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 it...it 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 skill...it 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.

1 comment:

William said...

Almost two years to the day after you posted this, I stumbled onto it in my effort to understand this elusive concept - thanks for explaining it so clearly - now I can stop searching and start practicing!