Saturday, 9 May 2009


Techniques and Processes in my third year has really helped me develop my knowledge of the skills involved in the industry I am most interested in: the Animation Industry. I have always been interested in Animation, but in my final year I have taking my work, research and practise to a much higher standard. I have learned how an animated film is created from start to finish, from concept to editing and I have done so by actually producing my own cartoons. However, it would not be possible to have done this without learning the fundamental skills required to make things move on screen in a convincing manner and that is where techniques and processes has come in.

Run, walks, jumps, sneaks, jogs are all standard things in cartoon animation, but learning how to do them and perfecting takes time and practise. I have studied all of them and have practised many industry standard techniques all year, before applying them in my studio work. The most fundamental thing to learn in animation is the bouncing ball technique. This is simple to draw a ball that bounces up and down on the ground convincingly, with weight and conviction so that you ‘feel’ the bounce as it were real. Although this sounds relatively easy, it isn’t quite as simple a it sounds and many times I have had to go back to this necessary skill to re-learn the timing. Each ball looks like it is made out of something else. One ball with be made of rubber and squash up, the other will be made of wood and just hit the ground and stay rigid. After all if you were watching a cartoon and a bowling ball sprung around like a tennis ball, you wouldn’t believe it.

Learning to make a character walk is one of the most difficult things to do, but it is a necessary skill. As a child it can take you up to two years to learn to walk and after that it can take you a lifetime to perfect it. I have always tried to run before I could walk and it is the same with animation. I am still learning walks of all kinds, I am still practising runs and doing them well is very difficult due to the movement that the whole body takes when it lends itself to the activity of walking. Later in the year I read a document that has stuck with me since, “The Twelve Basic Principles of Animation.” Squash, Stretch, Secondary Action, Weight, Timing, Balance…all these new theories to apply to my work. I took each one in and practised them in my T&P so that when I applied them to my studio work, they were rehearsed.

But wasn’t just skills I learned about in T&P, I learned how the industry worked and how each department within the industry contributed to the final piece. I learned about storyboarding, layout artists, background design, special effects, directing, editing, sound recording, foley and I tried them all myself. By separating the jobs, I didn’t feel like I was doing it all by myself, I felt like I was working in all the different departments and facing all the different challenges that each department sees everyday. This gave me greater understand of how they worked together, with one another to produce a final product.

Techniques and Processes this year also provided me with the opportunity to research and discover certain resources that have become invaluable to me. Forums, websites, people, blogs, books, documents and articles have helped me further my understanding of what it takes to make a great piece of work. Without the opportunity to make mistakes in an open environment, I would never have learned from them and I would never have discovered all of these great resources from which to learn and take inspiration.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Flour Sack

There is a teaching technique used in the Disney studios that uses the a Flour sack to display how any object, no matter how inanimate can be brought to life through animation. I read about this in one of the books I have researched from whilst doing this project, The Illusion of Life.

The principle is simple...animate a sack of flour that conveys different kinds of emotion and realism. It's a simple idea, but a clever one because it forces you to think outside facial expressions and use body language combined with different animation techniques to put the emotion over to the viewer. I think this is going to be a valuable skill and one that I will be practising for the next little while.

This is a scan from the book...there are many drawings of the sack with a description underneath each of the emotion. They are so good though that you don't need to read the description, you know what the sack is feeling, which is the idea.

Here are a few sketches of the sack that I did myself.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Experimentation 2

Here are some more experimental pieces that I have done to practise or make purposeful mistakes to learn from.


This run was intended to have more of cartoony feel to it that previous efforts. Almost like a 'dad run' its only a simple bounce step, but if I repeated it and finished onto the other foot with the same amount of feel I think it would amount to a good little run. I didn't plan it too well though and ran out of screen before he could hop to the other foot :P


I drew this funny little dog and decided to give him a quick walk. I had been watching some French test reels and had really liked the way that the images seemed to move...but you could see they were staying on the spot. It was a really stylised looked...but with a sliding perspective background this walk is quite fun, even though its pretty untidy.


This may look like a walk with no inbetweens and that is because it is. I wanted to try and experiment with how much action you could get between key frames without any inbetweens, so that I knew in future how much I could get away with. It turned out not much, as I expected. Still it was a valuable lesson to learn.

