by tomorrow!

Anyway, a good to great animation does not need to be done using the latest tech. Many of the finer animations I have seen here were done without the animator being aware of the “newer/better” way of doing things until it gets pointed out. IMO it’s BECAUSE they don’t focus on the technique that we get to see their final animation.


Pappy, you have a lot more experience in this than I do, so may I pick your brain?

Of the animations you did complete, the paid ones, what was your overall workflow? How much of a story did you begin with, and did you do storyboards, animatics, what? What is needed to actually complete a decent short animation?

  1. Story… for the last three projects (the last being 1min 40 sec in length) my client has provided a VERY rough idea of what he wanted. So step one was to very quickly bash out a ROUGH draft that was doable based on the time frame (length of animation and amount of time/budget for completion) available and the content that HAD to be included. Most clients, this one especially have NO idea how much time “on screen” something takes to tell a story. I don’t worry about making a great story, just get a framework that tells me what characters and props are needed.

  2. Paper and pencil… I then make crude (very) sketches showing each scene, and toss them into the sequencer with the audio of the necessary content my client provides. (I’ve had to guess about this sometimes and record myself) This gets the basic timing laid out.

  3. Working from the previous, I try to block out the shots required to get an idea of what animation will be needed, and where I can fake or cheat things to look good while in actuality being quick and easy to accomplish. Example: in my last project I needed to incorporate the main character driving a NASCAR racer. With Blenders game engine I knew I could have the car doing some post race spins that LOOKED like a lot of work (to the client) but in reality were easy and quick to animate. here’s an example.

  4. Hammer out the character and props. I cheat everywhere I can. I’ll reuse existing characters if possible. I use the most BASIC rig possible to tell the story and concentrate on the stuff that the client thinks is cool. The last story needed an update to the existing character (repairing my errors in setup from my first Blender project, and implementing some of the newer tools) and a complete track set and car.

  5. Animate with deadline in mind. This means something has to be there ONLY if it adds value to the end project. I cheat camera angles and use cuts and pose to “hide” the fact that my character isn’t ready to be in the next Final Fantasy. No one will care if the knees don’t deform perfectly if the camera is doing a fast move as the character bends them. In this last project my character wore a helmet with a boom microphone that hide most of his lips while in the car, this saved me DAYS of detailed lip sync work by itself.

  6. Use a service like Respower to handle the rendering. I pay the 100.00 fee for up to 1.5 hrs of rendering per frame happily. I’ll start renders happening as soon as I have almost ANYTHING to render. Since my deadline will NEVER give me enough time to do a really great job of setting up lighting, I want to see final renders that will let me continuously keep making tweaks to the lighting and layout as I go along. If I do that from my machine I get bogged down doing render after render.

  7. More cheating in the final sequence. Fake camera moves on stills - or add camera moves to rendered sequences. My stuffs not going to HD so I don’t worry about a little scaling.

So I guess it boils down to…

A. Have a plan.
B. Set a deadline.
C. Be willing to “cheat”
D. Just DO IT! :yes:


Thanks Pappy so much for going over your workflow. Sounds really directed towards getting the job done. I can see how that approach can really get one into the mindset of let’s see how I can make this project happen, and get done. That’s inspiring in a way.

Just curious what you mean by “I pay the 100.00 fee for up to 1.5 hrs of rendering per frame happily”…I guess I’ve never heard of that long to render a frame. Maybe I’m not seeing at this point how long some renders can take. Some of my frames take a few minutes to render, but is it true that frames can take hours per frame to render?

Thank you,


When you get into the “unbiased” render engines like indigo, render times can increase dramatically, to 30 or 40 hours. Indigo, I believe, will keep rendering as long as you let it, with the image getting more and more “accurate” the longer you let it run.

In Blender internal rendered, adding transparency, ray tracing, soft shadows, sss materials, extra lamps, complicated geometry, all add to render times. My box with a couple things in it (treasure chest in my sig) takes about five minutes to render. It’s got ray mirroring and 7 lamps. My Abstract uses ray transparency, and has 12 lamps, takes three times as long to render, around 15 minutes.

In the treasure chest, one of the big jumps in render time came when I added the little bit of chain. The chain uses the same reflective material as the rest of the whistle, but each link is modeled, so the added calculations took about two extra minutes, just for that little bit of chain. Now, normally the chain for a boatswain’s whistle is supposed to be around 24 to 30 inches, but I took a look at two minutes extra render time for two inches of chain, and decided to stop there.

It’s pretty easy to get render times well over an hour per frame, even with fast dual core machines. Sometimes you run out of tricks to keep the times reasonable and just have to make changes, but with Respowers render farm deal it’s still possible to use raytracing and AO in many scenes.

The thing is that I don’t care if it’s an hour or 15 min per frame, as long as my development machine is free to continue working I just keep pumping frames through Respower. There’s ALWAYS other stuff that needs to be done, so I do that while Respower does it’s thing.

Sounds like a Respower ad… but I couldn’t do this without them.


One way I found to learn how to set up a good rig is to build a rig, like “the_little_fella” rig,
I have built the little fella rig as the rig for my new character, and I had built the ludwig rig for him before I found the little fella rig, whitch I think is the best rig for simplistic perposes.
What you do is append the rig you want to build, and then you can just click back and forth between rigs to see what constraints you need to put on what bones.
Dont for get to grab and move every bone, (or I guess you could just hit the “z” key) to make sure you didnt miss any bones, also check all bone layers, and use alt/option “H” to unhide any bones that may be hidden.
I have a pretty firm grasp of rigging by useing this method, and ofcourse using this forum.
Hope this helps

Another thing you don’t want to discount is the wealth of information in the links in the sticky. Sure a lot is not blender specific, but it is character animation specific, and you need that probably more than the blender cheats and tricks, because animation transcends the platform, no matter how technically proficient you are, if you don’t have the fundamentals and theory, it will look robotic, and not fluid.

Tony Mullen’s book is also a great asset, I bought it myself, but you also want general animation books too, like “Illusion of Life” and “The Animator’s Survival Kit”. Look at the links, check out Keith Lango’s free tutorials, almost all of them have tutorials, white papers, videos, etc. You’ve got to look around, and read, and practice as much as you can.

The things that helped me the most with blender rigging are Calvin’s simple page, blenrig, ludwig, mancandy, Tony’s book, the BSOD intro to character animation and rigging, AndyD’s lipsync and other stuff, Comet-Cartoon’s tutorials, Carlos Baena’s links, Michael Sporn Animation, Elephants dream(the videos, making of, blend files, everything), malefico’s stuff, blender conference videos, as well as all the tutorials you can find on any of the 3d sites. Check out the sticky, “How to get ahead in Character Animation” You’ll find links to all this stuff and more, you just have to read a little, or a lot actually, there is ton’s of information if you look.

my turn - so u and ur “boss” do all the work? just 2 people for one payed project?