Part 1: Animation Types and Techniques
Traditional/ Hand-drawn Animation
1600s – creation of the ‘magic lantern’ allowed for projectionists to move quickly between slides, creating the illusion of movement
1800s – in 1832 the ‘phenakistoscope’ was created and was soon outdone by a similar device called the ‘Zoetrope’ in 1834. This method of animation involved images on a strip being spun inside a cyclindrical drum with slits in its sides.
More recently, Pixar made a 3D Zoetrope to highlight how animation works. For each character, 18 different sculptures were made, each slightly different than the last. The models were then spun around with a strobe light, making the images remain in your eye making it appear as though they are moving.
1900s – Max Fleischer created the rotoscope technique in 1915, which involved tracing over live action film. ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was animated this way.
Present Day – modern examples of cel animation are now typically drawn on tablets as opposed to a traditional animation cel, however ‘Cuphead’ (2017) was drawn in a way that would evoke a 1930s animated feel.
- Animatic (an animated storyboard with audio)
- Pencil Tests (early version of animation)
- Clean Up
- Compositing (combining visual elements from separate sources into a single image)
- Final Edit
- has a distinct art style which some people prefer over 3D
- Production costs can be cheaper than 3D and requires less software than 3D, so the studio won’t need to buy as much software that employees will need to understand
- can be time consuming and cel based animation templates can’t be reused
1898 – ‘The Humpty Dumpty Circus’ (which is believed to be the first stop motion film) was created. A photograph would be taken each time an object changed position
1940 – ‘George Pal’s Puppetoons’ used the ‘replacement animation technique’. Instead of using puppets with a malleable head, Pal made multiple wooden heads which were replaced to show different emotions etc.
1955 – ‘Gumby’ released, used claymation technique
1963 – ‘Jason and the Argonauts’. Developed the ‘Dynamation’ technique, allowing live action models to be mixed with stop-motion models.
1993 – ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’ is released. Features 109,440 frames. Cost $18 million to make and grossed $76.2 million
2009 – ‘Coraline’ is released. Only used computers to enhance the traditional animation process
- Character/ Prop/ Environment creation
- Shooting Scenes
- Editing/ Exporting final video
‘The Corpse Bride’ (2005) Case Study:
- 23 animators
- Nearly 40 model makers and set builders
- Produced on a 55-week schedule
- 300 puppets in total for the 30 characters, some costing $30,000 each
- Corpse Bride had 14 puppets whereas Victor had 12
- ‘We get three paces for a shot. The first is a block to check the lighting and then a rehearsal, which is shot on twos or fours, and then we hone in the performance, and the final, which is shot on ones, 24 separate poses for one second of screen time.’ – Pete Kozachik, VFX Supervisor
- A four second scene took nearly three days to complete
- Shot on 24 Cannon SLR digital still cameras which shortened editing because shots could be seen as soon as they were done, so shots could be tested and refined on the same day
Unique and interesting style
Can take a lot of time to film and create the set, while a big team may also be required depending on how ambitious the project is
3D/ CGI Animation
1995 – Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’ was the first all CGI film. After Toy Story’s success, more films started using CGI animation, including studios like ‘Dreamworks’ and ‘Blue Sky’
Early 2000s – TV programmes also start to use CGI, with Jimmy Neutron being one of the first
2009 – James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ released. The film is around 70% CGI and aimed to look as photo realistic as possible and was made using motion capture to avoid falling into the uncanny valley
- Concept and Storyboards
- 3D Modelling
- Camera Setting
- Compositing and VFX
- Music and foley
- Final Output
Directors can choose any angle to shoot their scene from, even if it would have been difficult for a live action film
Expensive hardware and software are required and will need to be replaced somewhat frequently to avoid becoming obsolete
Part 2: 12 Principles of Animation Glossary
1. Squash and Stretch
Gives the illusion of weight and volume to a character or object as it moves by expanding and compressing the body/ object.
Allows the audience to know when an action is about to take place, often by adding a smaller action before the major action
In the above example, Pluto moves his arms up and toward him before reaching outwards.
