Doing Nonlinear Animation

Animation is hard work, really hard work. So any time you can cut down the amount of work you have to do without detracting from the quality of the final animation, it's a good thing. Computer animation has given you another cool way to effectively and efficiently cut corners: nonlinear animation. Nonlinear animation, or NLA, is a way of animating that you can really do only with computers. The process of animating is typically very linear and straightforward (see preceding section). You may animate in passes, but you're still generally working forward in time with the full start-to-finish of your animation already planned out.

What if you didn't have to work this way? What if you could animate little chunks of character motion and then mix and match as you like? Imagine mixing a simple hand-waving motion with a simple jumping animation so that your character is both jumping and waving his arm? This is the basic concept behind nonlinear animation. Nonlinear animation takes many of the same principles used in nonlinear video editing and applies them to 3D computer animation. The idea is that you create a library of simple motions or poses and then combine them any way you like to create much more complex animated sequences. Using a library of motions is useful for background characters in larger productions and is also very handy for video game developers. Instead of trying to pull a specific set of frames from a single unified timeline, video game developers ...

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