Mastering Walk Cycles In Adobe Character Animator | David Miller | Skillshare

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Mastering Walk Cycles In Adobe Character Animator

teacher avatar David Miller, Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (39m)
    • 1. Intro to Walk Cycles

    • 2. Body Rigging 1

    • 3. Body Rigging 2 Hinge + Weld

    • 4. Body Rigging 3 Nutcracker Jaw

    • 5. Body Rigging 4 Dangle and Draggable Options

    • 6. Body Rigging 5 Breathing

    • 7. Body Rigging 6 Walk Cycle 1

    • 8. Body Rigging 7 Walk Cycle Options

    • 9. Pose Emphasis, Hip Sway, Shoulder Sway

    • 10. Preparing Four Legged Character

    • 11. Rigging Four Legs With Attack Bug

    • 12. Rigging A Horse

    • 13. Wrap up + project

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About This Class

Bring your animated character puppets to life with their own unique walk cycles in Adobe Character Animator!  In this class, we cover rigging characters with 2 and 4 legs.  

Adobe Character Animator is a powerful motion capture software packaged with After Effects.  Using puppets assembled in Photoshop or Illustrator, once can do live streamed animations or simply created animated content for shows and advertisements, having pre-programmed behaviors controlled via keyboard, webcam, mouse or MIDI.  For further exploration of the potential of Character Animator check out the many other classes I have on the topic on my teaching channel!

Meet Your Teacher

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David Miller

Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio


I'm David, a multimedia artist in Phoenix, and my studio is Primordial Creative.  


I have always been interested in the visual arts from an early age- drawing, painting, and clay- but around my high school years I became interested in photography for the social aspect of involving other people, the adventure inherent in seeking out pictures, and the presentation of reality that wasn't limited by my drawing skills.


One thing in my work that has stayed consistent over the decades since then is I have an equal interest in the reality of the lens next to the fictions we can create in drawing, painting, animation, graphic design, and sound design.  As cameras have incorporated video and audio features, and as Adobe's Creative Cloud all... See full profile