Monday, 9 March 2009

The 12 Principles of Animation

THE 12 BASIC PRINCIPLES OF ANIMATION Paraphrased from the "Illusion Of Life" by Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston.(pp.47-69)

1. Squash and stretch

2. Anticipation

3. Staging

4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action

6. Slow In and Slow Out

7. Arcs

8. Secondary Action

9. Timing

10. Exaggeration

11. Solid Drawing

12. Appeal


This action gives the illusion of weight and volume to a character as it moves. Also squash and stretch is useful in animating dialogue and doing facial expressions. How extreme the use of squash and stretch is, depends on what is required in animating the scene. Usually it's broader in a short style of picture and subtler in a feature. It is used in all forms of character animation from a bouncing ball to the body weight of a person walking. This is the most important element you will be required to master and will be used often.


This movement prepares the audience for a major action the character is about to perform, such as, starting to run, jump or change expression. A dancer does not just leap off the floor. A backwards motion occurs before the forward action is executed. The backward motion is the anticipation. A comic effect can be done by not using anticipation after a series of gags that used anticipation. Almost all real action has major or minor anticipation such as a pitcher's wind-up or a golfers' back swing. Feature animation is often less broad than short animation unless a scene requires it to develop a characters personality.


A pose or action should clearly communicate to the audience the attitude, mood, reaction or idea of the character as it relates to the story and continuity of the story line. The effective use of long, medium, or close up shots, as well as camera angles also helps in telling the story. There is a limited amount of time in a film, so each sequence, scene and frame of film must relate to the overall story. Do not confuse the audience with too many actions at once. Use one action clearly stated to get the idea across, unless you are animating a scene that is to depict clutter and confusion. Staging directs the audience's attention to the story or idea being told. Care must be taken in background design so it isn't obscuring the animation or competing with it due to excess detail behind the animation. Background and animation should work together as a pictorial unit in a scene.


Straight ahead animation starts at the first drawing and works drawing to drawing to the end of a scene. You can lose size, volume, and proportions with this method, but it does have spontaneity and freshness. Fast, wild action scenes are done this way. Pose to Pose is more planned out and charted with key drawings done at intervals throughout the scene. Size, volumes, and proportions are controlled better this way, as is the action. The lead animator will turn charting and keys over to his assistant. An assistant can be better used with this method so that the animator doesn't have to draw every drawing in a scene. An animator can do more scenes this way and concentrate on the planning of the animation. Many scenes use a bit of both methods of animation.


When the main body of the character stops all other parts continue to catch up to the main mass of the character, such as arms, long hair, clothing, coat tails or a dress, floppy ears or a long tail (these follow the path of action). Nothing stops all at once. This is follow through. Overlapping action is when the character changes direction while his clothes or hair continues forward. The character is going in a new direction, to be followed, a number of frames later, by his clothes in the new direction. "DRAG," in animation, for example, would be when Goofy starts to run, but his head, ears, upper body, and clothes do not keep up with his legs. In features, this type of action is done more subtly. Example: When Snow White starts to dance, her dress does not begin to move with her immediately but catches up a few frames later. Long hair and animal tail will also be handled in the same manner. Timing becomes critical to the effectiveness of drag and the overlapping action.


As action starts, we have more drawings near the starting pose, one or two in the middle, and more drawings near the next pose. Fewer drawings make the action faster and more drawings make the action slower. Slow-ins and slow-outs soften the action, making it more life-like. For a gag action, we may omit some slow-out or slow-ins for shock appeal or the surprise element. This will give more snap to the scene.


All actions, with few exceptions (such as the animation of a mechanical device), follow an arc or slightly circular path. This is especially true of the human figure and the action of animals. Arcs give animation a more natural action and better flow. Think of natural movements in the terms of a pendulum swinging. All arm movement, head turns and even eye movements are executed on an arcs.


This action adds to and enriches the main action and adds more dimension to the character animation, supplementing and/or re-enforcing the main action. Example: A character is angrily walking toward another character. The walk is forceful, aggressive, and forward leaning. The leg action is just short of a stomping walk. The secondary action is a few strong gestures of the arms working with the walk. Also, the possibility of dialogue being delivered at the same time with tilts and turns of the head to accentuate the walk and dialogue, but not so much as to distract from the walk action. All of these actions should work together in support of one another. Think of the walk as the primary action and arm swings, head bounce and all other actions of the body as secondary or supporting action.


