Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The EYE's Have it

I thought I would share some of the information I was reading in a book I picked up years ago. It is called Michael Caine - Acting in Film. The book is a kind of how to for actors. Some of it is useful for animators. I became really interested in the eyes when I was working on Monsters Inc with Mike Wazowski. He basically is a big eye, so I really had to notice the subtle details of how an eye works and moves within its socket. This is the more technical side of things. Learning how to do blinks, changing the angle for the lid to match the direction of a look..... All this is more on the design side of things, which we can get into at a later date. What I thought was interesting about the book was how Mr Caine approaches his close scenes. Read:

"When you are the on-camera actor in a close-up, never shift your focus from one eye to the other. Sounds odd, doesn't it? But when you look at something, one of your eyes leads. So during a close-up, be especially careful not to change whichever eye you are leading with. It's an infinitesimal thing, but noticeable on the screen. The camera misses nothing! "

I guess he is mostly talking about eye darts. Its funny, because this is something that I try to put into my character. For animation, it seems to bring the character alive a little bit more. You have to work harder to keep your characters looking as if they are living breathing things. Eye darts are a big thing for keeping your characters looking alive. So how many frames, you ask is an eye dart? Well, you will have to wait for another post with detailed drawings an so forth... (mostly I use 2 frame eye darts favoring one pose or the other)

Another thing he talked about also contradicts what we do in Animation:

" And I don't blink. Blinking makes your character seem weak. Try it yourself: say the same line twice, first blinking and then not blinking. I practiced not blinking to excess when I first made the discovery, went around not blinking all the time and probably disconcerted a lot of people. Remember: on film that eye can be eight feet across."

Well, I'm not so sure this applies in animation. I do agree that a character that blinks a lot can seem insecure or nervous. Its all how you use the blink. Is how slow or fast the blink is. How close the blinks are together. Blinks really do keep the character alive in animation. Some recent mo-capped films featured characters that didn't blink much or even move their eye brows. Sorry, but they looked like soulless zombies....

More to come with Eyes in the future....

thanks for reading.

Dr Gordon.


Blogger Brad and Anette said...

What are your thoughts on the 'Tex Avery' (or 'Pixar') 1 frame delay on one of the eyelid's during a blink?

Should it be used all the time? None? Just the odd occasion?

Eye's are the window to the soul, thanks for this.

Brad Kinley

8:04 AM

Blogger Young said...

Great stuff!!
I hope you will post more about eye darts and blink soon.


9:21 AM

Blogger Elliot Cowan said...

Dr Gordon - there is also a video version of this book - by Michael Caine.
It is unfortunately extremely silly.
Michael talks through the whole "eye business" straight to camera in a very strange Monty Python style.

12:41 PM

Blogger HaraldSiepermann said...

I'm looking for this videofor ages. Do you know, where to get it ?

11:15 PM

Blogger Nico. said...

Very Good subject, thx!!! Eyes are really what give to every animation a soul to the character... when I analyze frame by frame any animation or movies; it's usually what I’m focusing on the most about... How does this animator (or actors) have animate (moves) the eyes and why!

As a Videogames animator (30 Fps usually), I’m usually using 1 frame delay to moves the eye darts from on point to the others for most of my characters (realistic or Cartoon) if it "pop" too much, I usually move less the eyes, of if it's not enough, make the eye darts in 2 frames.

(Sorry for my poor English writing)

11:09 AM

Blogger animatorsnotebook said...

I just saw this book for the first time ever at the store over the weekend. Old as the dickens and beat up but if there's anyone you can learn from...

I think the eye focus may have a lot to do with the "dominion" each has as we look at an object. Each gets half of the real space around our face, and then some of the angle.

But if you focus at something looking maybe 2-3 ft out in front and to the side of you, a little below, you can actually tell which eye you're doing most of the visual information absorption through, just like we favor one eye on a person we're speaking to.

The -kicker- is that when you switch eyes, there IS a physical shift in both of their orientations.

Obviously I can't be positive that's what he's talking about but it fits the bill. Eyes seem to be the one thing people don't "get into the character" for, usually favoring some sort of reference, otherwise this might be more obvious (or incorporated to begin with).

9:39 PM

Blogger Dr Joseph Kim said...

"...The best method to test eye motion is ask the patient to follow your finger drawing a large H pattern in the air a few feet from their face. The two legs of the H will isolate and test the motion of the superior/inferior rectus pair and inferior/superior oblique pair. The center part of the H will test the medial and lateral muscles."

oh yes and by the way

"There are three right cranial nerves (III, IV, and VI) involved in innervating the right eye muscles and three left cranial nerves (III, IV, and VI) involved in innervating the left eye muscles"

Stay tuned for more medical facts.

3:29 AM

Blogger blabla said...

I wrote my thesis about eye animation. So I was really glad to see this post! Cool stuff. Thnx for sharing.

5:39 PM

Blogger Brad and Anette said... (6mb)

Two person interaction dialogue animation, the 'Eye' post came at a really great time and helped me out a lot.


7:04 AM

Blogger Brad and Anette said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:04 AM

Blogger kenny r said...

Coincidently, Kate Walsh was just on The Tonight show last week and she spoke of having read Caine's and then was excited to do a scene with him (Bewitched), using the eye technique with the man himself.

1:46 AM

Blogger Jenny Lerew said...

I love that video version of this book; Caine is a superb teacher and whether one agrees with his observations or not, he certainly presents them convincingly. I had a totally different reaction to his enacting of the "no-blink" effect; it riveted me, rather than seeming silly, but jmho. ; )

The technicalities of acting performace are just damned fascinating...glad to see this post!

12:05 PM

Blogger Cedricstudio said...

You guys have a terrific blog!

Here's an article about smiles that I thought you might find interesting. It's about how American's apparantly use different muscles to smile than Brits do.

12:21 PM

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