Friday, 7 January 2011

Straight Ahead Pose to Pose

A necessary principle of animation, but my least favourite to explain. Straight ahead is frame after frame being drawn, no gaps so outcome ideally is more fluid. In 2D, straight ahead can distort the proportions of the character whereas with pose to pose the animator is missing frames for example they may draw the 1st, 6th and 12th frame and fill in the gaps. Pose to pose allows less distortion of proportions as the animator can see where they are aiming to get to. Combing the two allows the animator the best of both.

Principles of Animation : Appeal

Appeal can be compared to what be charisma of a real life actor. People often narrow appeal into the category of cute characters, their appeal of the viewer wanted to cuddle them, but monsters and such can have appeal too. The main concept is that they are believable, real and interesting. Appeal relies on the features of the character, the design. If you wanted the characters appeal to be cute the design could have baby- like features and symmetrical face. An animator would not design a cute character with small, unsymmetrical eyes or a sharp long nose as the appeal for the character type would not be believable.
Appeal lends itself with design. A character can have the desired appeal as long as the design is right.

This example is perfect for showing appeal with the design of the witch and Snow White. They are excellent contrast to show both negative and positive appeal.

Principles of Animation: Secondary Action

When using secondary actions it is important that they emphasise the main action rather than take focus away from it. For example if the scene was a character about to suddenly run off screen the character's eyes  could stay looking forward, using secondary action the character's eyes may look from side to side. This secondary action could enhance the scene and possibly create an element of anticipation and if successful would enhance the main action, which is the purpose of secondary action.

2:09 in this example the primary action is the mouse putting her arms around her children whilst the secondary action is the facial expressions used on the character. This enhances the primary action.

Principles of Animation: Exaggeration

A still example from Warner Bros. The use of exaggeration here is obvious in the facial features.

Principles of Animation :Exaggeration

Exaggeration does not just mean distorting the actions or objects, but the animator must carefully choose which properties to exaggerate. If only one thing is exaggerated then it may stand out too much. If everything is exaggerated then the entire scene may appear too unrealistic, the balance must be right.
Exaggeration is used in animation when trying to decide whether to be realistic or not by playing with the levels of exaggeration used an animator can achieve this. Exaggeration can be used on the character or elements in the storyline itself.

The scene in the Lion King has the correct amount of exaggeration. When finding an example for this principle I tended to focus on the features of the characters, the eyes in particular.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Conclusions - Timing, Slow In and Slow Out & Arcs

Timing is the very base of animation, giving an object variations of force (speed, weight etc). Everything we see on TV or in the cinema is set to the pace of the human brain, hence why we see 12fps as flowing movement. The gaps between key positions influence the importance of the movement.

Timing in Disney’s Fantasia is crucial to the whole feature, as it is all timed perfectly to an orchestra. In this piece (03:40) the animators have first marked on screen each key position (as beads of light) and then used the gap between beats to reveal the ‘timeline’ using trailing lines. This is the simplest form of combining timing and motion to show the inner mechanics of fundamental animation

Slow In and Slow Out
Sometimes a movement can be so fast that it almost doesn’t register with the viewer. By steadily building up to the climax, precognition within the audience can help guess the next action, while a gentle decline afterwards verifies the action through reaction.

Wiley Coyote is well known for running off cliffs, but by watching carefully you will notice that the actual decent out of shot is only a few frames long. Running on thin air gives us a big clue as to what happens next, and the next shot looking down the cliff face reveals his gradual plummet to the ground. Slow build up, fast action and slow reaction.

In essence, arcs are the connecting joints to a base pivoting joint (e.g. fingers through to shoulder). They can be used on any movement made by a flexible substance. Hair is a common example, as its small width allows for optimum curvature, but again, this can be applied to a spine, tail or even plants and trees blowing in the wind. If nothing else, arcs represent the flow of a force pushing/pulling into and around an object.

Feet of Song is a wonderful way of viewing our bodies, and their potential energy becoming kinetic throughout. At some point the joints become invisible, almost as a metaphor for the driving force (e.g. arms) pushing through the air and falling with gravity. This pendulum movement is what creates drag and adds realism to an animation.

Conclusions: cycles, staging, straight ahead and pose to pose


Historically cycles were one of the early forms of animation through a device called the zoetrope where a spinning cylinder gave the impression that still drawings were in fact moving, of course the drawings then had to tell a repetitive story due to the nature of the zoetrope.

Cycles in animation today have their uses for such things as walk and run cycles, and many other actions to do with movement. However it is popular to also create cycles that are morphs, possibly due to the limitations a cycles narrative presents, a morph can overcome these issues.


How a scene is staged is very important to the overall story and how the audience perceives characters and the plot. A scene may have a lot going on in and around it but it is important for the animator to choose what to focus on as that is what the audience is going to see and perceive. It can cause elements of surprise to the storyline as the camera can focus on one thing, yet cut to another unexpected. It is important to consider what is included in the scene and how this can affect the audience emotion, for example shadows usually cast suspense and lightning can portray fear or horror.

