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The Making of BBS - Animation



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pepe1092

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Hi everyone, I’m Koji Hamada, the Animation Director for KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep!

What does an animator do?

An animator's main duty is to breathe life into the characters and gimmicks in the game by giving them movement. This includes everything from crafting the motions for the main, Disney and enemy characters (like the Unversed), to objects like jumping platforms and street lamps that shake when they're hit.

Giving the characters some personality


When creating the character motions, we start with written descriptions from the planner. Things like, Ventus should be speedy, Aqua should be graceful and Terra should show powerful strength. From there we put together several stand-by poses and simple attack motions. For every motion we created about ten variations for the planners to choose from, and the characters' qualities were narrowed down one motion at a time. There was a different lead animator in charge of the battle animations for each of the three protagonists, and I think this helped to create a very diverse and unique set of characters.


Setting the Unversed apart from the rest

Our initial goal in designing the movements of the Unversed was to differentiate its motions from those of the Heartless and the Nobody. As with the main characters, we prepared about ten variations of simple stance, travelling and attack motions. From there we discussed the specifics with Supervisor Kando and Co-Director Yasue to decide which movements to implement, ultimately creating a brand-new style.
One of the stand-out characteristics of the Unversed is that they demonstrate very sudden movements. Contrary to the fluid motions of previous enemy characters, the Unversed will jump much higher than expected or stop very abruptly, sometimes to the point where you might think "are they really supposed to move like that?". We’re very happy with how they turned out, and feel that they have a lot of personality.
I remember some tough times during development, as I was working so hard to make something new and different. In retrospect, however, I can say I definitely had a lot of fun working on the motions for that very first Unversed!


How does the animating process work?


We used a 3-D tool to set up action points (called keyframes) within a given timeframe to implement the animation.
The modeling team provides character models with skeletal structures, and because these are difficult to animate as-is, the animators usually add a rig and reconstruct the model to make it easier to apply the movements.
In terms of specific motions like the swing of a sword, animating the swing itself is a pretty simple procedure. It's reflecting the character's personalities in the action that presents the real challenge.
When crafting an attack motion, we would use the 3-D tool's ghost function to verify the sword's trajectory. The subtle waver of the sword once the swing is complete, the movements of the free hand and the character’s stance and footwork are all details that we pay close attention to.


It's all about the details


Every last detail in event scenes, from the character's motions down to their hair, clothes and facial expressions, were crafted manually. Through all of our efforts, we were able to achieve high quality visuals on par with that of the KINGDOM HEARTS titles on console platforms.
Sometimes when the Unversed are in their stand-by mode, not attacking or traveling, you might notice a difference in their movements. We've added many subtle details like this to areas you may not be paying too much attention to when playing through, so it might be fun to take a minute and observe the actions of the Unversed a little more closely.
The three main characters are highly skilled Keyblade wielders from the get-go, so combined with the leveling system you can unleash powerful attacks early on in the game. Each character is distinctly animated, and I think players will find the action-packed battle experience very satisfying. Please give it a try!


Source: KINGDOM HEARTS Birth By Sleep's Page on 1UP.com
 

Sign

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Nice find :D

The animation process is pretty interesting.
 

Goldpanner

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Oh nice! Thank you~

I love how with video games like this, every little movement and facial expression is planned and everything means something.
 

Llamapox

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Its interesting how they tried to make the unversed move a lot differently to the heartless and the nobodies. Looking at them again I can see what he was talking about.
 

Hamster Lord

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Nice find! Hopefully I won't get a crapload of homework that day, I hope to finish by time Data Install is done.
 

Ikkin

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Oh nice! Thank you~

I love how with video games like this, every little movement and facial expression is planned and everything means something.

Kingdom Hearts animation is really something special. It always amazes me when I see western games that are supposed to be technical showpieces that have cruddy animation, because the KH team is able to do so much on such limited hardware.

The bit about all the things they have to take into account for sword swings is particularly interesting, though, because it shows just how subtle the details they consider can be. And now I'm wondering whether the subtle waver they mention is something that should be there, or something they got from watching amateurs... XD;
 

LynnStrife

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Nice! Thanks for the find~! ;D

My dad and my sis are really into animation-stuff, so I kinda know how much work they put into animation, but still, while playing a videogame, you tend to forget that... They've put so much hard work into it. What makes me respect the awesome games they make even more - KH rocks! =)
 

Raz

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I'll probably be too busy studying the Unversed and will get killed or something. xD
 

Vanitas666

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I love how with video games like this, every little movement and facial expression is planned and everything means something.
agree but look at vens face (don't worry, no spoilers and if it is then plz don't tell ous because I don't want to get spoiled) when terra tell him that he want to become a keblademaster and somewhere when ven turn his head from aqua to terra he look really wierd

I found it:
YouTube - Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Trailer - Gamescom '10
Look at 0:55 after aqua say, "well you're not the only one"
 

Wheels

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