Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Residual Energy

Someone asked me to talk more about residual energy. There are alot of different ways this can be put to use. Residual energy is the energy left over from a primary or secondary movement. For example, a character does a gesture. When he hits the pose there may be a slight settle in the arm, hand and fingers. It is paying attention to these details that make the gesture look more believable. It could be how a hand comes to rest when it is placed on a surface. It is the small details that make it look physical. Overlap is another way of explaining this. When you think overlap, you think about hair or appendages or other broad things. Residual energy is a bit more subtle. There is a great scene in the incredibles that Animator John Kahrs did. Its when Violet is on the plane and is jostled by the turbulence. The way her leg bounces bounces up and down really makes her feel like she has flesh and bones. Understanding where the energy comes from is one of the most important parts. Then you need to figure out how it should be used. You don't want to over do it so that it take away from the main action.

Another thing you want to try an get into your work is patterns. I'll try to cover this in a future post.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Physicality in animation

If someone says, you need to work on your physicality, what are they really saying? This is such a large topic. Making something seem physical can be related to weight or how the character holds themselves. It can be how a gesture feels wooden and non-physical. Lets talk a bit about the latter. When a character makes a hand gesture, it not only needs to communicate what the character is doing, but needs to feel as if the character has flesh and bones underneath. You need to understand the anatomy of the character you are animating. One of the biggest things that makes computer animation not look so good is that people do not pay attention to this. The computer will and can ruin good poses if you do not do the in-betweens and breakdowns correctly. It has no knowledge of all those things you should be putting in there likes arcs, overlap, slow ins, cushions, overshoots, anticipations, squash and stretch, straights and curves, contrast, etc, etc, etc.

If you want a sample case, I was working on the teaser for Monsters Inc. Mike does a gesture and then drops his arm. I really wanted to understand how that works so I did a bit of reference and it helped me understand the weight the arms has and how it comes to rest. A lot of what I am talking about has to do with this. Residual energy. I'll get into this more at a later time, but residual energy really has a lot to do with how your character recovers form hitting a pose or gesture. In essence it is overlap and follow through. One thing you do not want, is for the character to become over animated, so you really need to understand how to use it and where it is called for.

I hope to put together a better set of examples and post them at a later date.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Eyes in animation

They say the eyes are the window to the soul. Well, in a film, the eyes are the first place an audience member looks, the second is the hands. We are trying to connect with the character on screen. The eyes tell us so much about what the character is thinking. It is so important to spend enough time making sure you put enough detail into the eyes and brows. What am I talking about when I say detail? When I was animating on Mike Wazowski, we did some reference to really see how the eye moved. I took lots of notes on the live action footage and applied it to an animated eye. Some of the things I learned were how the lid moves with the eyes, the different kinds of blinks an eye is capable of and many other things. For instance, a lot of the time when your eye makes a bid move fro left to right, your eye lid half closes. We learned that you need to shape the eye lid to help sell eye direction. There is a virtual laundry list of thing to make a cg eye look believable. What I am saying is, do you homework and look at how your eye works and try to get it into your work. In order to get better, its so important to take the time and really figure out how things work.

Here are few tidbits to remember about the eye.

Blinks: No matter how slow or quick they are, remember to add a little cushion at the top of the blink. When you don't and it just stops, it looks a bit mechanical.

Eye Darts: Eye darts vary. Sometimes they are one frame, mostly two frames. But there is no rule. The most important thing to remember about the eye dart is to think why you are doing it. Its usually nice to animate eye darts in a particular pattern. For instance if I was doing a close up, I might dart the eye left to right, then down, then back up. This would be because my character is looking at the left eye, then the right, then looking at the mouth. Its all about thought process.

Hope this helps a bit.