Arm Movement During Walk Cycles

I was really struggling with the arm movement in the walk cycle, due to the drag involved. Drag is defined as the pull (someone or something) along forcefully, roughly, or with difficulty. In the case of the walk cycle animation- the drag is the effect on the arm movement, the chain of movement of each of the items of the arm different.

I remembered from first year, Alec mentioned tutorials by Keith Lango, and I wanted to revisit these, as it helped figure out how to achieve this. He had an interesting series of videos on YouTube.

Keith Lango explained that there were two extremes in each moment- one at the beginning and one at the end. This was the easier bit, it’s finding the in betweens that is the hard bit.

Screen Shot 2016-10-31 at 13.00.18.png

The tutorials showed the extremes and what should happen in-betweens.

The videos themselves described the moment of a tail, and as I wanted to obviously use this in an arm movement. I looked a little further into how to create what is known as offset, for the arms’ overlapping action.

Originally, I had seen that this overlapping action can be created through the moving of key frames for the arm, elbow and hand further along the timeline. However, Lango discussed how this can make the animation a bit messy to work with.

He explained the basis of using offset, and why this was so. The un-itiated offset keys is used to created an organic solution of weight, using the following idea: The character moves from frame 1 to frame 10, frame 10 being the pose you want to move into.


The offset-keys technique in theory is very logical. The idea is that if the hips hit at frame 10, then if the mid-spine hits at 11, the up-spine hits at 12 and the head hits at 13 then you’ll get good overlap.


Lango explained further that doing this gives some overlap at the end of the movement and no drag  in the middle. This drag is essential as it gives the weight. This gives an odd hitch in the movement, giving a junky look. Look at the files below.
The disadvantages of this result in extra time needed for clean-up, to remove the hitches.  Instead, drag is created through the process of making changing shapes work as the movement is completed. Combining with the overlap, this makes for better animation.


Lango included the diagram above that helped explain this process.

Applying this to the walk cycle arm movements can be see was follows; When the arm is back on the contact pose, as it moves to the down pose, the arm movement should favour the pose it just moved from. The diagram from Richard William’s book show this more clearly.

The hand stays closer to the extremes as it moves forward and back, giving a delayed few frames of movement.



Drag in the arms.(Williams, 2001).

The information booklet below talked further in depth for created these movements. It referred to the graph editor, showing how to move and redistribute the points to create the overlap and drag I needed.

Further more, I watched the video below. Although I found his arms rather unnaturally- I don’t recall anyone walking like this, I found it really helpful.

Adding more natural movements to the cycle. (YouTube, 2016).


Williams, R. (2001). The animator’s survival kit. London: Faber.

YouTube. (2016). 3D Walk Cycle Animation in Maya. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Oct. 2016].



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