Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Bouncing Ball

The bouncing ball technique is among the very first things you learn as an animator. Richard Williams, author of 'The Animator's Survival Kit' opens his book by reviewing how well all animators this technique, because even though it is a reasonably simple technique at first sight it really does carry with it every thing you will ever need to remember as an animator.

Weight and timing make things come to life, everything in animation is based on this principle. As humans we have built in perceptions that need to be exploited for us to understand and relate with what we are seeing. If we saw a bowling ball, a heavy object that we associate with throwing, floating away like a balloon, we as humans would be confused and irritated because something that we recognise hasn't reacted in the expected way - other people find that kind of thing very inventive and creative and enjoy being surprised, but if a child was to see it they would be quite frustrated that the TV was telling them something different to what they thought they knew.

To understand weight and timing you don't need to do that much research....you just need to look at the things around you and the things you already know well. If you have grown up understanding that balloons float, then nothing changes because of animation - they still float and that is all you need to know. But have ever noticed that in animation the balloon doesn't just pull tense the string its attached to, instead it bobs up and down even if the person is stood still - this way we show that it is in fact floating around. If we were to show a static balloon, just hanging in the air we would use of previous perception of the behaviour of a balloon to question the animation. So the point I'm obviously trying to make is that weight is just as much about understanding as it is about emphasis. In cartoon land a bowling ball isn't heavy, it's HEAVY!!! The character can't lift it! He straaaaains his back and his arms elasticate and his face contorts to emphasize his struggle - unless he is a superhero, then he can just lift up a house. That is weight, timing something we will delve into next time.


This is one of my very first attempts at the bouncing ball technique from a few years ago.


This is one of my later attempts....


And this is my current level i.e one I just knocked up.


Here it is in half time so you can see exactly whats going on....this one seems quite jagged, but whe you run ti at full speed you don't see it....then again you don't really see the ball either. Still a lot of room for improvement, I will come back to it in a later blog to search for improvement.

As you can see, there is a significant difference. Not in drawing style - that isn't even to be considered as there are only rough sketches not full animations. All you need to do is watch the film and question yourself - 'Do I believe that is a ball bouncing up and down?' If you're answer is yes, then it has weight and timing.

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