12 2D Animation principle
This action gives the illusion of weight and volume to a character as it moves. Also squash and stretch is useful in animating dialogue and doing facial expressions. How extreme the use of squash and stretch is, depends on what is required in animating the scene. Usually it’s broader in a short style of picture and subtler in a feature. It is used in all forms of character animation from a bouncing ball to the body weight of a person walking. This is the most important element you will be required to master and will be used often.
This movement prepares the audience for a major action the character is about to perform, such as, starting to run, jump or change expression. A dancer does not just leap off the floor. A backwards motion occurs before the forward action is executed. The backward motion is the anticipation. A comic effect can be done by not using anticipation after a series of gags that used anticipation. Almost all real action has major or minor anticipation such as a pitcher’s wind-up or a golfers’ back swing. Feature animation is often less broad than short animation unless a scene requires it to develop a characters personality.
A pose or action should clearly communicate to the audience the attitude, mood, reaction or idea of the character as it relates to the story and continuity of the story line. The effective use of long, medium, or close up shots, as well as camera angles also helps in telling the story. There is a limited amount of time in a film, so each sequence, scene and frame of film must relate to the overall story. Do not confuse the audience with too many actions at once. Use one action clearly stated to get the idea across, unless you are animating a scene that is to depict clutter and confusion. Staging directs the audience’s attention to the story or idea being told. Care must be taken in background design so it isn’t obscuring the animation or competing with it due to excess detail behind the animation. Background and animation should work together as a pictorial unit in a scene.
4. STRAIGHT AHEAD AND POSE TO POSE ANIMATION
Straight ahead animation starts at the first drawing and works drawing to drawing to the end of a scene. You can lose size, volume, and proportions with this method, but it does have spontaneity and freshness. Fast, wild action scenes are done this way. Pose to Pose is more planned out and charted with key drawings done at intervals throughout the scene. Size, volumes, and proportions are controlled better this way, as is the action. The lead animator will turn charting and keys over to his assistant. An assistant can be better used with this method so that the animator doesn’t have to draw every drawing in a scene. An animator can do more scenes this way and concentrate on the planning of the animation. Many scenes use a bit of both methods of animation.
5. FOLLOW THROUGH AND OVERLAPPING ACTION
When the main body of the character stops all other parts continue to catch up to the main mass of the character, such as arms, long hair, clothing, coat tails or a dress, floppy ears or a long tail (these follow the path of action). Nothing stops all at once. This is follow through. Overlapping action is when the character changes direction while his clothes or hair continues forward. The character is going in a new direction, to be followed, a number of frames later, by his clothes in the new direction. “DRAG,” in animation, for example, would be when Goofy starts to run, but his head, ears, upper body, and clothes do not keep up with his legs. In features, this type of action is done more subtly. Example: When Snow White starts to dance, her dress does not begin to move with her immediately but catches up a few frames later. Long hair and animal tail will also be handled in the same manner. Timing becomes critical to the effectiveness of drag and the overlapping action.
6. SLOW-OUT AND SLOW-IN
As action starts, we have more drawings near the starting pose, one or two in the middle, and more drawings near the next pose. Fewer drawings make the action faster and more drawings make the action slower. Slow-ins and slow-outs soften the action, making it more life-like. For a gag action, we may omit some slow-out or slow-ins for shock appeal or the surprise element. This will give more snap to the scene.
All actions, with few exceptions (such as the animation of a mechanical device), follow an arc or slightly circular path. This is especially true of the human figure and the action of animals. Arcs give animation a more natural action and better flow. Think of natural movements in the terms of a pendulum swinging. All arm movement, head turns and even eye movements are executed on an arcs.
8. SECONDARY ACTION
This action adds to and enriches the main action and adds more dimension to the character animation, supplementing and/or re-enforcing the main action. Example: A character is angrily walking toward another character. The walk is forceful, aggressive, and forward leaning. The leg action is just short of a stomping walk. The secondary action is a few strong gestures of the arms working with the walk. Also, the possibility of dialogue being delivered at the same time with tilts and turns of the head to accentuate the walk and dialogue, but not so much as to distract from the walk action. All of these actions should work together in support of one another. Think of the walk as the primary action and arm swings, head bounce and all other actions of the body as secondary or supporting action.
Expertise in timing comes best with experience and personal experimentation, using the trial and error method in refining technique. The basics are: more drawings between poses slow and smooth the action. Fewer drawings make the action faster and crisper. A variety of slow and fast timing within a scene adds texture and interest to the movement. Most animation is done on twos (one drawing photographed on two frames of film) or on ones (one drawing photographed on each frame of film). Twos are used most of the time, and ones are used during camera moves such as trucks, pans and occasionally for subtle and quick dialogue animation. Also, there is timing in the acting of a character to establish mood, emotion, and reaction to another character or to a situation. Studying movement of actors and performers on stage and in films is useful when animating human or animal characters. This frame by frame examination of film footage will aid you in understanding timing for animation. This is a great way to learn from the others.
Exaggeration is not extreme distortion of a drawing or extremely broad, violent action all the time. Its like a caricature of facial features, expressions, poses, attitudes and actions. Action traced from live action film can be accurate, but stiff and mechanical. In feature animation, a character must move more broadly to look natural. The same is true of facial expressions, but the action should not be as broad as in a short cartoon style. Exaggeration in a walk or an eye movement or even a head turn will give your film more appeal. Use good taste and common sense to keep from becoming too theatrical and excessively animated.
