Lauded as the most important principle, squash and stretch gives characters and objects a sense of flexibility and life. Also, this principle dictates that as characters and objects move and deform, their volume generally stays the same. Some of squash and stretch can be dictated by the object actually smooshing into something, such as a ball bouncing on the ground. With characters, squash and stretch can mean many different things. It can be combined with anticipation to make a character “wind up” for an action in a visually interesting way.
One example would be as a character prepares to move, he may squash his spine, making his figure bulge out. Then as he springs into motion, his form elongates and stretches thin to retain the same volume. Whenever possible, use squash and stretch on your characters to give a sense of strain (a character reaching for something high overhead), or to give a sense of fear (a character squashes into a little ball in a corner to avoid being seen by a predator). Start looking for squash and stretch in professional animation and in life, and you’ll see quickly how much this simple principle adds to the illusion of life we give objects and characters.
1) Open squash_Stretch_start.ma. We have an animated bouncing ball with the squash control keyed at 0 on f01 and f16. Hit play on the timeline and see how the ball seems neither alive, nor like it’s made from rubber. This lifeless plastic ball is in need of some squash and stretch!
2) Go to f08, and check out this dead ball! When it hits the ground, we expect a ball made from rubber to react! It needs to squash, so select the middle squash_anim control and translate it down in Y to the base. The location of this control determines where the ball squashes from.
3) Adjust the Squash Stretch amount in the channel box and key the entire control. The ball contacts for 2 frames, so this frame will be the start of it squashing, about -0.2 or so. Also notice that as the ball squashes down in Y, it bulges out in X and Z, retaining its volume.
4) At f09, the momentum continues downward through the ball, making it squash even more into the ground. Set the squash to -0.4 and key the control.
5) Go back to f07. As the ball falls, it would stretch out from the air resistance and the anticipation of hitting the ground. Translate the control back to the middle of the ball (Y is 0) so it stretches from its center, adjust the stretch control, and set a key.
6) At f11, center the squash control in Y, stretch the ball slightly and key it. Since the first and last frames are set to 0, the ball returns to its shape at the top of the bounce. Play back the animation with the controls turned off and watch this principle shine.
HOT TIP Squash and stretch isn’t only about physically squashing and stretching in a cartoony manner. Also think about squash and stretch in the broader sense of being the contrast between compressed/ contained and outstretched/ extended.
Excerpt from How to Cheat in Maya 2014 by Kenny Roy © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.
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From menus to modeling, lipsync to lighting, How to Cheat in Maya 2014covers all of the methods available in the latest version of Maya. Get up to speed quickly and produce stellar results with these insider workflows. With new, updated cheats for the latest version of Maya, How to Cheat in Maya 2014is an essential guide for amateur and professional 3D animators alike. Fully updated with gold-mine coverage including: expanded sections on production workflow, all new chapters covering rigging cheats and Maya’s referencing tools, and brand new project files demonstrating production-proven techniques.