The way a scene is staged directs the audience’s attention towards the most important features of a scene with regards to the story it is trying to convey.
Staging involves the positioning of the camera, characters, and the actions performed within the scene.
4. Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose
The techniques in which the animation is created.
Straight Ahead – the frames are drawn in order one after the other. Creates fluid realistic actions.
Pose to Pose – drawing the key poses and drawing the inbetweens after. Effective in dramatic or emotional scenes where the priority is to convey an idea than realism.
5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action
Follow Through – when a character performs an action and stops, nothing stops all at once. For example, hair will typically tend to move slightly longer after the main body has stopped.
Overlapping Action – when a character or object is in motion, some areas like the hair will move faster than other areas
6. Slow-In – Slow-Out
When characters perform actions, animators use more frames at the start of the action, fewer frames in the middle, and more frames at the end of the action, creating the slow-in slow-out effect.
Almost all actions have a slightly circular motion as opposed to going straight in and straight out.
8. Secondary Action
An additional action which works to reinforce the main action. Will often be used to convey the mood of the character.
The mood of an animation can be impacted by the number of inbetweens within each main action (the timing).
- Lots of inbetweens = slower
- Fewer inbetweens = faster
- Drawing on ‘ones’ – one drawing is made for each frame 24 drawings per second (often used for very fast actions that need to be seen)
- Drawing on ‘twos’ – one drawing is made for every two frames (frequently used)
Making the essence of an action more evident by overstating certain movements, whilst retaining the believability of the scene.
Exaggeration means more convincing here – when actions are really quick the exaggeration needs to be bigger to highlight the action or allow the action to stay on screen longer.
11. Solid Drawings
Ensuring the animation considers volume, weight and balance.
Add overlap for clothing etc. to ensure everything doesn’t look like it’s on the same plane
Avoid symmetry – pair straight lines with curved lines or offset with two curved lines
Avoid ‘twinning’, where the arms and legs do the same thing
- Use a variety of shapes for each character
- Proportions – exaggerate key aspects of the character, make the appealing aspects larger and the less appealing bits smaller
2D and 3D Animation Practice
2D Animation Practice using Photoshop (bouncing ball):
I created the animation above using Photoshop. While the final result is alright, in retrospect, I would exaggerate the squash and stretch principle to a greater degree here in order to increase the appeal of the animation.
3D Animation Practice (Walk Cycle):
Above I have included a link to my first attempt at animating in Maya. Although I can see areas for improvement with this walk cycle (such as making the movement smoother at parts), creating this walk cycle was useful as it enabled me to become comfortable with using the character rig I would be using for my final piece and become aware the importance of timing and making sure the animation looks smooth, so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes in my final piece.
For my final animation, I had the choice of animating a sneeze, sit down and stand up, Pick up and put down, a jump scare, or catch. I chose to animate a sneeze as I was able to find multiple references for this, as well as have a clear vision of how to implement the animation principles I have learnt recently.
- Within 3 weeks develop a single animation of a character sneezing. Only ONE sneeze is necessary (you can do more if you like, but quality is always better than quantity).
- You will need to plan (storyboard/sketches), develop and evaluate your animation.
- You can use any rig / character that you like.
- There is no requirement to light or render your scene.
- You must show consideration of at least 2-3 animation principles (minimum).
- Don’t focus on the face
Before story-boarding my animation, I found references from other animations and live action shows to influence my animation.
When story-boarding my animation, I had initially taken great influence from Sneezy in Snow White (1937). However, during the production of my project, I realised this reference was no longer as useful because while my reference of Sneezy portrays an extremely exaggerated sneeze (which is what I’m aiming for), Sneezy doesn’t fly backwards when sneezing. This resulted in me furthering my search for references later on in production, specifically finding examples of sneezes where the character flies backwards, which I was able to find in my Kim Possible, Scooby Doo and Tom & Jerry references.