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1. Intro to Walk Cycles: hello out there. I'm David Miller in Phoenix, Arizona. Multimedia artist educator. I want to welcome you course character animator Walk Cycles Adobe Character Animator is a motion capture software that comes with Adobe after effects, and it is a quick, fun and easy way to create puppets that have programmed behaviors that allow for very realistic animations. I love character Animator and I have many courses on this teaching site related to character animator, and this lesson focuses on the walk cycle. So Walk cycle is something where your characters move at a certain speed. They can walk in place, or you can attach body speed to them and have them go from one end of the screen to the other. There are many variations of the walk cycle, and we're going to focus on the rigging aspect of how we make this work. There are many parameters to the walk cycle in character animator, and once your character is fully rigged and moving, they can exhibit their own personality through walk cycles. So I'm really excited to talk about this. It's one of my favorite aspects of character animator. To succeed in this class, you're going to need after effects. Character animator comes with it and you're going to need your own character animator puppet. So if you've never built a character animator puppet, I suggest you take some of my other character animator courses before you dive into this one. With that, out of the way, let's get started. 2. Body Rigging 1: At this point, I'm going to show you how to rig a body on your character. Animator puppet. So let's go File import Going to import walk Wolf PSD So this is walk Wolf and I built him around the wall. Kampot This was actually a very first walking character that I created. He has ahead, He has his body and he has the torso, which is the majority of him. I'm going Teoh like that out so you can see the rest. He has a left arm on the far side of his torso. He has right arm on the near side of his torso. The reason why the right arm is on top in the hierarchy is because this is the one we see. It's closest to us. You put the torso in on, then the left arm is on the other side. He has a right leg. He has a left leg. He has a tail on. Then where it says body that actually isn't anything that might have been a leftover from the walk bought that I based this on in his head. He doesn't have the sequins of mouth shapes that other puppets might have There's no reason why you couldn't have a puppet with a talking head, and I'll show you one later. But he does have a jaw, and that jaw is there, so his jaw is going to be kind of flappy. That's my aim for that. Going to pick and body. And as you can see, it draws a pretty cool outline around the body. And it's also including the head because the head is not independent. If I independent the head, you'll see the body actually only contains the neck and the torso. It doesn't include the legs and the arms, because those are independent as well. But I'm going to not independent the head and I'm going Teoh, start my reading. So we scroll down on the Properties panel. We have this little skeleton figure, and this rigging structure, of course it's based is if it's facing you. But there's no reason why you can't position all of these dots on what we have here. Starting right arm the circle that you see that says right arm, that is going to be your hinge. So move that to wherever something hinges. This is where his arm is going to swing. That's his shoulder. I'm gonna places other joints using the handle tool. So I place a handle here. Right elbow, please handle here, right wrist, and then I'm going to give him some bones with the stick tool. Very simple. You just position in there and we have rigged his arm. If we want it to do something special, like we want it to drag. Remember, we click on a handle, and here's where we can assign a particular modifier or physics. If you wanted to dangle, which wouldn't make a lot of sense on the arm, I'll probably his tail dangle. But I would like his arm to drag someone click drag herbal. And now it has that property. I'm going to blank out the torso and the right arm just so I can see what's going on in the left arm. Position in the shoulder, at an elbow at a wrist. Add some bones 3. Body Rigging 2 Hinge + Weld: I'm going to read his tail really quickly because I want to show you placing the dangle, and I also want to explain the difference between welding and hinging your objects. So this handle is going to get dangle, and a tail needs to be welded to the body. An arm or a leg is going to hinge. It swings and a rotating motion, but the tail doesn't swing like that, so I'll go ahead and click off of it on the tail again. So I see this part where it says attached style. Well, that's exactly what I wanted to do, where it says attached to usually it's really good and attaching it to the things you wanted to attach to. But just for our sake, we're going to check here, and I want it to attach to Body Auto connected to the body. It didn't show me the dotted line that goes to where your body handle is. The left leg shows the dotted line. That's fine. Go ahead and move that up. Finish my tagging. When you get two feet, you'll notice that there is an ankle, a heel and toe. If you're doing some kind of animal instead of something that's a bipeds like this. Even though he's an animal, he's basically a pipe it. This is where you really have to play around with what you position. I get a horse once, and it was incredibly hard to tag things. I think I ended up having them having multiple ankles just to get the horse legs to look like they're moving in the right position. Once I do this, I'm gonna run through all as my arms and legs and realizing I forgot a few things. Bones here, bones on the left leg going to give him bones in his foot so it's foot doesn't flop around . I also want to check if their joints are welded or hinged. I'm gonna