Animation Research: Walk Cycle

Being considered by many to be the bread and butter of animation’ Chris Kirshbaum-Gnomon Workshop.

Animating a walk cycle seems to be a pretty important exercise that any good animator should be able to do.

I started looking into The Animators Survival Kit by Richard Williams


Funnily, Richard Willams define walking as ‘a series of controlled steps’ which I fought was a cool way of looking at a walk cycle.


I thought the diagram above demonstrated a nice prolific breakdown of a walk cycle because of how clearly and simply it demonstrates the stages of a walk.

A few things stood out to me when studying the following sequence of images.

  1. Each arm moves in coordination with the opposite leg, giving balance and thrust.
  2. As we dip down, we also speed up, releasing energy as we do so. Our arms are also at their widest point when this happens.
  3. Going up, we typically  lift our foot as little as possible, putting weight on our toes.
  4. As we rise up, we slow down. Storing up potential energy.
  5. Our foot guides down heel first for a softer contact with the ground.
  6. Every time we thrust forward our calf muscle puts up.


Normal/ conventional walk cycle break down:

Contact positions: The arms are always opposite to the legs to give balance and thrust.

Passing positions (The half-way phase): Because the leg is straight up on the passing position, it’s going to lift the pelvis,body and head slightly higher.

Down Positions: This is where the bent leg takes weight and the arm swing is at it’s widest.

Up positions (the push off): The foot pushes off the ground, lifting the pelvis, body and head up to it highest position of the cycle. The leg is then thrown out to catch us on the contact position that follows.

I found this information really useful when it came to understanding the basic mechanic of a walk cycle because it describes in detail what is happening with the body at each stage (contact,passing,etc)

However this is considered to be a walk broken down to it’s core, and doesn’t really address the polished movement of the head, shoulders, hands, legs and feet in a walk.

With further study, I came to realise that polishing the movement of the head,shoulders, etc, is a great way to loosen up an animation making it a bit more appealing and interesting.

As a result I started looking into how these body parts also move in a cycle, beginning with the shoulders, hips and head.


As mentioned before, the arms normally move opposite to the legs, in addition having the movement of the shoulders opposing the movement of the legs will give the animation more life.

From a front view, when the arm moves forward, the connected shoulder move forward and down. In contrast, when the arm moves back, the connected shoulder moves backwards and down.


You’ll also notice in the passing position both shoulders are level and uniform with one another.

With regards to how the hips and head moves during all of this is quite simple.


in the example above, as the right arm moves forward, the head tilts to the left and vice versa. So the tilt of the head is adjacent to the movement of the arms. As the legs move forward the hips tilt forward and down and as the leg moves back, the hips tilt up and backwards. The chest also moves adjacently to the hips.

Typically the head is slightly forward in the passing position. As shown below:


With further examination of a typical walk, I noticed that the legs and feet move in a very particular way.


As the the led comes forward, it curves slightly outwards along with the foot and on the passing pose it straightens itself slightly, retracting into it’s backwards position where the heel points slightly inwards.

When looking at how the foot moves in greater detail, it lifts slowly off the ground, gains speed as as it becomes central and finally  hits the ground at a faster pace. As seen below:foot_ref

And finally from a side view we can see the arms and hands move in an arc, during a typical cycle.


I’ve a feeling the research of Richard Williams will become a bit invaluable when it comes to creating the walk cycle. Everything is explained in such a clear and understandable way.  I’m really looking forward to getting down to some animating now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s