Melee Attack (MA)

Looking for reference of genuine fear? You'll know it when you see it.


This assignment is worth 20% of your final grade and is due at the end of class 8.

Melee Attack (MA) Modules 7-8
Using any humanoid rig (choose wisely) and a simple prop, students will animate a powerful melee attack against an unseen victim. The primary goal is to create a fluid pantomime performance with a strong sense of force. This task will also introduce students to basic constraints in Maya. Movement style should be broad and exaggerated, appropriate for a 3rd person view action/adventure type game. Like many games animations, the starting (x1) and ending pose (x72) of the animation must be exactly the same though it can (and should) be forward of the starting position. Forward movement is highly recommended because it allows you to increase the distance and speed of the strike. Staging will be a locked off 3/4 camera view that shows the entire action (no camera animation please). There should be a clear anticipation, strike and follow through. The attack will be exactly 3 seconds long (72 frames) Featured principles: Anticipation, Overlap/Follow Through, Arcs, Timing, and Exaggeration

Adventurous and technically confident students may want to use the Motion Capture facility to create this animation. While motion capture is permitted for this assignment the following requirements must be observed:

  • It must be originally authored MoCap by you, no clips from MIXAMO or other sources
  • No raw data: it must be revised for exaggeration, clarity and quality
  • All other parameters apply: must start and end in the exact same pose

Hand in will be as follows:
 - 960x540 (HD540) resolution
- avi file with MSCRAM compression (or quicktime with H.264)
- no resolution gate, grid or animation controls visible

Items should be named: <Lastname>_<Firstname>_<MA>.avi
(eg. Latour_David_MA.avi)

What I'll be grading on this assignment:

- Have you met all of the required assignment parameters? (length, naming, hand-in)
- Does the character have a realistic sense of weight and balance?
- Is there a strong anticipation to the attack?
- Does the strike feel powerful?
- Does your character overlap after the strike?
- At the end of the animation does the character return to their starting pose?


Here's a brief tutorial for the Melee Attack (MA) assignment. I decided to go with a one-handed overhead sword strike. I want to make sure my attack starts and ends with the same pose.


Gather Reference. After some searching online and looking at different sources for sword fighting.I found a video of some fellows showing iron age sword fighting techniques.

I picked out a single strike action (around 32:01). For demonstration purposes I made a gif of the action with the keys and the breakdowns from my reference video (below).

note: You don't need to make a gif for your work. Just trim the refence video down, mark your keys and breakdowns and do any needed drawovers for exaggeration

To make this gif I first examined my reference and picked out the keys and breakdowns. Here's how I define them:
KeysWhat the 'story' of the action is. If you show those single poses in sequence, would someone get a sense of what happens in the animation?
Breakdowns: How the 'story' unfolds. Less about narrative, these poses are to help clarify the mechanics of the action. Breakdowns will help define things like Anticipation, Extremes, Overlaps, Overshoots, Arcs

Once I've figured out the poses that serve as keys and which ones are breakdowns I do a 'draw over' to refine elements of strong posing: clear silhouette, dynamic line of action, exaggeration in the extremes, balance and weight shift.

In realistic fighting an attacker tries to hide their intent from their opponnent. Conversely with animation I want the character to telegraph what they're doing and make the action clearer for my audience. Animation is not about replicating reality but about making a broader, clearer version of reality.

It's important to remember that in reference, the swordsman is not trying to harm his adversary. This means I need to increase the force of the attack. as well.

In the revised gif. you'll notice I made a mark where I want the root of the character to be so that I can more quickly create these poses. With my initial planning done I can move into Maya


Start with keys (10 min per pose) and see if stepping through them effectively tells the 'story' of the action. Showing them to someone else is always a good way to see if you're reaching your objective. Remember to consider the emotional state you're trying to convey with your posing. (Valence and Arousal).

Once you're happy with your first pass key poses, create your first pass of breakdown poses. (10 min per pose)

FOR NEXT CLASS: Time the keys and breakdowns out and then submit for first pass feedback.

For alternative rigs check out the website
Animation Buffet (JD Haas)

Watch the videos on constraints here:
Constraints: the Basics and Constraints: Prop to Hand

Consider the following:
How to Animate your Character when he's Holding a Prop (Shawn Kelly)
Constraints: Hand to Prop

Here are some common trouble-shooting notes for the Melee attack. This is the workflow I'll follow for the feedback session of the Melee Attack (MA)

- Individual review of (MA)
- Open and fix Maya file of (MA)
- Review of Constraint: Prop to Hand (
- NEW Constraint: Hand to Prop (

You may have one or more of these issues in your own work. These are the first things I check when grading.

Pay close attention to the image above. I expect these sorts of errors to be addressed after feedback.