Friday, January 22, 2016

Project 3: Character Animation

Yes, it's Jeff...

Create some animation studies of a character in movement. In class, we talked about animation design - that is, how the character will change from frame to frame to create the illusion of movement. These should be SHORT studies. Certainly no more than 100 frames! Maybe as few as 10 or 20. The key is to jump in and try stuff out! We'll do small group crits on Wednesday, January 29.

Here's a very rough break down of animation design approaches. Most contemporary animation designs involve a combination of multiple approaches.  

Frame by Frame Animation. Each frame is drawn by you - the animator. An oldy and a goody. Still the best way to achieve naturalistic movement and full control of a character. Each frame is a unique drawing with an attendant organic, non-mechanical feel. This approach can be obsessively naturalistic (Disney, Miyazaki), "cartoonish" (Warner Brothers, Adventure Time), abstract (McClaren's  Lines), or anything in between... If you can draw it, you can animate it. Notably pioneered by Winsor McKay.
Some of Milt Kahl's work on Disney's Jungle Book...

Replacement Animation. Instead of drawing a new frame, you swap out a pre-built symbol. This approach was used in the facial animation of Jack Skellington on Nightmare Before Christmas, and less famously, in Miles' Jeff animation. The effects can be subtle or rough.
 A few of the over 800 heads used to animate Jack's face.

Limited Animation. Made famous by anime productions with ruthless production schedules and low budgets, this technique puts the weight on cinematic composition and editing while minimizing the amount of time spent creating naturalistic character movement. Uses lots of "tweening" to slide characters around the screen and simulate camera movement.
 Speed Racer c 1967 - Whole lotta 'tweening' goin' on! 
Cut-out Animation. Creating distinct body pieces that are tweened to create the animation. In Flash this would entail using nested symbols and tweens. Lotte Reiniger's shadow puppets and South Park are examples of this style of animation.
Cut-out animation characters from an unknown American TV series.
Pro tip: Don't spend a long time designing your character without trying to animate it. Your design will end up being radically altered and simplified by the time you get to the second frame! Let the character evolve by animating it. Trust the process to discover the underlying structure behind your character's movement.

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