Staging is usually not true to reality as the animator has to stage the characters at angles they would not be in; for example to converse they would probably be set at 3/4 angles to each other but this is so the audience can read emotion and expression. 

Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose:

Straight ahead animation is usually spontaneous and fresh as the lack of control can help keep the whole process of drawing one frame straight after the other very creative as new ideas can be added as the animator goes along. However it is hard to judge the timing of the piece because of the lack of control, and in scenes where the layout or the background is busy, the technique will not work as it is hard to match the detail.

Pose to pose animation is carefully planned out, drawing key frames first and relating them to each other in size and action, the inbetweens are then filled in afterward. Scenes are always easy to follow because of the careful consideration, timings can be planned perfectly in the sense that the pattern of movement consists of short sharp movements as well as smooth flowing ones. However this of course takes time and resources, the downfall compared to straight ahead animation being that if a better idea is considered, it cannot be added as the scene has already been planned out.

Combining the two processes together is a winning combination, the pose to pose technique stops the straight ahead action from getting out of hand whilst keeping spontaneous. The use of all the other principles is very important to pose to pose action, such as timing and secondary action as it was these that developed the technique. Historically before the principles were developed, animators used to draw only in the straight ahead method and were only concerned with entertaining actions and the visuals.

Flash Project

Here is an explanation of the principles I have used to create this piece.

Fig 1 planning the animation

Principles I have followed within this animation:
  1. Cycle - walk cycle. (see Fig 3) considering weight shift (see Fig 2) helps the understanding of where the head and stomach placement would be, especially considering this character is fat and round.
  2. Secondary Action - arms move when character is walking (yoyo) head moves in sympathy with arm movement. (Reaction character) when hit with yoyo characters arms and head fly backwards.
  3. Staging - Camera is at first focused only on character who finds the yoyo, it is only when the yoyo flies out of shot that the camera then switches to the reactionary character making it less obvious what was to happen.
  4. Anticipation - arm lifts before pushing downwards to use yoyo and arm swings back before throwing yoyo off screen.
  5. Squash and Stretch/Exaggeration - when yoyo hits reactionary character the stomach squashes but in an over exaggerated way to make the scene look more effective.
  6. Follow through and overlapping action - when the character stops walking his arm carries on moving. When the yoyo comes back up it carries on travelling upwards after characters arm starts moving downwards again. Characters body has to go back to a resting position after forcing forwards to throw yoyo.
  7. Timing - yoyo will move at a much faster speed to everything else.
Fig 2 exaggerated weight shift

         Fig 3 simple walk cycle

    audience expectations

    Take the top image: The audience expects something to enter from the right and for the character to know about it. This is due to the character placed on the far left facing empty space.

    Take the bottom image: The audience expects something to enter from the left hand side and for the character on the right to be unsuspecting. This is due to the character being placed on the far right with its back to empty space.

    Development of straight ahead and pose to pose methods

    I have already covered the fact that both straight ahead and pose to pose methods offer certain advantages for different types of animation. However a combination of the two when animating will give the spontaneity of the straight ahead method whilst the pose to pose element will stop it from getting out of hand.

    In these cases the animation can be planned out in the pose to pose animation format whilst using none of these in the final format preferring the straight ahead methods. However straight ahead animation will rarely work if there are busy backgrounds or a strong perspective in the layout because the layout will provide limitations. Historically, this haphazard method was used by the first animators as they were more concerned with entertaining actions. The pose to pose method developed eventually after the finding and stressing of the importance of using the principles of animation by Disney studios.

    Key Frames and Inbetweens

    The principle of timing is tied very closely with the principle pose to pose.


    If these diagrams are time lines, and the numbers in the circles are key frames or frames drawn in the pose to pose technique then the numbers outside of the circles are inbetweens.
    The top timeline would involve movements that are in a very rhythmic pattern, which would be a very stale animation. Whilst straight ahead animation is spontaneous, it is hard to judge what the timings are are whether it is becoming stuck within a rhythmic pattern.

    The bottom timeline would involve movements that are timed differently throughout. It is easy to plan this within the technique of pose to pose, once the key frames are set out it is easy to set the timings of the inbetweens.

    Disney's Principles of Staging to evoke emotion within an audience.