move them all the hinge. I feel like hand works the best. INGE. It really depends on the kind of character you are making, though, if you are making a robot and you didn't want him to have a full range of motion swinging arms, uh, that would make sense to, well, things on. I've said it before of it. Every character you make is probably gonna be a little bit different as far as the way they move, the way they talk, the way they function. And it's really fun to come up with various ways that they move around. And that's part of the fun of animation is that each character in the scene should have something unique to them. 4. Body Rigging 3 Nutcracker Jaw: Now when I get to the right eyebrow, you can see that character and has done a good job of figuring out what the right eyebrow is. I don't have a left eyebrow. I don't have a left eye because I don't see the other side of this guy's face perfect the job. I'm going to assign a behavior. I want it to be a hinged jaw, so we scroll to the bottom of this. You see it? Sorry. Listed as a job Nutcracker jaw out of behavior camera flatness, audio, flah Penis audio. FLAH Penis simply means when you speak, the characters mouth will open and close movement is either position rotation. We'll see what it looks like when we actually get into the record mode with our guy. So let's take a walk. Wolf. We're going to add him to his own scene, This little button here and he's very huge. A lot of things odd about this. We open up, transform. We scale him down so he fits the scene. Blow it up. We'll set, rest, pose. And now he straightened out. As you can see, his jaw moves a little bit when I speak. When I move my mouth around. Let's have a Nutcracker jaw. Audio flapping has turned up really high. There we go. Now you see it open and close. You're not even more. Wow, that might be a bit much. His eyebrow and I reactions are really good. His jaw. It was a little bit off the head when I have it cranked up to 3 87 So let's go back into rig mode. Let's check out the jaw. The jaw is welded on. Change it to a hinge back to record mode now. No difference. Back to rig mode. Instead of moving the entire position of the jaw, I really wanted to rotate. If it rotates clockwise, it's going to go down. That probably is what I want. It rotates counterclockwise will go up into his head. I want to see what it looks like if it rotates counterclockwise. I want to see if it does something hilarious. Yeah, it does. There's his jaw going straight up through his face. Rotate clockwise. Ah, much better, except it's way too strong. Turn down the audio. Flah Penis. Okay, now he reacts more like somebody should The camera flappy nous is essentially what happens when I record myself with the webcam. So these two things working combination, you get a pretty good performance out of this guy. 5. Body Rigging 4 Dangle and Draggable Options: when it's scaling down even more, so he fits in her screen. Now we want to assign a walk cycle and some physics to him. The, uh, dangle, I added on his tail, can be turned on by cranking up the wind and turning down the spring stiffness. So by turning a spring stiffness down, you could see his tales there turn up the wind strength. His tail is moving, but it's really drooping. Let's change the angle of things, the wind angle. It's gonna blow his tail that way and wind variation. So even if you don't intend for this to look like a windy day, at least you get some movement out of your character. The dragon ball on his arm is already assigned, so should already work. And it does with the simple mouse click. Now, when I let go the mouse, his arm snaps back pretty abruptly. I don't quite like that. The way to change that is to go into the dragger menu and give it a return duration of something like half a 2nd 0.5 And you might say that looks cool, that it actually has some animation between. But it's a little slow 0.2. Okay, somewhere embittering 0.3. Well, look the most natural. There we go. If I wanted to stay in place, that's an option. You'll notice that his arm is going behind his head. That's because I currently have this body rigged with all of the body segments in here, but it's underneath the head. If you want your right arm to go on top of the head, I'll show you a character that does that later, but I have to have the right arm out of the body and above the head. 6. Body Rigging 5 Breathing: back to the record menu. There's a few more elements I can add to this guy before I get him into his walk cycle. Uh, I like one called Breathe. I'm going to assign the entire character breathing now. It's called Walk Pot because I basis on the walk bought puppet, and I haven't changed the title of it, but it is my walk wolf. I'm going to assign him a breathing cycle. And even though I've assigned him this, I need to do one more thing. I need to actually assign a breathe behavior to him because he currently doesn't have one. So to get back to this menu, I just clicked into this empty space. Then I see behaviors I'm going to add breathe. And now you see him growing and shrinking on an alarming rate. Shrink this down. You'll see that the maximum scale for his breathing is 400% which is really high. We need to cut this down to something like 103. I'm gonna alter the direction. So instead of being up and down, it's in and out, and I'm gonna change the offset a little bit. Crank this down to 101 Turn the number of breaths down per minute to 30. Just a little more motion to my guy. 7. Body Rigging 6 Walk Cycle 1: one thing I haven't rigged yet is his actual body parts. So you might first think I'm going to assign the hip and waste in the torso region. But I can't put any handles on because this is not a group and it is not independent. It doesn't even have a space for adding the independent crown. I can assign those features to his body. So I will take this body down here going to call that his hips. I'm going to give him a waste. Pure. I'm going to give him neck, and now he's a