Expertise in timing comes best with experience and personal experimentation, using the trial and error method in refining technique. The basics are: more drawings between poses slow and smooth the action. Fewer drawings make the action faster and crisper. A variety of slow and fast timing within a scene adds texture and interest to the movement. Most animation is done on twos (one drawing photographed on two frames of film) or on ones (one drawing photographed on each frame of film). Twos are used most of the time, and ones are used during camera moves such as trucks, pans and occasionally for subtle and quick dialogue animation. Also, there is timing in the acting of a character to establish mood, emotion, and reaction to another character or to a situation. Studying movement of actors and performers on stage and in films is useful when animating human or animal characters. This frame by frame examination of film footage will aid you in understanding timing for animation. This is a great way to learn from the others.


Exaggeration is not extreme distortion of a drawing or extremely broad, violent action all the time. It¹s like a caricature of facial features, expressions, poses, attitudes and actions. Action traced from live action film can be accurate, but stiff and mechanical. In feature animation, a character must move more broadly to look natural. The same is true of facial expressions, but the action should not be as broad as in a short cartoon style. Exaggeration in a walk or an eye movement or even a head turn will give your film more appeal. Use good taste and common sense to keep from becoming too theatrical and excessively animated


The basic principles of drawing form, weight, volume solidity and the illusion of three dimension apply to animation as it does to academic drawing. The way you draw cartoons, you draw in the classical sense, using pencil sketches and drawings for reproduction of life. You transform these into color and movement giving the characters the illusion of three-and four-dimensional life. Three dimensional is movement in space. The fourth dimension is movement in time.


A live performer has charisma. An animated character has appeal. Appealing animation does not mean just being cute and cuddly. All characters have to have appeal whether they are heroic, villainous, comic or cute. Appeal, as you will use it, includes an easy to read design, clear drawing, and personality development that will capture and involve the audience¹s interest. Early cartoons were basically a series of gags strung together on a main theme. Over the years, the artists have learned that to produce a feature there was a need for story continuity, character development and a higher quality of artwork throughout the entire production. Like all forms of story telling, the feature has to appeal to the mind as well as to the eye.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Animators Survival Kit

The Animators Survival Kit by Richard Williams has become my bible since I first picked it up a couple of years back. Where Illusion of Life teaches you to think like an animator and consider what you are doing, the Survival Kit just says, do it and learn from your mistakes. An approach that I genuinely like and that has both advantages and disadvantages.

What I really like about the survival kit is that it is right in your face. It says..."look this is how you do stuff, so just memorise it and get on it with it". That's what it would be like in the studio, you would be shown something, told to learn it and then repeat it. This is a great introductory book because it gets you away from static shapes and teaches you to work like an animator, considering mass, shape and balance in all of your drawings.

This book is full of techniques and little things to remember, tips and tricks that you would only learn from years of experience given to you right from the start. How lucky are we to be able to gain 40 years of experience in less than 500 pages. Richard Williams further emphasises certain other techniques and things to learn that you might not consider, such as life drawings. I have never been a fan of life drawing, but I know that if I am to become a better animator I need to follow his advice and study the way things move around me. I took that in from the very start and I often just sit and watch people walk by. My friend has the funniest walk I have ever seen and I have tried to draw it several times without avail. I think when I do get it right I will know that I moved up a step on the ladder.

The principles and techniques are all here from a man who has decades of experience and two Oscars to boot. The fact that he has put it all in a book for the rest of us is nothing short of the nicest thing in the entire world. Now if I can just master it :P

Monday, 23 February 2009

The Illustion of Life

The Illusion of Life by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas is every animators dream. A book that teaches you the inside tips of the greatest animation studio in the world. But it does more than teach you tips, it helps you to understand what you are trying to achieve by creating animation, by making things move and the title of the book perfectly sums it up. When drawing cartoons you are creating the illusion of life, you are not creating drawing after drawing, or sequences or comedy you are trying to convince the viewer that what they are watching is real and did actually happen.

I have read this book from front to back and frequently refer to it for tips. Each section is well articulated and broken down, making things understandable and simple. Who would have thought animation could seem so easy, but I guess after working at the Disney studio it becomes second nature to talk about and communicate your ideas concisely and precisely.

The Twelve Principles of animation have become my 10 Commandments and once I saw all of the techniques listed and read each of the ideas, my animation improved on the spot. Suddenly, thing weren't static. They have blood, veins and arteries and I could see the sinew and muscles moving beneath their skin.

