Sintel, the Durian Open Movie Project » Blog Archive » Epic fighting animation test (with blends)!


Epic fighting animation test (with blends)!

on October 27th, 2009, by Lee

Hi blender community and beyond!

So this is my first blog post for the project and finally I have something to show! In the previous post you have seen the original first minute which took up a lot of my time in the second production week.

Last week before Blender Conference I was experimenting with action animation, basically to get into the groove of what will be needed. Luckily I got enough done to show it at the conference, and now here!

Sintel fighting animation test from Project Durian on Vimeo.

I gave myself this task just to test out the pipeline I’ll have for final shots. You can Download The Progress Files to see iterative stages of the animation (if you don’t have a 2.5 build, head to to grab one), the step number of the blend file (and video below for those without 2.5) corresponds to the numbers below, which are a run down of the process:

Progress: Sintel fighting animation test from Project Durian on Vimeo.

  • 1) First I plan. Since there was no actual shot storyboarded for this I was able to be quite creative in what I was to animate. I knew I wanted a staff weapon for the main character, and a poor henchman being taken out in a creative and almost hilariously brutal fashion. I know that the final film will have a more dramatic atmosphere, and also the animation style I’m going to use here may be way too much for the final film, but its much easier to tone things down than up. As fun ideas come to mind I write them down in a text file very fast with basically no grammar, just for my reference (sorry can’t find that file).
  • 2) Next I’ve loaded up two dummy characters to be main and henchman, and have begun with some of the initial poses. You’ll notice that the main dummy has no legs!? This is an interesting method I picked up from Shawn Kelly, Lead Animator at ILM who has a great e-book and blog. Here is a post on the subject. In my case I just took the leg bones, made them FK and scaled them right down, if you zoom in enough to see tiny legs =)
  • 3) I continue adding basic poses, I’ve got them all down now except for the final slam. I have left the character sliding during running parts, my plan is to use a separate run cycle and blend it in with the NLA editor.
  • 4) I’m happy with the body basically now, so I add the legs in.
  • 5) Working in video game animation for so long before this project I had to really force myself to start animating to camera a bit more, I experiment and begin adding runcycles into the NLA. I find out that the NLA in Blender 2.5 is still quite in need of testing. After many frustrated hours of NLA blending not working well and losing data when saving, I decide to use multiple cameras and hide as much running as possible ;). Animation is all smoke and mirrors! For finals we will have each shot its own file most likely which allows much more control of editing, but since I started this test all in the same file I just went with it.
  • 6) The final file (press alt+p in the text editor to activate a camera switching script as demonstrated in the video). Just went through and added polish so it looks nice from each particular camera angle. The right leg of the henchman has some bug where I can’t add keys or edit the curves, luckily the camera hides it! Check out the right foot as he is hit with the stick at the end ;). You’ll notice in the file that the weapon has a few versions, this is a work around until we have our better rigs but works nicely for quick tests. I have one staff parented to her hand control, and over one frame I size it to zero (still haven’t gotten the hang of layer switching yet in 2.5), and size another from zero to one, which is not parented to anything, and easily I can animate this new staff as if she just let go of it. I switch back and forth as needed using the same technique.

Cool 2.5 stuff: Now we can use quaternion or euler rotation types for any bones, and what makes it so cool? You can animate *between* them! So to get the nice flipping at the end, I’ve actually gone from quaternion (no gimbal lock which causes weird rotations sometimes), to euler (rotate 360+ degrees, easier to visualize curves in graph editor) using an animated curve.

There were a lot of problems and unforseen challenges during this test, and most of these will be fixed by the time we animate final shots, but there will constantly be challenges that will appear. This exercise shows that there is always a way to keep moving and end up with a result, just takes a little bit of compromise and illusion =)

More blog posts on each of the team members conference demonstrations to come!


65 Responses to “Epic fighting animation test (with blends)!”

  1. Lopsy Says:

    Just do the modeling in Lightwave and the animation in Maya.

  2. Chad Says:

    Lee, there is an anime series that is focused around a female spear-wielder called Seirei no Moribito (Guardian of the Spirit). I’ve only seen a little bit of it but it looks well done and could perhaps be used for some fight choreography ideas.

  3. Bailey Says:

    Nice. Great rhythm and cool idea. Love the stuff I’ve seen so far on this promising project!

  4. Foinix Says:

    If this is a test shot i can’t imagine how epic the actual fight shots will be!!

  5. Sebastian Erler Says:

    Hey, nice new Website header by the way. Looks fantastic. What about releasing the concept image of Sintel as Desktop Wallpaper? 😉

  6. Ovidiu Says:

    Hi Lee, first of all I’ll like yo thank you for your refreshing news, this is I think the first consistent glipse we have on the movie outcome.

    I like very much the fact that we have a spear, and not the classic swords 😉 and it kind of reminding me of ‘Seirei no Moribito’ series, which I’ve enjoyed a lot… in case you miss it, here are some fight scenes:

    In the clip below notice the twrowing thing at minute 3:28 😉

    Keep up the good work guys!

  7. Sebastian Erler Says:

    Ok, forgot my last post. 3mins later David made a new blogpost.

  8. Cyrr Says:

    I’m sure you have seen it already, but just to mention it – the movie Forbidden Kingdom uses the staff weapon a lot, which should give a lot of reference material.

  9. Lee Says:

    Hi again! Many thanks for all the comments and enjoy the wallpapers in the latest post!

    jhultgre: there was a lot of redoing work and playing around since it was my first time animating in 2.5, in the end it was about 20 hours of animating I estimate, over a few days and other tasks. I assume I can get that speed faster and also have better quality animation as I get more practice and a pipeline setup so i can flow easily from blocking to polish =)

    Lopsy: I’ll definitely consider it! *headdesk*

    Chad: you are made of absolute awesome, I had no idea of this anime, I’m finding an anime store here in Amsterdam and getting the series for us all to watch in the evenings. Thanks very much!

    Ovidiu: you are also made of absolute awesome! we enjoyed the clips and as i mentioned above we’re going to try and get our hands on the series =)

    Thanks all. I hope I have given a little confidence in the community that we will be able to handle some of the tougher shots that are required in this movie. That was my hope, that you guys arn’t too worried 😉

    I will be posting more quite soon, we will have some acting tests soon, as we want a character that rivals a hollywood star (who has a lot of acting skill haha) in drawing an audience in and feeling empathy. Ofcourse much more fighting too =)


  10. Chad Says:

    Glad I could help Lee. Keep up the good work, I cant wait to see the final product.

  11. Connor Says:

    Hey do you think you could create a Project Durian YouTube channel for those of us who don’t have Flash 10 capable machines?

  12. Ovidiu Says:

    I glad I could be of some use Lee, although I was the second 😉 Credits must go to Chad for being the first to recommend the series, ehehe

    And I’ve noticed something else: the main character is left-handed! I like this since I’m too! Do you plan to keep her like that?

  13. Biggles Says:

    That is one hell of a legitimate take-down. Looking excellent.

  14. Stephen Says:

    I saw this and thought it would be a nice reference for you:

    Oli Lemieux training trampoline wall Dralion Cirque du Soleil

  15. young_voter Says:


    It seems these action blend files do not work with the Blender 2.5 Alpha. Is that correct? If so, can someone fix them to work with the latest Blender 2.5.