little more grounded with the way that he moves around. All right, at this time, I want him to start walking. Let's add the walk behavior. Our options walk immediately. The easing, the stride length, all of the stuff you were able to change in record mode, and I would just wait till you get back to record. Go to change that, because you aren't really going to know how this guy operates until you see it on the screen. Right now, I'm actually quite happy with the way he walks. His head is being distorted a little bit. It's not acting independently of the body, which is something that happens if you have the head markets independent. Let's put the crown on and you'll see what I mean. This might actually be the behavior you want, though you'll notice that it's not really distorting his neck for as much as it did when the head wasn't marked independent. It's really up to you. If you want the head to be a little more free, I would keep it as an independent item if you want it to match everything the body is doing . Take independent off the jaws mark independent. So it flies around in ways that I might not really want it to. There we go. Now we have uh ah Oh, now, one thing you'll notice is my jaw is kind of floating around loosely, and that's because it is marked independent. It is independent of what the body is doing. If I take that feature off, I also lose my job behaviors or have them added as something that the head itself is doing . So you're gonna have to compromise somewhere, and I'm going to keep the jaw independent because I like the fact that my walk wolf can talk. I like that he can stretch his arm. I like that. He has a bouncing tale. I'm going to give him some bouncing for on his head real quick at a dangled to his ear. 8. Body Rigging 7 Walk Cycle Options: not at this point. We have an independent jaw ahead that is not independent. A body that is not independent. We have a dangling tail. We have a drag herbal on his arm, which we will switch back to return to rest so I can still on Dragon pointed things, but it'll fall backwards. Uh, there are many, many options weaken due to make this guy look more natural. One thing we definitely need to do is go into the face menu on make sure his head won't scale or fly around in proportion to his body because you'll notice when I get closer or further from the camera. He does things that aren't really appropriate for his character of his characters walking in a side scrolling fashion. So going to turn heads scale strength down all the way. I'm not change the head position strength so it doesn't lie around on his next so much. Take it down to about 50%. Let's see what happens if I turn his head tilt up goes over the jaw, so I'm gonna turn that down, okay, That looks appropriate for the character. And then let's change it. So his walking I don't want to get rid of that black background because I can't see his cute little nose All right, now that we were fined our body rigging little bit, we're going to delve into the walk cycle a little bit deeper. So first things first. We're going to stop. He's walking. Unless I say so. I've switched it. So it now says, Start with left and right arrow keys. So he walks When I pushed the key and he stops when I turn it off, I'm going to turn up the start. Stop easing. So it's little more obvious to you guys. I'm going to give him one second to go from rest to walking a little slow for a wolf character. But I just wanted you to see what happens, going to turn up his body speed, and this is actually going to have him walk across the screen. So if you drop a background underneath your walk wolf instead of having this empty field, he will walk across the background, turn the speed up to 60%. There he goes. Let's have him walk backwards, get a little moonwalk that's crank up the arm swing. Such a fun lively character now, so that walk is cute. We have many choices. We have slump, which really distorts his neck. You can take down the strength, giving more of a shuffle. We have France turn the strength. Back up on that. All right, we have run. Turn the body. Speed up on that I like at the end of his run cycle. His tail gives a little waggle on bounce. We have stride length simply means his legs are going to stretch further. Makes a lot of sense in the run cycle step phase which sort of sets up where he starts from really useful. If you actually wanted Teoh have a character walk on stage from off camera, all of these options are great tools for making each of your characters have individual ways of walking and behaving and really being their own unique characters instead of just a series of puppets who all do the same thing 9. Pose Emphasis, Hip Sway, Shoulder Sway : the latest iteration of character animator has added a few changes to the rigging mode. So we have a right shoulder, a left shoulder, a right hip, and they left it. Previously, we did not have those options. We only had a single hip, and then these arms joined up near the neck of your character. But with these new options come new things. You ca ndu with your character, particularly in the walk cycle. So I'm going to show you what those new things are. And then we'll come back to the rig mode and see how we get there. First up are the shoulder sway and the hips way. So these are things that really twist your character, and I have my character going in slow motion, and I have turned them up to a sort of ah, ludicrous degree just to show you how they work. You can see her shoulders are twisting forward and backward and the same with her legs. So without any hips, sway at all and without any shoulder sway. This is what the old way of the walk cycle looked like, and it's still cool in my mind, but it really looks like pieces of paper that are just sliding back and forth. There's no three dimensional context to it. Turn up shoulder sway something around 20%. And on this particular character, I really like the hips way up high, and it just feels more animated. One more tool