Along side all of the great writing there are hundreds of examples of different practises, skills and drawings from the animation studio, including hundreds of original sketches and drawings from Disney animated classics. Seeing these images that went on to become shots and drawings in full colour movies was incredibly inspiring and it sent me on a huge research craze across the Internet and through the library. I have collected over 500 hundred research images of original drawings from all of my favourite studios, including pictures of storyboards, layout shots and examples of lining.

This books has been a fantastic resource for me for over a year now and I pick it up everyday. With time constraints and deadlines I feel I haven't been able to spend as much time learning from it as I might like. Hopefully this will change when I finished College and can spend more time doing exercises.

Thursday, 19 February 2009


Last year I started collecting other animators original sketches and works as part of my ongoing learning curve. I didn't realise just how research I have done for this project because I haven't posted it. I have been researching in private and then doing some test and posting the results. This is bound to lose me marks because well, tutors like research. So I am going to post some of the images I have collected here and tell you how I have studied them, deconstructed them and learned from them.

My collection has surpassed 500 images and I collect more everyday. I have original sequences from Disney, Warner Bro's, Spumco, Fox Studios, Blue Sky and hundreds of other studios including storyboards and layout sheets. These have allowed me access to the world of animation in ways I never dreamed of.

Getting to see animators notes scribbles onto their drawings has provided a real insight for me in how to do things properly. These kind of images are in abundance, but I scanned these in from a Disney art book I sourced in the library.

Action, character and realism. Disneys character can be as tiny as a cricket but have as much character as you or I. I have a lot of Disney picture because well, 1. they are more available than any other studio and 2. they were on of the greatest studios to ever exist - why wouldn't you want to learn from them?

Preston Blair's Book teaches you a lot of great initial mechanics, but it is learning to use them in every shot that is the difficult part. Preston Blair animated Red Riding Hood in Tex Avery's 'Red Hot Riding Hood', often sighted in the animation world as the sexiest animated woman. His animation has effected every female animated character ever drawn since.

Classic Goofy skit from when the gang go on Holiday to Hawaii in one of their cartoons. The amount of detail in this scene is impossible to calculate. How can the animator possible have concentrated on so many things at once, it is just incomprehensible. This is one of the most inspiring sequences in animation for me.

You know exactly what this shot says. The pose, the way the hair is half covering one eye. The life in the drawing. I try every time I animate to get somewhere close to images like this. For each image to say all of the things I want it to say to the audience. It is absolutely incredible.

I have literally hundreds more images like this and I look through them for inspiration nearly everyday. I copy them and try and learn from them and I am getting better and better because of it.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Computer Animation

Computer animation encompasses a lot of different thing, especially with the unstoppable force of 3D film. But I will be talking about computer animation in terms of creating limited 2D animation with the assistance of a computer. A lot of scenes can easily be brought to life or destroyed completely by computer animation. The trick is to use it sparingly or use it well...if you can do both then you are fantastic.

In Flash you can tween objects. This means you can set there start place, there finishing place and then let the computer do the rest. You can use masks, motion paths and good drawings skills to do this quite effectively and if you think about things carefully you can make things look exceptional. I have seen some truly fantastic work done with tweening, but I have also seen (And made myself) some really terrible stuff.

Because tweening is so quick and easy, there is a temptation to use it everywhere and you can do it so why not? Well, it is hard to make it look like it wasn't done with a computer. The trick is to and keep things as organic as possible by knowing what you can get away with. You can create a walk cycle within a symbol and tween it across a stage...there will generally be some slippage (Where the background moves on a different timing to the character or vice versa) but it is an effective and time saving technique. For things like rain, falling leaves, snow, wind or a shot with something flying through the air, you can't go wrong, but with character animation you are gunna have to have stylised content otherwise you'll end up with a robot.

Here are some effective uses of computer animation in some of my shots:


In this scene there is a lot of speed and action, it creates a lot of movement. But there is only one drawing. The computer moves the character about and the flashing lines are only on/off frames. The Japanese manga style background also helps to push the idea that things are moving so fast you can't see the background.


In this scene there is only one drawing again, but because in the previous scene we see the boy jump out from behind a log, we know the character is in the air. So when we see him enter above the tree line its OK and float on down towards the camera, we believe it because we know he's in the air. Add a bit perspective blur and have him crisp up as he comes into focus and add some sun shine flaring up the camera and you've got a great shot without having to make more than one drawing.