As well as my Sneezy references, I also decided against using my ‘Frozen’ references relatively early on. While they were useful for referencing a smaller sneeze, they weren’t very useful for animating an exaggerated sneeze.
BELOW: Slideshow of the twelve references I used throughout the planning and production of my animation.
Above are my sketches of the key poses I imported into Maya whilst animating my final piece. While my key poses for useful, I did expand and improve upon some of the poses when actually animating my piece, specifically with regards to the way my character looks when they’re flying backwards.
Key principles I plan to focus on in my animation (in order of importance):
- Exaggeration* – making the sneeze exaggerated will help communicate to the audience that my character is sneezing
- Arc* – using the arc principle when my character flies backwards will help increase the appeal of my animation
- Secondary Action* – specifically after finding my reference from Batman the Animated Series, I realised it would again, help to communicate the fact my character sneezed if they wipe their nose after the sneeze is finished, as you would associate wiping your nose with sneezing
- Timing* – timing will be important in my animation as my character needs to fly backwards at the same time they sneeze
- Anticipation* – as stated in the brief, sneezes usually have a lot of anticipation prior to the actual sneeze itself. Implementing the anticipation principle into my animation successfully will mean the actual sneeze will be more prominent, as the character won’t be sneezing straight away
- Staging – staging will be important as this will include how I present my animation, which I have planned in my storyboard
- Squash and stretch (if possible) – squash and stretch could be useful to use as it has the potential to increase the appeal of my character
* (most important)
I am happy with my final piece as I believe I was successful in telling my planned story (a sneeze), which I believe is largely the result of my successful application of the animation principles (see individual principle evaluation).
This project has enabled me to learn a number of things I didn’t know about animating in Maya before, such as:
- Using animation layers – I used a separate layer for the head, arm and leg movement. This meant I could easily go back and change parts of my animation later on as well as making it easier to use the graph editor
- Using the Euler filter – this came in useful as at one part in my animation my character moved his arms back but his arms went in the wrong direction. Using the Euler filter quickly fixed this
- Forward and Inverse Kinematics (FK and IK). After peer review of my animation, it became apparent that my character’s hands should remain in the same place whilst the arms move as my character breathes heavily. This meant I had to keyframe the hand animation to switch from FK to IK.
- Rendering my animation from Maya as an image sequence
Key areas for improvement:
- I believe I can improve my ability to use the graph editor. While I used the graph editor for some parts of my animation, I believe researching further into using the graph with my animations will help me with the next animation I do
- Some parts where I believe the arm animation could be smoother when I’ve switched between IK and FK
- If I had more time I would have liked to develop the anticipation principle a bit more so there is even more build up to the sneeze.
- Time management – I was able to spend the day before the hand in refining both my animation and my blog
- While I am happy with how I implemented all the principles of animation I wanted to include in my final piece, I am probably most pleased with my application of the arc/ timing principles, as these were difficult to get right but resulted in a result that I am proud of
Individual Principle Evaluation
As my animation was only supposed to be short, I included some anticipation but didn’t include as much anticipation as was shown in my Dumbo reference, whereby Dumbo tries to sneeze multiple times before he actually manages to sneeze. However, despite my animation only being short, I still included a ‘false sneeze’ before my character actually sneezes, allowing the actual sneeze to catch him off guard and therefore send him flying backwards and therefore contributing to the anticipation of the real sneeze.
I am very happy with how I have managed to use the arc principle in my final animation. When my character flies backwards, he moves in an arc as opposed to going straight backwards and straight down, which also works to contribute towards the appeal principle. The ‘fly back’ was difficult to get right and as discussed in my ‘timing’ section, went through numerous attempts to reach the final product.
After struggling to animate my character flying backwards from my initial references, I found a reference from ‘Tom and Jerry’ which was extremely useful to help me get the shape of my character right as he flew back.
Having noticed the fact that many of my references (notably Kim Possible and Scooby Doo) are staged in a way that includes empty space to the side of the character that they then fly back into when they sneeze, I also decided to stage my animation in a similar way, allowing the sneeze itself to be shown in one shot.