    As well as establishing the Principles of Animation, Disney have set nine principles to get the most out of the principle of staging, mainly having relevance of evoking emotion within an audience.
    1. Rear view - for example viewing characters looking off into the distance will leave the audience imagining their feelings and dreams (if it is a happy scene of course) along with them
    2. Shadows - usually associated with suspense and drama.
    3. Shadows over the character - works well in intense situations and heightens the drama and emotion
    4. Overlays - for example characters pushing their way through something whilst distraught can help the intensity of the scene without having to focus on facial expressions too much.
    5. Dramatic layout - If the layout of the scene relate to how the character is feeling eg. overpowering shapes whilst feeling insignificant, can heighten the audiences understanding and emotions.
    6. Pictorial shot - "A background with a strong mood can save a difficult animation."
    7. Effects animation - Falling rain, a storm, vivid colours of leaves can evoke strong emotions within an audience.
    8. Held drawing with camera moves - When expressions cannot be strengthened by movement it can sometimes be beneficial to move the camera instead.
    9. Offstage sounds - a still shot of something can portray a lot if the sounds the audience hears can build images in the imagination.


    I have been concentrating so much on examples of walk cycles that I have completely forgotten to look at the obvious. Historically zoetropes are some of the earliest forms of cycles in animation.

    Here is my own example from the first week of term:

    Cycles also work very well with morph sequences, for example in the first week of term we made morph sequences in groups. I also made my own morph and cyclical sequence for the Open Brief and found that cycles in animation are not as limited as I would have believed them to be, managing to combine techniques of hand drawn and pixilation. Personally I find a lot of appeal in cycles, there is something satisfying about watching cleverly considered movements that repeat themselves.

    Placement of characters, are they true to real life?

    It is often the case that cartoon scenes are staged not with the characters looking directly at each other, but instead at a 3/4 angle. It is more convenient for the animator to work this way and it could be argued it makes the viewing experience more enjoyable and the audience do not tend to register this fact anyhow.


    If the characters are in profile and looking directly at each other it is difficult for the animator to capture facial expressions, but most importantly the audience are cut off, they are not fully part of the scene. Two profiles facing each other directly can also look very mechanical, it works well for cartoon strips but for animated films such as the works of Disney's it would become more regimented and less magical.
    One way of overcoming characters interacting face to face is the over the shoulder pose which replicates life better. However to animate over the shoulder poses are extremely difficult, this could be due to the fact that it is hard to draw the back of a cartoon character and to make them look like they are interacting.

    Principles of Animation - (Squash and Stretch)

    Squash and stretch is a very basic principle but so important. Gettign animation to look believable and interesting you have to use extremes of squash and stretch to emphasise the gestures. In this example I am looking at 'Pingu' which started in 1986, 'Pingu' is a claymated animation which has natural squash and stretch in it because its a bendy material. but these examples are heightening the action and gestures of the characters. the first example is a 1:00 where the seal character is chewing some sea weed , and a few seconds later Pingu's mouth really extends.this is an extreme use of squash and stretch but it illustrates my point well. most squash and stretch examples are more subtle but have a big effect on how we read the animation.

    My next example is taken from the 2007 film 'Persepolis' a beautiful black and white modern hand drawn animation. the example i have chosen is from a song in the film ' Eye of the tiger' which is where the main character has a montage to this song. In the montage there are many dance moves and gestures which has very subtle squash and stretch in them. this gives the illusion of dynamics in gesture and weight. It's a really witty example so enjoy the characterisations especially the teenage school girls bobbing there heads.

    Principles of Animation - (Anticipation)

    Anticipation is the action a character does in order to allow the audience to read what the character will do next. It can be a large anticipated action like a character ready to kick a ball or jump there has to be something to let the audience know there is an action about to take place. these don't have to be as obvious, they can be as simple as a small facial gesture a turn of the hips and many more. I have chosen an example from a 1950's Disney cartoon Donald duck -Trailer Horn. Fig.1 below.

    The specific example that i have noticed begins at 3:20 in the video. It shows Donald bouncing on a diving board his body anticipates hitting the board again and again as well has the initial
    step onto the board to begin it bouncing. I am comparing it to a contemporary example 2003's 'Animatrix' -World record. shows a much more true to life drawing style then Donald duck. there is this fantastic sequence 1:22 where a sprinter is running in "slow motion" there is a sense of power and weight much like Donald ducks springing anticipation. this adds life to the actions of the characters especially visible in 'Animatrix'.

    Principles of Animation- (Follow through and overlapping action)

    The principle of overlapping and follow through sorts out the problem of a character moving naturally. when a person like you or me come to a stop all out limbs torso head and feet don't all stop at the same time. there are many different timings in the human body the feet will often stop first then the torso and head and then the arms would catch up. Also if a character has a prop like a hat, tail or long skirt anything that will have drag or follow through action in it, can be used as and overlapping action and breath more life into a characters movement.

    The Historical example I have chosen is from Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty' 1959. right from the beginning of the video shows cloths moving after and action has taken place. it gives a richness and complexity when many parts of a drawing are moving at different rates.

    Secondly I have chosen and example from Pixar's 'Incredibles' 2004. again focusing on clothing because it shows such great follow through action. Giving and illusion of inertia in the that the clothing has a force or energy acting on it. the example is at 0:47. if you notice the coat peter is holding on his left hand side swings back and forth as he walks but lags behind his arm movement.