Animation Alley - The Principles of Animation

deemarie · May 16, 2005 12:21 pm

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Animation Alley. Although my column is not intended to teach you how to animate, there will be a lot of information here that you may find useful. This week I'll go over the famous Twelve Principles of Animation. The Twelve Principles were conceived during the birth of animated cartoons. Although they work well when applied to 2D animation, they must be "revisited" before they can be applied to CG animation. Now let's get down to business. 1: Squash And Stretch This is defined as the shape distortion, or deformation, of an object or character. This is shown in cartoon-type animations when a ball bounces, or during a character's take off. In both cartoons (2D or CG) it prevents things from appearing rigid. Going back to our bouncing ball, the squash would be used on the landing, while the stretch would be used during the "up, up and away." On the other hand, if you are animating a photo-realistic character, the squash and stretch are seldom used
2: Timing And Motion This is basically the spacing between actions and the time your character takes to perform that action. Besides helping you get your timing and overall feel of your animation correct, it will assist you in producing a sense of weight. Think of it this way: a human character moves faster than King Kong, but slower than a little gremlin. 3: Anticipation Anticipation is the preparation for an action and is specially needed when it comes to natural organic animation. Take the example of a jumping character: When the character is about to jump he first crouches to gain momentum, and then he takes off. The more he crouches the more the trust of the jump carries. You can have fun with anticipations in a very interesting way. Anticipation gives the viewer something to expect. You can fool the viewer by inverting anticipations and actions, for example, you could make your character crouch a lot and then make him take a little hop. 4: Staging The definition for this one is: presenting an idea clearly. To successfully achieve this, you must have the ability to create strong poses. A strong pose is a combination of bone structure positioning, framing and camera facing. We will discuss more about posing in a future article.
5: Follow Through This principle is related to making a connection between actions and poses. A skillful blending of actions can produce a natural looking animation. On the other hand, if you are animating a robot, or any other mechanical character, you will aim at linear animation, making the character move more mechanical. 6: Straight Ahead Action And Pose To Pose Action These two are not actual principles but animation methods. Although they were created for traditional animation they are also used for CG animation. Basically, straight ahead action would be the digital equivalent to "stop motion animation." What you do is move the character's rig by hand for every frame, just like you would do in stop motion. The drawback of this method is that you are left with a countless amount of keys, and editing your animation can become very hard. On the other hand, pose-to-pose animation takes advantage of the interpolations that the computer generates between keys. Unless the animation is tweaked, the final animation will look linear. Everyone has his own method for animating and there is no "correct way" to do it. 7: Slow In Slow Out This is related to the timing and smoothness of the in-betweens. This is also used to avoid linear animations, or abrupt changes, since they look unnatural. There are certain situations when you need abrupt changes in the animation, such as falls and bounces. 8: Arcs In the universe everything flows in curves, and all organic movements follow a curve. Look at a baseball player throwing a ball. If you follow the trajectory of his hand you will notice it forms a curve. The same is applied to walks, arm movements, head turns, hips, and such.
9: Exaggeration Exaggerating an action includes actions, reactions, poses, anticipations, etc. You can change the timing of the character's movements to make him move faster than normal. You can add more weight to the action by exaggerating your character's movements when he tries to move a big box, or any other heavy item (remembers Lara Croft). If you are approaching cartoon-type animation then you can use big exaggeration, but if you are animating photo-realistic characters then you should keep your exaggerated movements to a minimum.
10: Secondary Action Secondary action is also referred as "Lead and Follow." This is something like the reaction of a character, or prop, resulting from another action. If your character is hit on the face (action) he will stagger (reaction). If you know anything about physics, you will remember that the reaction on one object is caused by an external force. To make a good animation the character must clearly display the secondary actions that affect his body. 11: Appeal Appeal is creating animations that people would like to see, and thus, would enjoy watching. 12: Personality Adding personality to your character consists of making him act and behave in certain way, and being consistent with this action. Adding personality to the character is the most difficult task of a character animator because not only does the character have to act and deliver his performance through a digital character, but also try to keep his character's state of mind during the whole time it takes him to finish the shot. Well there you have it, the basics of The Twelve Principles of Animation. In future articles I will delve into each of the Principles, so be sure to jot down some questions, and keep an eye on The Renderosity Front Page News for The Animation Alley! Keep Animating! nemirc
Message2218649.jpgAnimation Alley is a regular featured column with Renderosity Staff Writer Sergio Rosa [nemirc].
May 16, 2005

Article Comments

Bobasaur ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 16 May 2005

A very nice overview. I suspect that when you've completed this series it will be an invaluable resource for our beginning animators. Keep up the good work!

ClintH ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 16 May 2005

nemirc, Fantastic information. Animation is my first love. Thanks for provide some valuable principles.

StaceyG ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 17 May 2005

nemirc, I agree with Bobasaur, this series will be invaluable:) Good Job.

Teyon ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 18 May 2005

don't forget the ability to "read" a character in shilouhette during key frames. Important thing to remember! Great article my friend!

DreamWarrior ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 18 May 2005

Excellent article. Great explaination. I've always been afraid of animation. This series will help me understand it so much better. Thank you!

animajikgraphics ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 18 May 2005

Let's see more of this Nemirc! Also, anyone wanting to read further, get a copy of "The Animators Survival Kit" by Richard WIlliams - a must have for animators (traditional or CG)

nemirc ( posted at 12:00AM Sun, 22 May 2005

Hey there Teyon. That silhouete technique will be available on a future article ;) animajikgraphics, I have to agree on the book. It's the BEST animation book out there IMO. Thanks for the comments people.

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