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Walk cycle

Two Kinds of Walk Cycles

When I used to teach animation and we were covering the walk cycle, I would tell my students to have the highest point of the arm swing come at the heel-toe position. I recently took a look at Richard Williams, however, and I noticed that he has the highest point of the arm swing come at the landing position.

Richard Williams Walk Cycle

Oh no. Did I teach this wrong? This didn’t seem right, from observation. So what did I do? The same thing animators have been doing for decades… I went to Edward Muybridge for reference. Muybridge was a 19th century photographer and flagrant genius who became fascinated by human and animal motion, and documented it in serial photography.

As you can see, the highest point of the arm swing here comes at the heel-toe. And it isn’t a fluke either… on other Muybridge plates you see the same thing. Is there some kind of consensus among animators that the arm swing should come later? Apparently not. Here’s Preston Blair:

Preston Blair Walk Cycle
So is Richard Williams just wrong? I don’t think so. I think he’s trying to improve on reality. It’s a subtle difference, and both walks seem natural enough, but by overlapping the actions the Williams walk seem a little more integrated, a little more pleasing to the eye. The walk has less of that nordic track feel.

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