that you can do to have a character who has personality to them, the third new Walk cycle option and character diameter 2.0, is the pose, emphasis and pose. Emphasis means that in between poses, you're going to have a change in velocity. So it's Turner speed up a little bit when I have posed emphasis up all the way to 100. It's very robotic. Uh, it's not appropriate for this particular character unless she's supposed to be mimicking a robot or she's supposed to be marching an emerging band. But when I have it down to zero, there's not a whole lot of change in velocity your and goes forward. It goes back because forward it goes back, does have a little bit of a squash and stretch to it, which I like When it's around 27%. Her hand gets a little bit of arrest when pose. Emphasis is around maybe 20%. Her hands and feet get a little bit of arrest, and I like that term for step speed. It just feels a little more naturalistic. Where it gets stiff is usually around 59%. So unless you have a character that that's appropriate for, I would keep it down in the 24 20% range. Now, if you're making a new character, it's really easy to run through and tangle of these. If you have an older character like my nightcrawler puppet here, what's gonna happen is character animator 2.0 is going to by default, call your hip the left hip and right him. I'm gonna go ahead and delete that. I'm going to put new tags down where appropriate, and I'm doing this on the body level now that I have my right shoulder left shoulder, right hip left, hip, tagged. I need to go through the individual limbs and make sure that they are attached to where they're supposed to be attached to, cause by default they are going to attach to the body. And when I really need is thelancet leg to attach to the left hip, the right leg to attach to the right hip, so on and so forth. If you have an old puppet and you re rig him, I would always encourage you to export this new version of your puppet. But that's all there is for re rigging. An older puppet. Four character animator two point owes. Left shoulder, right shoulder left hip right hit options. 10. Preparing Four Legged Character: one of the difficulties in character. Animator is animating a character that has multiple legs like my attack bug friend here, and it's ah, not difficult if I want him just to stand still and talking. But if I want him to actually walk because he has more than two legs, the rigging is a little bit tricky, and the same goes for if you have a character with only one lake, like a Medusa snake leg body. But there's a little bit of finessing you need to do when you have in odd number of legs. So I started this guy often. Illustrator. I'm going to export him as a Photoshopped file and set up my rigging there. When you export out of illustrator, make sure that whatever option allows you to write layers, that's when you choose. You can switch him to RGB when you're in photo shop. Now we have the usual organization of all our layers separating out all the elements that I want to move this element a sparkle on his knife. I think that would be a cool layer cycle if it were welded to the corner of his knife. So what? I'm gonna do is place that in a group, call it sparkle, going to transform these as I do it and I'm gonna alter the scale. So this is free transform in Photoshopped. The idea is, in this cycle, it will fade in and grow with number two. Another thing that makes this guy's character design unusual is he has to torsos, and I kind of want him to bounce around like a little centipede. I want his head to bounce around. I want his midsection a bounce around and I want his bottom section to bounce around, so that would probably be three sets of breathe and maybe a dangle on each one of these. But we'll check it out in character. Animator. Instead of writing left or right legs, I'm going to define these as front and back. So that would be front right leg, front, left leg, back, left leg, back, right leg. It doesn't matter if you are putting them in the folder or if you're taking him out of the folder and having them as individual layers. If there's nothing else in the folder, it's going to be registered as a group and a layer in character animator. But the important thing for tagging my legs is that I make them independent. So if you have a group something that's already in a folder, it's easy to make independent and character animator. You just crown it in the rig section. But if it's its own individual layer, you're going to need to add the plus icon so it can be independent in character. Animator. One last step. I need to switch his Moto rgb Do not merge those layers that I spent all that time organizing and save. 11. Rigging Four Legs With Attack Bug: there he is. Attacked Bug. He definitely does not look like this guy over here. Let's tackle the legs first. Let's go after the front left leg is going to be welded onto his torso. Number two, I'm going to leave it. Auto and hinge. We'll see how that looks. Ultimately give him his knee, his ankle. And while I'm here, I'm going to apply a walk behavior to this leg and not just this leg, but every single leg is going to get its own walk behavior When I get to the back legs, it only makes sense for the back left leg to have the same rigging as it only makes sense for the back left leg. Teoh have similar going to the front right leg because they will be moving in conjunction and a walk behavior to this leg. The back right leg. I'm going to rig it the same as the front left leg. And for any of these walk behaviors to actually work, I need to give him a hip, as you can see when you mouse over, it says the hip is used. Bad behavior. Walk after I've given each leg its own walk attributes. I need to give my actual character a walk cycle. So I've already done it here and turn it Teoh with left and right arrow keys. And without this, these legs that are all independent each have their own walk cycle are going to walk right off of my character. The walk cycle ultimately has to be applied to the entire character to have them move from side to side. Let's put him in a scene and see what happens, so we're able to get all four legs moving at the same time. But because of the character design where his feet are aiming in opposing directions, you seem to be facing a little bit of a ah, mix up here of how we want our knees to bend. One thing I haven't done at this stage is add sticks, so let's see if that corrects. I haven't added any sticks to my character yet, so let's see how much this corrects our problem and prevents some of the warping we're seeing on this character. It actually seems to be increasing the warping. One thing I can do to help trick character animator and having my characters legs move in the correct directions is to swap out where the hell and the Togo and move the ankle up. Teoh. A sort of neutral position in between the two. So I'm doing that for both of my right legs. Also, crank down the power on the legs. It's getting closer. This back leg. Of course, it has a very unusual design, but that seems to be the, uh, bugbear. The weirdest one is this back right leg, take toe, bend all the way down Lower the strength of its walk to 55% front left leg Seems to be very limping. Comparison strength of 55. The reason for taking the toe bend down is to draw attention away from the oddness of these toes. Of course, that's intrinsic in the particular design that I'm working with. You could see his front left leg with the Tobin turned all the way up. Makes his toe look like some sort of jelly. Ah, he has long, flat feet, and they're all gonna bend differently. So better to just take that down to zero entirely. Turning down the strength on a lot of these walk cycles has helped reduce some of the distortion. But not all of it s Oh, what I have found works really well, is actually tricking character animator by putting the knee where it thinks it needs to go . So this guy has a huge knee that's bent out this way. If I move it to where it would be on a normal bipedal character than character, I matter doesn't warp this edge of the knee so much, this one to move it around about here. Ah, this one. I've already moved. As you can see, the right knee isn't actually on the character design. It's somewhere in the middle, and same with this one. Left me is literally Dagnall from the hinge of the back right leg to the left ankle and now in my character walks. He still has a little bit of a warp on his knee, but it's nowhere near as prominent as it was before I moved those things around, especially in this back left leg. My main tips to you for having multiple legs is a sign every leg, its own walk cycle still have a walk cycle on the entire character. Keep the strength very low, and then trick character animator by placing the toes in the same direction the heels in the same direction and placing the knee where character and writer believes it should belong. 12. Rigging A Horse: things are a little easier when doing something like this horse. The reason why this horse's head is wiped out is because I'm going to use this for a center puppet. Let's go ahead and rig this one up. I'm going to assign a walk, cycle, toe every leg, and I'm also going Teoh set them to hinge the back legs. I'm going to hinge to a hip and the front legs. I'm going to hinge to the body. We have a fairly good work cycle out of this horse now. There are some flaws. Of course. I would turn the toe, bend down its very appearance in the back left leg. I haven't said any sort of physics or dangle Teoh his tail. So it looks a little goofy that it's static, and then this front right leg. I feel like it started out too bendy, and so it's really distorted when the horse walks. Not to mention that, Ah, when I separated these legs out in photo shop, I didn't do like the cleanest of jobs, so you can definitely see a bit of a hip corner here. That's a rather easy fix. All you have to do is clone some extra horseflesh in this section and maybe, Ah, make sure that you're using a much rounder edged eraser when you're doing your job there. Most of these air easy fixes as far as fixing this bendy leg from the original artwork. That's a case of using the puppet warp tool. So left front leg puppet warp. Place your pins free, transform it to rotate where you want it to rotate safe. Return to character animator. When I return a character animator, it looks like a worst problem than it really is because I haven't re rigged that leg based on where it currently is positioned. So as you can see, the leg is straight now, but everything around it is messed up. Delete those replace them. He'll ankle toe with the knee closer to where it should go, and at this point it's just deformed toe. Adding sticks and turning on the strength is gonna take care a lot of those unusual distortions to your characters. It's also helpful if you can to design your characters in a very neutral position. This horse not so much because I'm using it from a piece of stock art, but if you are doing an original drawing of a character or a horse that has multiple legs trying, design your characters as much as possible to what they look like when they're just standing around doing nothing as opposed to this stock photo, which was taken, I believe, of a horse in motion. 13. Wrap up + project: I want to thank you for sticking with this course on Adobe Character Animator Walk Cycles. Once you have your own character with the walk cycle, I would love to see it. If you export a video and hosted on YouTube or Vimeo, you can post the private link to that video on the skill share project page. Let me know what you thought about the process and also email me if you think you have any issues with your character walking, because this is kind of a finicky process, and it takes a few tries before I think people get the rigging down 100%. Once again, thanks for watching. Check out the other courses on my teaching channel and talk to you next time.