Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Water Balloon Head

Recently we've seen an epidemic in CGI pictures that we'd like to bring to your attention. "Water Balloon Head" is an animation disease that we as Spline Doctors would like to warn you about before it's too late. This is a disease that affects us all. We'd like to discuss why it's a problem and how to solve the most debilitating of animation diseases...

Water Balloon Head
headum squashis overanimatis

Symptoms: Animated characters' heads seem to squash and stretch so much that it appears that the head is made of a water.

Cause: Character is rigged to squash/stretch the whole head and not rigged to just squash/stretch the jowl area.

Cure: If the character is rigged improperly and re-rigging is not an option, lessen the use of the squash/stretch control.

Squashing and stretching the head is something that works fine in hand drawn animation, but gets a bit creepy in computer animation. In CGI truth to materials is very important. The images appear real enough that the audience expects the characters to behave in a world of believable physics. A heavy metal beam should not be animated like a wet noodle. A human or animal cranium should not perceiveably squash and stretch. I'm not saying that there shouldn't be squash and stretch in the head, I'm just saying it should be localized in the jowl area (cheeks and lower jaw).

The skull structure can be preserved by maintaining a solid relationship between the eye socket position and the upper teeth. If you can see the upper teeth "floating" up and down you are giving the audience the indication that the character is made of rubber. The skull structure should be preserved. The muscles around the eyes can be squashed/stretched as well as the nose if desired.

Of course there are exceptions to every "rule" in animation, but this is a good limitation to start with. If you really are itching to put squash and stretch into you shot, try putting it into the relationship of the head and shoulders. If you really must squash and stretch the cranium, back off a bit on how much you are using it. Thanks for reading.

Stay healthy,

Dr. A


Blogger Drew said...

guilty as charged. i guess there are some traditional animation principles that are better left to traditional... but at the same time, what if the film calls for a more loose, warner bros feel and a cartoony attitude. i understand what you're saying and i agree. for some types of animation, this is not the best way to go, but i think that this can also push the "cartoony" look of a given piece. i've taken up the habit the nasty habit of challenging everything and i'm not saying "right" or "wrong", just asking. great site btw.

3:01 PM

Blogger Jeremy said...

You guys did an awesome job with this in the Incredibles. Everything feels caricatured and pushed but still believeable. Not just in the face and head but the whole body as well. Also goes to show that traditional animation is far from dead. It has it's own unique appeal that no other medium can replicate.

5:22 PM

Blogger Adam Strick said...

Are there any films in particular that you could name and would allow us to study this effect? I remember Dr. Stephen always pushing the "truth to materials" thing and it was such an awesome way to refer to things that might be going wrong in that given situation. Very good tip!

6:23 PM

Blogger J said...

I could not agree more. I think that old sketch Marc Davis did that illustraties the rigid and flexible areas of the figure says it all.
After watching some of the newer cg trailers and clips, I went back and watched Lion King again, and some old Milt Kahl stuff. I find that with Mufasa , the jaws were stretched considerably in dialogue for example, but the integrity of the skull mass was never comprimised. Bone doesn't bend, it breaks.
Great blog guys.

8:46 PM

Blogger Young said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:12 AM

Blogger Young said...

woot! great Dr.A hehe
This is becoming of my new habit visiting here to cure my humble splines.
This blog owns!!
Thank you all.

4:15 AM

Blogger PixarVixen said...

Don't worry. I shall not fall victim to this horrible disease!

Strangely enough, my professor was telling us this week all about squash and stretch of the muscles, especially in the arms. It's something that I really haven't paid much attention to before, but I surely will from now on.

And remember, for every action, there is a reaction. If one muscle contracts, another one must expand in response to that.


9:21 AM

Blogger Keith Lango said...

I think in some ways this phenomenon feels more pronounced when animating on 1's. You can get away with more when things are on 2's (from a s&s sense). The energy is often different on 2's allowing things to be punched up more. Now that we're beginning to see more capability to deform the shape of our characters in Cg we animators need to figure out the golden ratio of just how much you can squash a head and for how long. It's better to feel this kind of deformation than actually see it. It seems it's often more of a timing thing to me. Go too long on the ease out on a squash or a stretch and it feels too loose and watery. Tighter timing and a more reserved approach is definitely the trick.

1:24 PM

Blogger myung said...

You can definitely see this in Chicken Little. It was like watching a 2d disney movie.

1:22 AM

Blogger Kevin Williams said...

Wow...that makes entirely too much sense. And amusing too. Thank you! :)

9:21 AM

Anonymous A said...

Oh come now. Chicken Little has a LOT of problems, none of which have anything to do with animation.

Nik Ranieri animates Chuck Cluck's skull squashing. Not just the jowels. It does not stand out in his shots because of how purpousfully and effectively he uses it.

Sure, lots of characters in Chicken are over the top with the squashy head look. But I'd say it's a style and knocking it is pretty subjective. It's a cartoon, just like in 2D, they still don't have skulls. If it was really a problem, the audience would complain. The same way they complained about the terrible animation in Shrek... oh, wait... Shrek and Donkey... made... billions... oh...

1:01 AM

Blogger David Beer said...

I dont judge an animation by how many people watch it. Thanks for the good advice, Doctors! And Keith.

1:56 AM

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11:14 PM

Anonymous herbalwellspring said...

It can't work in reality, that's exactly what I think.

2:44 AM


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