Where does the motion start?

24.9.2014 - 5 minutes read

Where does the motion start?

What should we start with?

Hips? Feet?

I believe it’s neither of these two.

Forget about anatomy for a second, thinking that body is driven by bones and muscles is a oversimplification. I heard many times that body motion is driven by hips. Or that feet are moving the hips so everything starts with the feet. All false. Actually, everything starts with a thought:


That’s right, before you move you think and this idea is so simple that people tend to neglect it. Don’t neglect something that is so important just because it looks simple. What I mean by everything starts with a thought and why I’m saying it is this:

Behind every movement there is a thought. A thought that dictates how the movement will be executed and therefore how the movement will be percieved by the audiences eye (and subconscious mind of course). Example: You want to animate someone walking – you don’t start the animation off by moving the hips, you start the animation off by asking yourself questions like: „What is the guy thinking? What is his mood? What is his personality? What is his health condition? Is he in the middle of a fight? Is he bored? Is he hungry? Is he tired?“ etc.. Then you start the actual animation, keeping the answers to these questions in mind.

Now we should ask ourselfs a whole different question:

„Where does the first physical manifestation of the movement occur?“

Hips. Or I should rather say the core. I made research, more like self study about this and I believe that you first engage the muscles around the core erea of your body:


This leads to engaging other muscle groups, for example the leg muscles, upper torso, or any other body part. So it’s save to say that the you start by moving your hips and your feet follow. In practice (animation) it doesn’t really matter which of these your start with, you can start with feet and then animate hips accordingly it’s perfectly fine as long as you keep the above in your head.

So it’s pretty obvious that we should always start by asking ourselfs questions about what the character is thinking. Otherwise it’s just translating and rotating the bones without any intention and even if this was 100% correct, the subconscious mind watching will be like: „It’s not interesting, there’s no intention behind the movement, that’s not natural, I don’t get that, I don’t like that“ and the animation will come out not interesting, unnatural you won’t like it.

And why am I putting so much effort into explaining where does the motion start? Well, because it’s so important that you always animate the hips properly, always think about what’s really going on because the subconscious mind is going to be judging it and if it picks up something wrong (for example when there is no weight shift in the walk cycle) it will be like: „Our body doesn’t move like that, it doesn’t make sense, it’s not natural, I don’t like that“ and the animation will come out unnatural and as in the first case you won’t like it.

In other words, your body knows how a body should move and it also knows when something is off. I hope that with this little adjustment to your mindset and new piece of information regarding the order of movement it will be a bit easier for you to get things seem right.

I’d like to wrap this up with an example of how I’d go about animating someone punching but I think it will be better if I make one whole article about this. Stay tuned!

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