Saturday, September 23, 2006

How Do Movements Originate

Some of the things we will be discussing here may seem very philosophical in nature. I often hear conversations relating to animating, particularly from people who are heavily focused on manipulating one software program or another, where they want to learn the “steps” in doing an animated action such as a walk or a head turn. It is only natural for someone to want to have a step by step recipe to follow. But animating isn’t really about following a recipe. Yes, there are techniques that can be practiced and basic rules of drawing and perspective that must be understood but eventually each animator must reach the conclusion that this craft of animating requires a thoughtful interaction between the animator and their creation. I’m not saying that tutorials aren’t useful, but you have to appreciate the fact that most tutorials are basically step by step approaches and they only provide mechanical understanding at best.

I’m not against tutorials, I just want to provide a more complete perspective of learning to animate. So that’s why I try to address the thinking and philosophy behind things.

Today, I want to discuss an important philosophical approach to understanding any action. Do you want to think about animating the form or the force? Think about that for a moment. What motivates motion? Does your arm move because it is an arm or does it move because some internal forces are being applied? First there is thought, conscious or unconscious followed by the expansion or contraction of muscles which produces forces that are translated into movement. Perhaps because we can easily observe the movement of forms we want to draw those forms. Forces are for the most part not visible just the resulting effects of those forces are visible. Yet it is the internal forces, like muscles expanding and contracting, or external forces, like gravity or air resistance or inertia, that are actually responsible for movement. So when you want to animate movement you need to understand and account for the forces first and let the forms follow as the visible result.

Here’s an interesting way to think about this change in philosophical approach. When you draw shadows do you think first about the form of the shadow or do you first think about the sources and directions of light that produce the shadows? Forces have the same type of effect on the movement and distortion of forms. We will return to this approach often as we proceed.

Technorati Tags: [ , , , ]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just discovered your new blog. Thank you for the regular updates and efforts to post your thoughts. I understand and realise that a believable character needs to be able to "think" for itself and act out accordingly. The really challenging part is actually conveying it visually. I'm trying to understand how to breath life into a character.

Would you say that the difference between good and truly great animation is like creating a robot (machine) that does what its supposed to do in given situations versus a character (living being) that is given free will to do as it pleases? A machine will always work and do things consistently as it was meant to do whereas a living being will always have some inconsistency. I would think that that slight inconsistency makes a character seem more believeable than one that always reacts the same way to a particular situation.

10/02/2006 11:21 PM  
Blogger Jerry Keslensky said...

There is certainly a lot to think about in responding to your comment. The terms consistent and inconsistent are difficult for me to address. Perhaps expected or unexpected are more appropriate. To me, believability is enhanced when a character behaves as expected for that character’s personality. So that behavior is in fact consistent with expectations. If the character doesn’t stay true to their personality then their behavior is unexpected and they are acting inconsistently with what the viewer will expect. So it isn’t a machine like behavior to be consistent with expectations but rather a matter of staying true to one’s personality.

The artist doesn’t dictate actions from the perspective of a programmer directing a robot. The animator as performer must “get into the character” the same as any theatrical performer would. They have to become the character while they are performing as that character. They may be creating their performance through a pencil but they are performing none the less. They aren’t being themselves while they are drawing the character and their actions, they are in fact that character. They are, at that instant, actually that character and so they move and act and react as that character would based on who that character is and not as someone directing or observing someone else. This is why we talk about taking the time to get inside a character and really understanding that character. If the animator is outside the character they are not going to deliver the quality of performance that we think of as a great performance. This is true for the voice actor as well as the animator; each of them must get into the character and become the character in order for the performance to really work.

10/03/2006 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi JK,
Great Tutorials,
A short question.
Haven't you written a book or have video tutorials?
Gopinath Menon

2/12/2008 7:36 PM  
Blogger Jerry Keslensky said...

The answer is no on both points. I've haven't written a book nor do I have any video tutorials. Just several blogs which are slowly growing to the size of a book. Thanks for the nice comments.

2/12/2008 7:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home