Tuesday, June 06, 2000

12 Animation Principles from Illusion of Life

posted by Daniel Harjanto at Indo3d mailing list

These are the "principles of animation" from The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson. by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston ISBN 0-7868-6070-7. These principles are also listed in reference to Character Animation Exercises under that section because they are so very important to know! If you study anything and base any of your character animation exercises on anything...base it on these rules.All of the blue text are my own notes. I have also added some important principles of my own that I have found very important and useful to take not of when working on character animation.

1. Squash and Stretch--What is the character made of? How much muscle, fat,bone, hair, cloth? How fast is the character moving, accelerating, or decelerating? Try to maintain an objects original volume and its material integrity. ("truth to materials"). Remember that the material does not have to be a bouncing ball to have squash an stretch. Human and animal skeletons have an enormous amount of squash and stretch going as they move. Think about the words "collapsed" and "sustained" when animating a character.

2. Anticipation--What is the character about to do? What is the character thinking?(mental vs. physical anticipation). Helps to clearly telegraph story ideas and actions even before they occur. Leads the viewer from one story point to another. Contrast in motion is KEY here. If the character is about to do something radical and quick, there should me a slow anticipatory hold on his before before the quick action in order to prep the eye for what is going to happen next AND to show that the character is thinking about doing the action. Motion with out thought is pointless.

3. Overlap--How is the character constructed? The different parts that go into making a character will move or cycle at different rates based on its construciton, or its hierachy. "An object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object at rest tends to stay at rest." What forces are driving the movement. Watch appendages and how the move in relation to the main parts of the body. nothing moves at the same time!!!

4. Followthrough--What is the character made of? Any single character is made up of many different materials (muscle, fat, cloth, hair, etc.) Each of these elements will start ("drag") and stop ("follow through") at different times. Its takes some time to REALLY understand LAG and OVERSHOOT. Picture a character that drops his arm to his side from a pose where he is holding his head. That drop of the wrist does not just stop as it reaches the thigh. The wrist/hand will overshoot its intended position and then place itself in a natural hanging state. A more obvious example would be a baseball pitcher. When the pitcher throws the ball he does not stop his motion as the ball leaves his hand. His entire body with follow-through the intended motion. When deciding on the amount of LAG and OVERSHOOT you apply, keep in mind what your character is made of.

5. Slow in/Slow out-- What is the mass of the object? Heavier objects take longer to get into motion and longer to stop. Lighter objects will accelerate faster, and stop quicker. If your character jumps and lands on something heavy, that heavy object will rock in response to the impact of the jump. The thing that will show how heavy the object is that your character just jumped on is the timimg of that rock. A quick rocking motion will imply a light object while a slow more even rock will tell the viewer it is a heavy object.

6. Secondary action-- What is the character thinking? Often the hands, or eyes give us clues as to what a person is thinking, as opposed to what he/she is saying. Secondary action can also give us clues about a character's background. Secondary action is like the icing on the cake. You begin with the body motion and posing and finish it off with secondary motion to emphasize the idea. Examples are eyes, hands, appendages like ponytails and tails, and of course facial motion. In my opinon, thi sinvolves the last 10 percent of refining in your character and is what eventually makes the difference between good and bad Animation.

7. Staging--What should the viewer be looking at? How can a charcter be posed, or a camera angled, so as to make the characters action read best, (silhouette)? How much or how little do we want the viewer to know? This can make or break your shot. You are telling a story and YOU decide what the viewer should be looking at. If you are not precise with your staging you story will be missed. Refer to my writings on this under the characters section of this website.

8. Pacing--"A series of actions all with the same intensity and amount of movement will quickly become tedious and predictable". Look for ways to show contrast in your characters movements and attitudes. This is another tough one. It is probably the biggest error made in CG Animation. Sta away from swimmy spliney motion that looks all the same. Watch people when they speak. They dont look like they are under water! They moves with some fliud motion and then it is contrasted with more stacatto motion that emphasize what they are syaing.

9. Line of Action--Use the "line of action" in your poses for more clarity, simplicity. Contrast lines of action, in your animation, to add variety and rhythm to your scene. Remember tourque and twisting in your character. Your character's poses will define his emotions!

10. Exaggeration--Cartooning is a "caricature of reality". Study the emotions. Study the physics. Then see how far you can push it. Try to look for ways to break the rules. Only when you have a realistic motion can you add personality so make sure that your character is moving realistically from all angles. This is 3D and most likely if the character's movements do not look right from one angle, they will look wrong from your camera angle. Once you get the motion down, embellish it where needed to create the personality you desire.

Storytelling-- In the form of Character animation, it is important to externalize the inner thoughts of the character. It is the driving force behind the actions of a character. Most people take this term literally to mean tell a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. This is true, but it does not mean to create a HUGE production of minutes of animation. Take any ten seconds of any Disney film and you will see a story being told. The character is externalizing his emotions through the acting. Working on a short film will make you lose sight of the action and emotions you are trying to create for your film. Any animator at for instance PIXAR or PDI is not expected to think about the entire film they working on, this is the director's job. Their job is to create an emotive response through their character's actions for that particular scene. In summary, create some exercises that will show great acting skills. John Lasseter's Luxo Jr. was created as just such a character test. It is a simple stage with two characters interacting. Don't attempt to create a huge story or you will lose sight of the forest for the trees. I think the mistake that many students make(Including myself) is that they try to create a piece that stands entirely on its own from head to toe. Models, Lighting, Surfaces, layout, story, and animation. You could easily spend one year in each of these catagories alone. For one individual or two, I think there is to much too handle. Target you interests and focus. For example, I am in the process right now of creating three simple shots of simple primitive shaped characters demonstrating different principles of animation, such as weight or follow thru, etc.

Assymetry-- To avoid twins/symmetry when posing a character, remember torque, contrapposto, line of action and/or shifting of weight. This means that the characters weight will be distributed more to one side than the other. On the side that has the most weight, the pelvis rotates up towards the shoulder on the same side, and the shoulder rotates down towards the pelvis, while the spine slightly takes shape as an arc. As long as you remember this, and you dont put the arms in exactly the same position with the same angles and directions, you cant possibly end up with a twin. This type of posing will create much more interesting characters and acting. Also, try to vary the direction that the limbs are pointing. For example, both feet will NOT be pointing out from the body at an angle of exactly 45 degrees. At least one foot will always be pointing towards the person the character is talking to, or whatever his object of interest is. When creating a walk you should realize that very rarely do characters walk with their feet facing forward like a soldier. A walk is a personal thing and can be influnced easily by a simple turn of the ankle.

Weight-- You must constantly be thinking about the material that your character is made of and his size. This influences every one of these principles and if the character is not infused with a sense of weight it will look lifeless.

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