Computer animation does have its advantages. But you couldn't use it all the time. I have seen plenty of animations that just have a single drawing sliding in front of a detailed background...but it still looks like what it is and this style of animation earned the name 'radio with pictures' in the mid-sixties because budget cuts meant there was so little animation.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Planning Vs. Straight Ahead

There are three main ways to animate. Planning a scene second by second, motion by motion and drawing it out to plan. Knowing your scene and just plunging in getting wild, funny, big exciting results. Or a combination of the two. I have tried both and I really do like the second way, but the best results are always gained from doing both together. With planned movements you know where your character needs to be for the shot to make sense, then you can fill in the gaps with some over the top actions straight from your imagination. This way the scene makes sense, but it doesn't lose the fun spontaneous element of plunging straight in.

Animators working to a tight deadline often have to just crack on and churn out as much as possible in as little time. These days that means less action, more talking, more still shots and less animation. But you can make cartoons quickly and cheaply with good thorough planning and a bit of effort and imagination.

Here are some examples of straight ahead animation, then some planned shots and then some using both. Let's see which look best.


This scene is animated completely straight forward. The way Uber enters the scene was done frame by frame with no planning and I think it looks hilarious. I really like this bit of animation, its genuinely funny and if applied appropriately this kind of animation really lends itself to overacting. To counter this over the top action...which is then followed by not very much animation I made Pervert Man's lips completely over the top as he spoke. They look like flags blowing in the wind. It all adds up to a very amusing sight...but not particularly professional.


This scene was completely planned. I drew the keyframes and then put the inbetweens and in and added it all together...with a elongated exit frame for panache.

This shot is also completely planned like the above one. It makes up for a fine looking shot because nothing more is required of it. This kind of animation is a necessity, rather than fun.


In this shot I used both methods. I planned the shot, but then I drew it straight forward to get a sense of spontaneity in it. I think with them both working together you get a great looking shot overall with a lot of action and some clever use of traditional animation effects in a limited animation environment.

The argument for the best way to animate was solved years ago...but certain ways are more fun that others. Lip syncing isn't a passion of mine...but it is integral to creating believable animation...whereas making my characters do silly things is something I really enjoy, but something you might not get to do in the industry with the strict stylised looks that dominate modern cartoons.

Monday, 26 January 2009


Every so often I like to step away from a current project and just have a little fun. These experiments are generally testing something I have read about or want to test for an upcoming shot. Other times they are just playing about because I enjoy making things move. They are all mostly awful and only take a short while to make, but T&P is about experimenting and learning from your mistakes so I figure I might as well upload them. These are a month or so old now and are just some cycles of different actions I was testing, they are rubbish but I learned something from each one and then applied to anything I did for a final product, so they did come in handy.


This was a test walk cycle for a character I never used. I was trying to do some limited animation walks, only working with the legs and arms for speed. The results weren't great and I learned I would need to work with more body parts to make things work.


This is an unfinished walk cycle I was practising. Every so often I do one out just to remind myself of a few basic things. I didn't finish it because about halfway through I realised I knew this walk well and should be concentrating on learning a new walk.


This was my attempt at the Scooby Doo run. It didn't work because I didn't get the action right. The legs didn't come over the back in cartoony manner so it just looked like a real person doing something impossible. This meant it was unbelievable and scrapped. I learned a lot from doing this run. If you want to accommodate such big motions, you need to take the proper time to do so and make them believe able.

Monday, 19 January 2009

X-Sheets or Exposure Sheets

Exposure Sheets or X-Sheets are used in animation to time shots. They generally run down the page and they provide a guide to the camera man for how to shoot the scene and a guide for the animator on the timing of the shot.

In traditional animation X-Sheets provided a way to make sense of a shot when you couldn't just output every time you adjusted your shot to see how it looked. The best you had was holding the sheets up and flicking the paper to see how the animation had to develop a sense of timing. Modern animators don't have to do that because if something isn't working they can change it and test output in about a half second to see how it looks. I have been developing my sense of timing for a while now or trying to at least and it is a very difficult thing to do. By using FlipBook, which uses a tradition X-Sheet layout, my timing has significantly improved. I now understand how long certain movements need to last for a required look. To an extent at least anyway. I still output constantly, because I have the fortune and ability to do so, so why not.