In my storyboard, I did initially plan on including a close up of my character’s nose twitching. This couldn’t be done for two reasons. Not only would the rig not allow for me to animate my character’s nose, there wouldn’t be enough time in my animation to include a close up without missing out some of the body animations I have animated in the frame, which explains the fact in my final piece, I have only included two shots.
My idea to include a secondary action in my animation came after finding my reference from Batman the Animated Series, where Batman wipes his nose following a sneeze. In my animation, not only have I included my character wiping their nose after the sneeze, but also prior to them wiping their nose, I also decided to include heavy breathing following peer review, which works to emphasise that the character is out of breath following flying backwards and actually worked to make it look more natural when my character wipes his nose.
When animating my character wiping his nose, I needed to change the way his head moved in relation to his arm. Before, the head didn’t move with the arm and so looked unnatural. However, I managed to eventually get the timing in which my character moves his head correct, so that he moves his head in the other direction to his arm.
From the outset of my project, I knew I wanted to create an animation that wasn’t very realistic and was instead more exaggerated, like the sneezes I found in many of my references. I believe I have successfully implemented this principle into my final piece, as the over the top gestures, flying backwards and heavy breathing following my character sneezing all work to exaggerate the sneeze.
Ideally, I would have liked to have had the ability to make the lips stick out when sneezing. However, as the facial animations were optional, this is not a big issue.
I believe my character looks appealing in my final animation as a result of not only using other principles like the arc principle, but also the facial expressions I have animated on my character. The facial expressions aren’t very evident on the final piece as filming the animation from the side was better for showing the sneeze itself, which took priority over showing facial expressions as the brief didn’t state I had to include facial expressions.
When animating the facial expressions for my character, before he sneezes I made him look happy. This included making his eyes as wide open as they could be to look big and therefore more appealing, as Disney characters are very appealing and are known for having big eyes (as shown in my references of Elsa from ‘Frozen’.
Next, for the expressions I included for the sneeze, I was greatly influenced by the facial expressions shown in my ‘Kim Possible’ reference, as demonstrated below:
Ideally, I would have liked to have been able to close the eyes on my character as this would have allowed me to make the facial expressions look even more similar to my reference, but again, as the brief didn’t state I had to include facial expressions, this was not a big issue.
I am pleased with the timing in my final animation as I had to keep refining the timing within my animation until it was right.
For example, to make it look like my character is actually blasted back by the sneeze, I needed to add a pause before he flies backwards. Before I included this pause, the sneeze wasn’t obvious and therefore didn’t communicate my story well to the audience. The first part of the Tom and Jerry reference which featured Spike (the dog) sneezing was extremely useful for working on my timing.
Prior to this, I had actually restarted my animation as I had animated my character jumping up before flying backwards, when my character should have flown backwards in the air at the same time. Additionally, removing the jump before my character flew backwards also enabled the arc principle to be more evident when my character flies through the air.
Another part where I needed to adjust my timing was when my character lands on the ground after he stops bouncing. Here, I needed to add a pause after he stops bouncing and then add more easing to his arm coming up to wipe his nose as well as slow down the speed in which he wipes his nose. I also needed to adjust the keyframes when he lowers his arm after this action as before it looked like his arm just dropped down.
Regarding timing and staging, in my final piece, I have decided not to use as many shots as were planned in my storyboard. Having initially included several shots, I decided after implementing them into my animation (which only lasts a few seconds), the shots were too quick, so I ultimately decided on only using two shots in my final animation – one long take from the side as I believed this was the best way to showcase the sneeze, and another shot from the front at the end when wipes his nose.
Squash and stretch
Although my animation doesn’t aim to be realistic, I haven’t really implemented the squash and stretch principle as this would include distorting the model. Instead however, when my character drops down, instead of just hitting the ground as I initially planned, I added a bounce/ skid, which somewhat reflects the squash and stretch principle, whilst also adding to the appeal of my character.
Useful Links/ references regarding animation: