Sunday, November 6, 2011

Principles of Animation

The next subject covered in animation class, after basic timing, is the principles of animation. First laid out by the pioneers at Disney, these principles are necessary to make animation look convincing. They apply to any medium of character animation, whether hand-drawn on paper, 3d, or a whiteboard and camcorder.

Stretch and Squash -  Making the character compress and expand with the forces involved in the movement.  This could be literally stretching and squashing a rubbery cartoon character.  However, stretch and squash can be achieved without changing the characters shape by movement through the joints.

Anticipation - A minor, often opposite, movement that precedes an action.  Anticipation allows the character to generate the necessary force to carry it through the action.  It also prepares the audience for the action.  The classic example of anticipation is crouching down before jumping.  Without the crouch the character would seem to be being lifted off the ground instead of jumping under its own power.

Secondary Action - Parts of the character that attach to the moving body follow.  Hair and clothing do not move on their own unless the character moves or they are acted upon by some other force.  They follow the moving character instead of moving at the same time.

Overlapping Action - Related objects start and end their movements at different times.  If every part of the character moves at the same time and same pace it looks unnatural.  For example, when flicking one's wrist, the arm and hand move in opposite directions, the hand starts later and moves faster.

Follow-through - Things don't just come to a dead stop suddenly.  The motion will continue as it decelerates.  For example a batter doesn't stop swinging after he makes contact with the ball (or not) but continues through the swing,

Slow-in, Slow-out - Objects must accelerate before reaching full speed and must decelerate before stopping.  Objects generally move fastest in the middle of an action and slower at the beginning and end.

Arcs and Trajectories - Objects in motion follow a path and do not suddenly change direction without a cause.  Arcs and curves are beautiful to look at and see in motion.

Drag - Objects tend to remain where they are until moved by an a force.

Pacing - Characters do different actions at different speeds instead of every action taking the same amount of time.  Varying the pacing prevents the motion from being monotonous.

Exaggeration - Animated characters can do much more than real life characters.  Total realism is boring in animation.  It is the responsibility of the animator to take things further.

Appeal - Character and motion should both be aesthetically pleasing.  This is the hardest principle to define.

I have read these principles many times before.  However, you don't really know the principles until you use them.  As you can see, there is a lot of overlap in the principles.  That is because all of these principles should be applied simultaneously in all character animation.
To help clarify these principles we were given four short exercises to apply the principles.

The first exercise is for the principle of drag.  Here a spaceship is dragging a ribbon behind it.

The second exercise is secondary action.  Here nun-chucks swing from a pendulum.  The nun-chucks follow the primary action of the pendulum.  I realize it is unrealistic for the nun-chucks to go higher on the second swing than on the first, but this is just an exercise and I wanted to try both a smaller movement and a larger one.

The Third exercise is for overlapping action.  As the train hits the wall, when the front of the train is being pushed off the tracks the rear cars are still moving forward.

The forth exercise is for follow-through and secondary action.  Here a ball is wearing a skirt.  As it bounces it pulls the skirt with it.  When the ball changes direction, the skirt continues its path until the ball pulls it the other direction.  This was my favorite exercise.

Now these principles are applied to a character.  This is exciting, after using the flour sac, to move onto a character with arms and legs.  It is the next logical step since the character is basically a flour sac with arms and legs.  The character looks very similar to Stitch from the Disney feature Lilo and Stitch, but he isn't; so don't sue me.  Here, he jumps a couple times then falls on his face.  The principle should all be in this animation and every animation I do for the rest of my career.  A few example: Before he jumps, he crouches down, applying the principle of anticipation.  When jumping, he follows an arc and moves slowest at the top of the arc.  Here we see an arc, slow-in, slow-out and pacing.  When he lands on the first jump, his force causes him to use his hand to catch himself, demonstrating follow-through.  When he falls on his face, his hips land before his head and arms;  then his hips bounce off the ground before the head.  This demonstrates overlapping action.
This was practice for the principles assignment.  Again, the character is Stitch-like.  He starts on his back.  He stands up; then an object hits him on the top of the head, knocking him out.  He falls to the ground, unconscious, and bounces upon impact.  The above-mentioned principles should all be applied in the assignment.  How he stands up was left up to us to figure out.  Since we know the principles we should be able to figure it out.  I am very happy with the way this turned out. 

It is great to be working with characters already.  With these principles, I should be able to make any character move believably.  I feel like I am just starting to understand the principles.  It will probably take me years to truly master them.  My long term goal is to understand them so well I apply them automatically, without thinking about them so I can focus on acting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Animation School - The Beginning

So far, this blog has been mainly concerned with self taught art study.  Now that I am in school, I still believe all the same principles this blog was about before still apply.  The only difference now is instead of self-directed study, I will be posting about my study under the direction of the staff at Capilano University.  Whether teaching myself or being taught by someone else, I still need to develop skill through acquiring knowledge and putting it to practice until I have mastered it.  My years of self-teaching have given me insight into why my professor give the assignments that they do.  The teaching philosophy at Capilano is also based on giving knowledge and assigning practice to develop skill.  It has allowed my to learn a great deal in only about a month.

In this post I will cover my progress in developing the skills of animation.  I have spent a lot of time animating and receiving critique on my work.  I will skip the first exercise, which was just to get used to the procedure and using the equipment.   The first real exercise was the bouncing ball.  This is a classic animation exercise designed to teach the basics of timing and a little stretch and squash.  I had done this exercise many times before coming to school.  In fact, I did this the first time when I was only fifteen.  It is not a hard exercise but it does serve an important function.  To make a ball bounce look realistic, the ball must follow an arc, ascending and descending on a symmetrical parabola.  The drawings must be spaced closer together at the top of the arc and further apart on the way up and down to give it the appearance of accelerating and decelerating.   The ball should also squash when it hits the ground and stretch when it moves fast.  This is an exaggeration of what happens in real life to give the animation more life.  I do not have a video of the bouncing ball I animated.

The next animation exercise was slightly more complicated.  This time, the bouncing ball has a single leg.  It jumps and lands instead of just bounces.  On the first jump, the ball had to perform a movement of anticipation.  This is where the subject makes a smaller move to prepare for a larger move.  In this exercise the ball squats down before jumping up.  This is necessary to make the action look realistic and also lets the audience know the action is coming.  Since the ball lands and jumps, it must show the point when the foot first contacts, followed by the ball crouching to accept the force of the landing.  Then, it must show the last point of contact as it leaves for its next jump.  These three key drawings are necessary for the action to read.
I feel my jumping ball moves somewhat stiffly.  It could use less drawings on the assent to make the action seem faster.

The next exercise, again slightly more complicated than the last, is a jumping flour sac.  This "character" is a little more complex than the ball with a single leg.  It is basically two balls enclosed in a bag.  The flour sac was originated at the Walt Disney studio to train young animators.  In addition to jumping, the exercise was also to have it rotate.  He must ascend and descend, stretch and squash, and anticipate just like in the previous exercises; But now it is with a more complicated character and must rotate in addition.  This exercise was also an introduction to using key frames.  Instead of animating the drawings in order, one at a time, (this is called animating straight ahead) the most important drawings are done first.  These are the drawings that define the motion, called key frames or keys.  Next, timing charts are drawn on the keys to indicate how many drawing will be between the keys and how they are to be spaced.  Then the less important drawings are added.  I am much happier with the results of this exercise.

The last assignment I will post, is our first major assignment of the semester.  The previous exercises were leading up to this.  In this assignment the flour sac must perform two jumps before jumping onto a platform on a spring.  The platform swings back and forth, swing the poor flour sac with it.  This tests our understanding of the previous principles and adds another, overlapping action.    This is where different parts of an object start and stop at different times and move at different rates.  In this example, the bottom of the flour sac is pulled by its connection to the moving platform.  The top of the flour sac trails behind it.  When the platform changes direction, the momentum of the top part continues to push it forward as the bottom part changes direction, until it pulls the top to the other direction.  This is also called drag.  I am pretty happy with this assignment, however I feel the first jump moves too slowly.

I have been learning much faster and much better than I had been when teaching myself.  I think this is because I know exactly what knowledge I need to learn and what I need to practice to develop the skill.  Getting feedback from the professor is invaluable to I know exactly what I am doing right and should repeat, and what I am doing wrong and should avoid.  Also, it is very helpful to see the work of my fellow students, seeing what they do right and learning from their mistakes as well as my own.  My fellow students are a talented bunch.  Seeing their work pushes me to do better. In learning to animate, as in learning to draw, learning to see things critically is important.  In this case it is important to be able to look at your animation, see what is not working, and be able to understand WHY it is not working;  then it can be corrected and improved.  I have learned so much in the first month and this is only the beginning.  I am excited to learn more and continue to improve my skills.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Digital Painting

It has been a while since I have posted, because I have bee moving.  I am now living in Vancouver.  School starts in a couple weeks.  In the meantime I have been doing a lot of digital painting.  I'm not new to digital painting, but this time I approached it like a beginner over again, and learned a lot.

The fresh start began at CTRL + Paint, a great tutorial website.  Even though I have experience digital painting I learned a little from the digital painting 101 section.  Next, I did the Basic Photoshop Rendering Tutorial.  This is the best basic photoshop tutorial I have ever came across.  It covers everything you need to get started in depth.  I learned photoshop painting basically by trial and error.  Learning a few simple applications of the software really changed the way I work in it.  I wish I had found this years ago. After completing this tutorial I applied what I learned to my own still life.
Next, I continued re-learning the basics, this time with better control of the medium. I believe the most fundamental skill to know in painting, digital or otherwise, is rendering forms in light in three dimensions.  I found these basic oil painting exercises applied to digital painting.  The first covers rendering basic geometric forms.  The second cover painting with value.  I did not continue with the later exercises as they were less applicable to digital painting.  I practiced rendering basic forms from my imagination as well. 
Then I began focusing more on color.  I found a wealth of information on color on this amazing free resource, Dimensions of Color.   Color theory is much more complicated then I realized.  I feel like this knowledge has helped my use of color.  As I continue to practice and apply it, more of the color theory will become clear.  I made an exercise out of the first section about light and shade.  I made a study of the photograph, placing each area of light mentioned on its own layer, ei: one layer for form shadow, one layer for reflected light.  Then, I painted a similar sphere from imagination.
After becoming more comfortable with the basics, I did some photo studies to have fun with the medium.
I also spent some time learning to paint realistic surfaces from CTRL+Paint.  Again I made my own still life to try out the techniques I learned.
Now I am trying to digitally paint figures from imagination.  I am much better at it than before I did all the above studies but I still have a lot of work to do.

For comparisons sake here is my best attempt at painting a figure from imagination about a year ago.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cartoon character walk

I have copied several of the walks from Richard Williams' Animator's Survival Kit.  So, I wanted to try my hand at creating my own walk with one of my own characters.  You may recognize the cat from my portfolio for Capilano's Commercial Animation program.  I draw him quite frequently.  I wanted to give him a relaxed, confident stride.  This is by far the most complex animation I have ever attempted.  I am very happy with the results.  The motion of the arms is more stiff than I would like.  Also, some of the frames by themselves are actually kind of ugly.  I think it would read better and boil less with thinner lines on the final colored version. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chapter 5 - Ellipses and Cylinders

Chapter 5 expands on Chapter 4 by adding Cylinders to represent the limbs.  This is a useful way to render the limbs as simple shapes, and keep the three-dimensional in perspective.  I have used cylinders to represent limbs before.  I was tempted to breeze over this chapter.  However, throughout the book, Vilppu warns about the student thinking he has advanced beyond the material and skipping ahead.  I put the time into this chapter and it was well worth it.   As I progress in these studies I feel more and more confident in drawing the figure from memory and imagination.  These were drawn in ball point pen at Rittenhouse park.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rough Animation

I did these short very rough animations for fun. I didn't plan out the action ahead of time. I just animated them straight through, tweaking as I went. My goal was just to play around with the medium.

Climbing over a wall

Jumping Rope - This one is my favorite

Doing Flips - This one was slightly more planned out. Next time I do something more complicated like this one, I will plan it out more. I ended up redoing almost the entire thing after my original idea didn't look right. It still doesn't look quite right, but I am new at this.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Box and Sphere - Vilppu drawing manual chapter 4

In this last chapter I drew figures out of boxes. In the chapter before that, I drew figures out of rounded shapes. In this chapter I combine the box and the sphere. The box representing the pelvis and the sphere representing the rib cage. I did this with drawings of people in the park. Unfortunately the studio where I do longer studies has been closed. So, I was not able to do any longer studies. To bring home the concept I decided to do a very short animation. In order to make the animation work, I really needed to understand the concept in three dimensions.  All studies done on sketch paper with ball point pen.  Animation done in Toon Boom Studio.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Boxes - Vilppu drawing manual chapter 3

Chapter 3 of Vilppu's drawing manual teaches drawing the human figure as a group of boxes.  I did this both slowly, and in detail during figure drawing sessions, and quickly drawing in parks and coffee shops.  I found this exercise very useful because it forced me to conceptualize the subject in three dimensions in perspective.  Of course, humans are not square.  In order to render the figure, I had to use shapes beside boxes.  However I still kept these shapes geometrical, with clearly defined edges.  This really helped my understanding of using planes to describe form.  I feel my drawings are more structurally sound, and better conceptualized in three dimensions as a result of the time I spent on these exercises even when I am not drawing boxes. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Anatomy Studies - Torso and Posemaniacs

I applied a similar method to the study of the torso as applied to the arms and legs.  Since the ribcage is so complex, I did separate studies for the bones and the muscles.  However, using myself as a model is not practical for anatomy studies outside of simple poses.  For variety to these studies, I have supplemented posemaniacs.  It is not as good as using myself as a model but I have found it very helpful.  My approach to using posemanics has been to use it as a base to construct the pose in my study.  I use photoshop so I can separate each step of the drawing to its own layer.  I start with gesture and structure.  Next I fill in the anatomy.  The last layer is a contour drawing of the figure.  The contour drawings tend to be a little flat.  I think it is because the line work is flat.  I add the line work more to check for mistakes that I would otherwise miss than as a finished drawing in itself.  I have done quite a few of these studies and others with the same approach without a reference.  I have found this method useful in learning to construct the figure as well as drill in my study of anatomy from many angles.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Anatomy Studies - Arms and Legs

For these studies, I used my own arms and legs as my subject and Jeno Bracsay's Anatomy for the Artists for reference.  The first studies were from the same angles as in the book to make it easier to identify the muscles on my own body. First, I do a very quick line drawing of my arm or leg.  Next, I draw in the bones, starting with the landmarks then filling in the rest from the book.  Then, I draw in and label the muscles.  I like this method because identifying the muscles on my own body makes the knowledge very tangible.  I can look at the muscles in three dimensions right in front of me where ever I am.  After identifying the muscles from straight on, I repeated the process from various angles and poses.  This is not my first time studying anatomy, but so far, it is the method that has worked best for me.  I feel like I really have this knowledge down.  Since doing these studies I have had a much easier time identifying muscles when drawing from a live model.

Next I drew more arm and leg anatomy from imagination. here are a few.