The X-Sheet is essentially a timeline and as such I feel it is only fair to get fair cop out of the amount of work I put into making my animations, so I have taken some screen shots of some of my time lines from my animation to prove just how much effort goes into making any kind of animation, let alone traditional animation.

This is a traditional X-Sheet. On it you would write the numbers of the drawings next to the appropriate frames. A certain number of frames represents a foot of film and this is how animators would time things, by referencing to a distance they could visualise. Certain studios expected nearly 8ft of work from an animator every week. Insanity!

The timeline in Flash isn't that different. You have the number of frames along the top. Each black dot represents a Keyframe. Keyframes are the drawings that HAVE to be there for the shot to make sense.

The wonders of modern technology allow use to see all of the drawings in the timeline if we want to, so that we can see how they lay out. This can be handy for checking the timing on things and learning for the future. He we see the cannon extend and then do a flip before returning to its normal position. Above it was see the smoke that puffs out of the cannon and disappears over a few frames.

Click the image to make it bigger. Here we see all of the frames that make up a scene I am still very proud of. The jumping shot from Eligh's Dark Fable.

Here we see Captain Uber crouching down preparing to blast off and defeat his arch rival, Pervert Man! Literally thousands and thousands of minute changes or completely new drawings go into every shot and as I have got better at animating there are now significantly more complete drawings than ever before...which means more time and effort :)

So this is where the heart of animation lies. How things look depend on how you dangle them on the time line. With practise and patience you get better and better at it.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Slurs & Blurs

Slurs and blurs are a common effect in animation and they stem from research done in the 1930's at many studios around America and continue through to Chuck Jones experimental work at the Warner Brothers Studios in some of his films.

When animators slowed down live action films to study the motion in them for practise, they saw an unusually high amount of blurred frames. This struck them as strange because at normal playback speed they were barely noticeable. Cameras back then weren't quite as good as they are today and couldn't capture motion quite as well, that said even today if the eye can still only see at 24 frames a second, so anything faster than that will blur and distort. Because of this, animators started to experiment with blurs and slurs in there films and they soon found them to be quite useful for conveying very fast motions or actions and adding a bit more life to their animations.

Slurring and Blurring are basically the same thing and are an extension of the stretch and squash techniques. By dragging a cartoon out to unrealistic proportions for just a millisecond, the action that follows it becomes immediately more vibrant. To do this you might draw just a whole blur of colours, or stretch the character from one place to another and the following frame have him snap back into place. In traditional animation they often used dry brushing rather than stretching entire drawings. This was the simple are of taking a dry brush with some ink on and trailing beyond a fast motion in the scene.

Chuck Jones experimented with endless kinds of effects to try and get more action and motion into his cartoons especially his faster cartoons like Roadrunner in which you will often just see a blue blur instead of a bird. So how can you apply slurs and blurs effectively in your work?

Here are a few examples from my own work:

In modern animation you don't see slurs and blurs quite as often as you used to because everything is stylised and rubbish. But if you use them effectively they can give a great classic cartoon feel to your work. These two shots above for instance follow on from some fairly straight forward animation without any unnecessary embellishments. But by just adding two frames at the end with the feet and legs zipping out of shot you show the character leaving the scene at inexplicable speed.

To clarify the difference the above shot is squash and stretch, two principle animation techniques. These are not slurs and blurs.

However these two are. Looking at them on their own they make no real sense, in fact you can barely see what they are. But whizzing past at 24/25 frames a second, you get a fluid and lovely motion that gives a lot of emphasis to your work.

Mastering slurs and blurs is difficult. You can over use them and end up with really messy looking scene and at the end of the day, nothing makes a scene look quite as good as just good solid drawing and good solid drawing.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Line of Action

The 'line of action' is a fundamental animation principle. Its purpose it to show how the action is traveling within a character...the mass, weight, direction and pose are all based around the line of action. You might say that it is the characters centre of gravity. Everything starts from the line of action and is built on top of helps a series of drawings to flow into one another and keeps things simple for the eye to see as the film rolls on.

The concept of the line of action was something I didn't grasp at first...I was confusing its purpose with other animation skills and principles. I found the following sheet and it cleared up a lot of things for me pretty instantly.

This was a revelation for me. This sheet clearly showed the difference between right and wrong. Suddenly, I understood how to use this technique to aid my drawings.

