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I am an amateur animator and have only just started learning 3d animation.

All the tutorials that I have been studying teach the character walking in-place. I am wondering whether the character moves in place with the background props moving in the opposite direction so as to give the illusion of walking or do you just translate with offset and actually have the character moving (probably stupid question, but might as well ask it).

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Thats right, first you create a walk cycle where your character walking in place. When you are done you could: 1st. keyframe the location of the character / armature or 2nd. Add>Curve>Path and select your character Armature and then shift - select the path an ctrl - P > Follow Path

For me it's much easier to tweak a walk cycle in place and creat the forward animation separately with one of the 2 possibilities mentioned above.

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