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Week 01 – weekly challenge – applied animation

This week we learned how to create a simple hand wave inside of 3d studio max. Learning to animate the characters hand to wave proved to be more difficult than first anticipated.The basic motion was simple enough, however realistic motion wasn’t. Not having any references to go by meant I was solely relying on my imagination and memory of what a wave actually looks like. This was not ideal.  So I set off to do some research to give me a better idea of what a realistic wave actually looks like.

George Bush Waving


Waving is such a basic human interaction, we do it everyday, and many of the characteristics of a wave are subject to many different attributes and factors. The situation, i.e. waving for help, waving to stop a bus, waving to say hello, waving to say good by, waving to get a waiters attention, is what first defines the type of wave we use, there are just so many reasons to wave.  There can also be certain restrictions such as the age, size, weight of a person, physical limitations can all affect how a person waves. Even personality can affect the way in which a person waves, from personal observations, shy people tend not to want to draw attention, so their waves tend to be short and lower to the ground. Confident people tend to put their hands up as high as possible and wave faster and for longer, sometimes overly flamboyant in behaviour, from research I have come to the conclusion, that a wave is similar to a hand shake, in the sense you can tell a lot about the person from such gestures.


As Part of my research I thought a good place to start would be in the form of personal observations, primary research. In a crowded area in Leeds city centre, I observed many different types of people waving.  As previously mentioned, physical size and age seemed to play a significant role in how a person waves.  Two old men waved goodbye to each other, the waves were slow, slightly laboured and at one point it appeared the two were stuck in suspended animation.  The polar opposite happened a few minutes later when a young girl waved goodbye to her father as her mother took her into a near by shop, her wave was fast energetic, un co-ordinated and floppy with huge long waves back and fourth, the kind of wave you would expect from a child.

I gained a lot of insight from my observations, in away it’s nothing new, I’ve seen thousands of waves through the course of my life, but I’ve never actually really stopped and asked why a person waves the way they do until I conducted this research. Although I gained a lot of insight from what I observed I needed to look else where to find out more especially considering the kind of wave I wanted to animate, wasn’t something you see everyday.

I’ve decided to base my new wave animation on the “wave for help” or “Emergency wave”, the kind of wave when your or somebody else’s life depends on it being seen.  To research this wave, I looked at films featuring waves of desperation. I also looked on Youtube as a form of research.


Films such as, Castaway, 28 days later, Vertical limit and Die hard all feature characters in some desperate situation waving for help or for warning others to some sort of impending doom.

These films were great reference materials for my character animation. The waves in these films all had one thing in common; most of them were high-energy waves, performed using two arms and hands. It seems that in desperate situations, for maximum attention two arms is needed for maximum effectiveness. In 28 Days later, while trying to get the attention of a Military Jet flying by, the characters even jump up and down in conjunction with waving, you can really see the desperation in their actions.

(28 days Later- DVD screen grab)

In the film Cast away (below)  Tom hanks is stranded- He’s been on a raft for days and is suffering from dehydration,  sea sickness and exhaustion which is all affecting the way he waves. His wave is simply holding out his arm and reaching for help. It’s a half conscious effort on his part, not being totally aware of what is happening to him.

(Cast Away- DVD screen grab)

One of my last parts of research was to play the part of a survivor on a raft in the middle of ocean, upon seeing a passing cruiser I then imagine I’m yelling and waving for help. I tried to think about how desperate I would be and then attempt to exaggerate even further.  Recording footage of this actually helped the most with my animation. I could act out exactly how I wanted the character to act. My own bodies motion recorded made the animation more realistic than if it were made with no reference at all. See Below for Video.


Continuing on I decided to have another go at animating my hand wave, this time trying to make it look like the character is waving for help or somebodies urgent attention. This was actually quite difficult, animating a character to show a sense of urgency in their actions is no easy task, even with reference material. It’s clear from the poor atempt that it was my technica Skills which let the animation down. It’s not a very good animation for a number of reasons.

The hand waves are too robotic and not organic enough. It doesn’t seem natural to watch. Feels unrealstic and doesn’t bring the character to life. There isn’t anything good I really have to say about this animation. I think for my next attemp I shall try something easier, I feel as my character animation skills are limited, I need to first improve on them before my animations are to become more complex and interesting. I would rather to a simpler animation that looks good, than a complex one that looks rubbish. Once my Skills improve my animations will become more ambious  but for now, I’ve decided to do another “Help” wave but this time with only one arm doing the most of the work.

Below is my latest Attemp at animating my hand wave..

This is my latest hand wave animation, I would say it’s my best so far. It’s not perfect, the wave is to erratic, although hand waves are not perfectly symetrical in motion. They do tend to follow some kind of rythem which I think I haven’t quite accoplished yet in my animation. Overall it’s not brillient but I believe it’s slightly better than my first try.


What I learned, and What I need to Improve on….

Looking back at last weeks challenege, I realise that, if not researched properly and throughly, even simple animation can be a problem, what you think looks relastic might not be the best apporach, it’s better to look at reference material, even if the motion is to be exaggerated, it’s good to make thre animation based on realistic movement, and then exagerate it, or amplfiy the movment. As for my animation, I am dissapointed with it, although it’s a start, I will concentrate on making it a lot better. I need to get a more organic feel from the character, at the moment it’s stiff and robotic. I need more free flowing movment. The motion of the wave in particualr needs to be more natural. I understand what is needed to make this animation work better, what I need to concentrate on is improving my technical skill in 3ds max in regards to contolling the chracter rig to get the desired results.

George Bush Wave pic –

CAST AWAY screen grab taken from DVD

28 Days Later Screen grab taken from DVD


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