It can be put to use on characters, forms, objects and pretty much anything you want to convey action with. This example with the bouncing ball shows that its uses are limited strictly to characters. The direction of this ball, the height at which it enters and exits the shot and the effect that gravity plays on it are just some of the things line of action indicates in this simple shot.

I then started adapting it to my own drawings and suddenly I started to get the results I had been looking for all along.

Even the most insignificant poses can be brought to life by finding the line of action first. The line through the centre of this character tells me that the character is thrusting out his chest and arching his back. I further exaggerated this when I placed the shapes over the top of him and I was quite pleased with the final result.

In this shot I knew I wanted the character the be thrusting his crotch forward. The arm is incidental to the shot, though it does add balance to the rest of the pose. The line is a sharp bend backwards and this line of action really helped bring this drawing of Pervert Man to life.

This is a heavy action shot and I wouldn't have got the result I was looking for without the line of action. In this shot two characters are interacting so the rules change slightly. One line of action affects the other, so I needed to decide from the start which line was more important. I immediately identified the bigger force (The punch), was affecting the smaller force (The recipient of the punch) and used basic physics (Every action has an equal and opposite reaction).

The sharp line through the figure on the left makes the characters intent and action very easy to read. It gives the character purpose and gives his pose balance. Because there is such a sharp force moving to the right, the body must be braced to handle such an extreme movement, i.e. his stance must be wide enough to hand the movement. Because I knew where the force was I could easily place the other leg in a position that gave the impression that a lot of weight was been taken onto it. Without the line of action, this pose would probably have worked out very, very differently and become confusing to read and ugly to view.

The line of action is a significant and important tool for the animator. It helps give characters direction weight and purpose. No amount of research can teach you this is trial and error and making mistakes to get it right. I made a lot of mistakes and I am still learning some of its broader applications, but this is one tool I have already added to my arsenal.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

The Layout Artist

A layout artist branches across many different industries, but in each one there job is the same. To put things on a page or screen in an order that makes sense to the eyes and is easy to follow. This sounds simple enough when you just state it, but when you put things into practise it gets a lot more difficult.

In the field of animation the layout artist plays an integral role in the way the film is made. He might decide on lighting, character positioning, background positioning, camera angles and he works very closely with the storyboard artist and director to make sure that the story is put across understandably and efficiently.

Learning good layout is very difficult and is something I have struggled with for a while. I am not very good at it, as much as I try. I get too excited about the overall idea of the scene and forgot to stop and ask questions such as, what am I trying to say to the viewer? Why would these character be stood here? What does the viewer NEED to see? How can I place things in this scene to make the job easier for the other people I am working with? What is the mood of the scene?

These are the questions the layout artist must know the answer to before he puts pen to paper. He must be able to see the shot in his head and know how the dialogue, movement, camera angles and characters are going to fit in the shot. It's like juggling a toaster, frying pan and small mammal all at the same time and it takes a lot of practise.

This is a great article about what it takes to be layout artist.

So how do I fair? Here are some examples of my own layout plans for certain shots in my own animation, Eligh's Dark Fable...

This shot needed to create tension. The dark shadows on the boys face need to ease the audience into understanding the boy was been changed by the forest. By choosing an angle from below the character, the negative space around the character becomes eerie. The audience also focus' on the light coming through the trees instead of just character.

This was a complicated shot. After the boy runs off towards the wood the following shot has to not only show that time has passed since we last saw the boy, but also have one character enter the shot, before revealing the other character has already secretly been in shot the whole time. Putting this together wasn't easy. But, with the use of the cameras focus you can easy direct the viewers attention to the things you want them to see. For instance, the camera pans down, the butterfly enters shot. Then the camera moves further in and the focus switches to the log behind the butterfly. This shot look great in the final piece and I am still pleased with it now.

This shot was dropped because it didn't quite have the right spacing for the image. It was also far too dark, too early on in the animation. The boy discovers the forest after this shot and then the piece takes a dark twist. This idea was eventually used in the shot below but laid out a lot better.

Here there is space for the antic on the right, then the boy jumps onto the log and sits there and mopes. He then falls off of the back of the log and the shot changes. A simple shot, but without planning for the action that is taking place it wouldn't have looked quite as good.

Overall as a layout artist I need work, but when you are planning and then animating cartoons yourself, you don't need to communicate your ideas to everyone else so it is easy to work from your imagination and make changes on the fly. If I was laying out scenes that would cross multiple departments then I would need to be a lot more clearer.