Tip Tuesday – Animation


Animation begins with drawing with paper and pencil and it’s the foundation on which you build. Your goal is to create natural movement. When you boil it all down, animation is one pose after another. Each drawing  is an individual frame in a strip of film that you combine to create movement and storytelling. Creating your own GIF can be a great way to dip your toes into the world of animation as they are usually only a few frames long. Study and copy other animators and pay attention to how they work. Slow down the play speed on YouTube, or pause the video and then press the period key to go forward frame-by-frame.

There are a lot of tips, tricks, and tactics that can help accelerate your animation abilities. You can learn animation on your own, but recommend learning animation by attending a training class, especially if you are a starter. You can build a solid animation knowledge base fast, compared with learning on your own. But first let’s start with the different software options and their applications.

  • Autodesk Maya (beginner to pro) – Windows, Mac OS, Linux
  • Adobe Animate (beginner to pro) – Windows, Mac OS
  • Adobe Character Animator (beginner) – Windows, Mac OS
  • Cinema 4D (beginner to pro) – Windows, Mac OS
  • Toon Boom Harmony (beginner to pro) – Windows, Mac OS, Linux
  • Houdini (experienced to pro) – Windows, Mac OS, Linux
  • Pencil2D (beginner) – Windows, Mac OS, Linux 
  • Blender (beginner to pro) – Windows, Mac OS, Linux
  • After Effects (beginner to pro) – Windows, Mac OS

The next step is to learn about the history of the principles and how to incorporate them into your work. When you’re starting to animate, it can be easy to get lost in the technical aspects, which is why the 12 Principles of Animation will guide you. The book has been referred to by some as the “Bible of animation” and some of its principles have been adopted over time.  The 12 principles were considered to only apply to hand drawings. Cartoonists and artists have realized, these principles are fundamental to the drawing process, and have survived as a key guide in the digital age.

  1. Squash and Stretch

Squashing and stretching an object as it moves can create the illusion of flexibility and life, by adding rubberized or elastic qualities to an object, but without altering its volume.

  1. Anticipation

An object rarely just starts moving forward and there’s usually some sort of preparatory movement in the opposite direction. This refers to marks and small movements that suggest another greater action is about to take place.

  1. Staging

Staging is all about directing the audience’s attention towards the most important elements in a scene. This is important visual information for understanding the narrative and so should be presented as one idea at a time.

  1. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

Straight ahead action refers to drawing a scene, frame by frame, from start to finish. Pose to pose is a more planned process where timing is very important. Initially, the animator only draws the key frames from a scene such as one at the beginning, and then starts to fill in the gaps to get there. 

  1. Follow Through and Overlapping Action

When an object stops, it doesn’t usually stop all at once, so adding small movement after the main action ends will create a more realistic look. Follow through relates to the termination point of an action. Overlapping refers to the start of one action before the previous action has ceased and is based on the fact that different parts of an object or a body move at different rates depending on their weight or volume.

  1. Slow In and Slow Out

Often referred to as easing in and easing out, this relates to a requirement for greater detail at the beginning and at the end of a movement or scene. You want to make sure all of your movement has a natural acceleration and deceleration. You can incorporate this by adding more frames at the start of a movement, fewer in the middle, and more at the end. 

  1. Arcs

An arc describes the visual path of action from one extreme to another. Curved arcs are used extensively in animation to convey a motion that is more expressive than if the action were conveyed along a straight-line path.

  1. Secondary Action

A secondary or supplementary action adds life to a scene or character but should not be so much as to upstage or overshadow the main action but help support the main movement and add more dimension to the scene.

  1. Timing

The faster the action, the fewer the number of frames that are used; the slower the action the greater the number of frames used.

  1. Exaggeration

Exaggeration is used to emphasize particular traits of an object or character by making them bigger, faster, greater, worse, etc. with a view to highlighting their significance in a scene or story. Actions that are too subtle could easily be missed by the audience. Use exaggeration  when you want to highlight something or add dramatic effect.

  1. Solid Drawing

Characters and objects need to look ‘realistic’. And they have three-dimensional qualities even though they have been created and are presented on a two-dimensional plane. Conveying light, shadow and space and creating shapes with weight and volume is crucial to being able to draw a character from every angle so they look real.

  1. Appeal

Creating appeal for a character relies on the ability of the animator to give personality to the character and to imbue it with human qualities that we identify with.

Animations like anything else in life, must not be overdone.  Too much animation can be distracting and takes away the purpose of a presentation. Keep it simple and clean and be selective about what object you animate. Not every object has to move from one side of the screen and not every object on your stage needs to be animated. Keep it short and make sure to limit animation to just a few seconds as most people in an audience have  a short attention span. Don’t animate first and then position your object. Position your objects as you intend them to be and then apply your animation. Preview your work often and make subtle adjustments and repeat.

Read more about how Animation started and where we are today. https://affordableart.co.za/2020/04/28/animation/

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