Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Contrast in Animation

I think one of the most powerful principles is Contrast. Contrast is obviously not one of the original principles of animation, but it can be found in many of them. Lets explore some of them. Contrast in pose for instance. Having two characters posed differently can tell the viewer a lot about each character and create an interesting dynamic between them. In the example of Bob and Helen arguing, there is a really nice contrast between Bob's hunched over pose and Helen's more upright one. This then gets flipped when Helen becomes more angry. Contrast is also really great in motion. It directs your eye to where you should be looking. An obvious example would be two people talking. You would not want to move the character that is not talking too much so that you could take in what the other character is saying. Another example could be a crowd of people moving around. The person that is not moving is most likely the person your eye will be drawn to. Animation is like a choreographed dance. You really need to understand how to weave the different elements in and out of your scenes. That reminds me of contrast across many scenes. You want to think about it not just on the scene level, but on a more global one.

Hope this helps...



Blogger Sant Arellano said...

Hey Andrew!!

First time I comment on your team's blog, I'm a student in Animation Mentor and the spline doctors are famous in that corner of the interweb.

I agree, animation can be a battle and dance of contrasts, leading the eye in the right way. I wanted also to mention about contrast in character design. Its not a matter of just designing cool and appealing characters, it should be harmonious to the eye and they should contrast with each other in the scenes they play together.

Bob is a great character for contrast, hes a huge guy, his torso is gigantic, but legs are thin and short and that makes a nice contrast. I've seen contrast in shape as well, the little point in Helen's hair gives it a nice asymetrical touch. Mike and Sully couldn't contrast more from each other.

Another good non-Pixar example that I like for character design contrast is Cowboy Bebop. The characters are very well designed in that production, filled with contrasts.

Keep the good work with the blog guys, we are waiting for more splinecasts!


10:34 PM

Blogger Dr. Gordon said...


Thanks for the great comment. I couldnt agree with you more. I'd love to do a post that deals more with character design.

thanks again and the splinecasts will come. I am taking some time off from work after working on Ratatouille for over 3 years. We want to do Animation Roundtables, a Pete Doctor Interview and Doug Sweetland are the next people we want to get going.


10:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing tip.

11:34 PM

Blogger chintan said...

Hey there,

Sant you are absolutly right about the contrast in character designs, besides it also reminds me to have contrast in timing & the tempo of the animation as well... i read it in an article written by Shawn Kelly.

anyways thanx a lot for the post. its dammm good stuff

Chintan :)

11:39 PM

Blogger Fränk Spalteholz said...

Hi Andrew! Great Statement! At first i want to determine that this scene from The Incredibles is one of the strongest acting scene in CG i've ever seen! I've watched it a couple of times and every time i was so stunned how great it has been worked out. And yes .. full of contrast!

I've once read that: "color makes the picture but light & shadow are telling the story" And that's the point. On one hand each character by itself appears stronger with a opposite rich in contrast but also together 'course there are more nuances between 2 extremes (or more). Look to old Fellini- or Kubrick-Movies. They are full of strong personalities with completely different appearence and personal attributes.

Opposites attract. It's like the good old Laurel and Hardy. Together they fit perfectly and making an interesting whole BECAUSE of the contrast.

Cheers Frank

2:38 AM

Blogger Benjamin said...

Absolutely! It's not only just an animation principle, it's THE principle in pretty much all art.

3:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on, Spline doctors, following recent discussions about photography, rendering and audio mastering I tend to think of this as the general design principle of keeping a high dynamic range. You've mentioned it in your previous splinecasts as a better way of understanding what some animators mean by "pushing" their animation and Jason Osipa, in his book "Stop Staring" praises the use of contrast on a scene involving Gollum, where he goes from a straining expression to a slack shocked look all at once.

To take "The Incredibles" as an example, I see the issue of dynamic range having a lot to do with what makes the movie so exciting. It begins with slow scenes and moves to scenes with high tension, then back and forth. There are many peaks of action, and many lulls that help build suspense. The fantastic doesn't pervade everything, but is juxtaposed to the mundane.
This principle is used a great deal in Studio Ghibli movies as well, but seems to be ignored by many action movies today.
Those are my opinions and observations. - Greg Banville

8:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

THat scene was so memorable! THank you Dr. Gordon, this was a great lesson. We appreciate you taking the time to post, you must be so tired from all that work on Rat!!!!!

I love how the splindoctors blog is so active these days, always something new to read every couple of days!

7:13 PM

Blogger Dave said...

Great post! I too am loving the posts - keep up the awesome work and thanks for sharing!

10:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

could you post some info about annecy this year? pixar's gonna be there? time and dates and other stuff. thanks

8:18 AM

Blogger Sam Nielson said...

Great post---something I've been aware of in other aspects of art, but not in animation until now. Thanks!

12:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was listening to the Brad Bird pod-cast (spline-cast..?) And MAN! It was great! Brad Bird is exactly what this industry needs.. Thanks for the blog, its pure gold for us non-educated animators.

Long Live Spline Doctors!

1:08 PM

Blogger Dr. Gordon said...

Thanks for asking about Annecy.
Here is the Information regarding the event.

I will be giving a talk on Wednesday June 13th. One is in the morning and the other is in the afternoon.

They will be located at the Imperial Palace
5th floor - Ravel B. at 13:00 and another at
16:00. The talk will be focused on the film Ratatouille.

here is more info...

9:40 PM

Blogger Chris said...

a wise man once said: "Contrast is the meaning of life." Something I sadly forget all too often.

12:50 AM

Blogger Fränk Spalteholz said...

please check out harald sieperman's blog ... there is a great interview with andreas deja about contrast and animation

9:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to write an essay about any animation related subject... my first guess was "How does the motion capturing technology effect the animators position" or
Ueberrealistic presentation of violence in computergames". It sounds not good sooo ... what about " Contrast and polarisation in animation"
Maybe a bit to much soo..."Contrast in Animation".
type in google and first i am.
I thank you guys so much. You made my day.

Ps. read " the art of motorcycle maintenance "


10:27 AM


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