11. SOLID DRAWING
The basic principles of drawing form, weight, volume solidity and the illusion of three dimension apply to animation as it does to academic drawing. The way you draw cartoons, you draw in the classical sense, using pencil sketches and drawings for reproduction of life. You transform these into color and movement giving the characters the illusion of three-and four-dimensional life. Three dimensional is movement in space. The fourth dimension is movement in time.
A live performer has charisma. An animated character has appeal. Appealing animation does not mean just being cute and cuddly. All characters have to have appeal whether they are heroic, villainous, comic or cute. Appeal, as you will use it, includes an easy to read design, clear drawing, and personality development that will capture and involve the audience’s interest. Early cartoons were basically a series of gags strung together on a main theme. Over the years, the artists have learned that to produce a feature there was a need for story continuity, character development and a higher quality of artwork throughout the entire production. Like all forms of story telling, the feature has to appeal to the mind as well as to the eye.
TIMING: 2D Animation principle
TIMING: 2D Animation principle
It is the number of inbetweens
between two keys. Timing is the essence of everything we do in animation. How
slow or how fast an object or character moves helps define that object or
In film animation there are 24
frames in each second (24x’s or 24fps).Full animation requires 12 to 24 drawings
per second to achieve believable action or movement. If each drawing is
photographed once (as in 24 drawings in a second) it is called one’s. If each
drawing is photographed twice (as in 12 drawings in a second) it is called
Dialog is a usually a mixture
of one’s and two’s. In the case of limited animation substantially less drawing
are used per second. Here is the TIMING for a normal eye blink:
A snap blink is meant to
be very quick with no inbetweens – just open and closed and open again. Even an
eye blink can take on new meaning by playing with the timing. Weight can affect the timing of
a character or object. A heavy character moves slower (uses more drawing to
move) than a lighter character.
Emotions also affect the timing. A depressed
or sad character that has the “weight of the world” on their shoulders will move
slower than a happy, upbeat, or victorious character.
Energy is another ingredient to consider. A
run-down, tired character is slower and takes longer to perform a task than when
the same character is awake and vibrant and ready to go.
Timing is the precise moment
and the amount of time that a character spends on an action. Timing adds emotion
and intention to the character’s performance. Most three-dimensional computer
animation tools allow us to fine tune the timing by shaving off or adding frames
with non-linear time editing. Timing can also be
controlled and adjusted by placing each character on a separate track, and using
sub-tracks for parts of the character such as head, torso, arms and legs.
Expertise in timing comes best
with experience and personal experimentation, using the trial and error method
in refining technique. The basics are: more drawings between poses slow and
smooth the action. Fewer drawings make the action faster and crisper. A variety
of slow and fast timing within a scene adds texture and interest to the
movement. Most animation is done on twos (one drawing photographed on two frames
of film) or on ones (one drawing photographed on each frame of film). Twos are
used most of the time, and ones are used during camera moves such as trucks,
pans and occasionally for subtle and quick dialogue animation. Also, there is
timing in the acting of a character to establish mood, emotion, and reaction to
another character or to a situation. Studying movement of actors and performers
on stage and in films is useful when animating human or animal characters. This
frame-by-frame examination of film footage will aid you in understanding timing
for animation. This is a great way to learn from the others.
Timing, or the speed of an
action, is an important principle because it gives meaning to movement- the
speed of an action defines how well the idea behind the action will read to an
audience. It reflects the weight and size of an object, and can even carry
Proper timing is critical to
making ideas readable. It is important to spend enough time, preparing the
audience for, the anticipation of an action; the action itself; and the reaction
to the action. If too much time is spent on any of these, the audience’s
attention will wander. If too little time is spent the movement may be finished
before the audience notices it, thus wasting the idea. The faster the movement,
the more important it is to make sure the audience can follow what is
happening. The action must not be so fast that the audience cannot read it and
understand the meaning of it.
More than any other principle,
timing defines the weight of an object. Two objects, identical in size and
shape, can appear to be two vastly different weights by manipulating timing
alone. The heavier an object is, the greater it’s mass, and the more force is
required to change its motion. A heavy body is slower to accelerate and
decelerate than a light one. It takes a large force to get a cannonball moving,
but once moving, it tends to keep moving a the same speed and requires some
force to stop it. When dealing with heavy objects, one must allow plenty of time
and force to start stop or change their movements, in order to make their weight
look convincing. Light objects have much less resistance to change of movement
and so need much less time to start moving. The flick of a finger is enough to
make a balloon accelerate quickly away. When moving, it has little momentum and
even the friction of the air quickly slows it up.
Timing can also contribute
greatly to the feeling of size or scale of an object or character. A giant has
much more weight, more mass and more inertia than a normal man; therefore he
moves more slowly. Like the cannonball, he takes more time to get started and,
once moving, takes more time to stop. Any changes of movement take place more
slowly. Conversely, a tiny character has less inertia than normal, so his
movements tend to be quicker. The way an object behaves on the screen, the
effect of weight that it gives, depend entirely on the spacing of the poses and
not on the poses themselves. No matter how well rendered a cannonball may be, it
does not look like a cannonball if it does not behave like one when animated.
The same applies to any object or character. The emotional state of a character
can also be defined more by its movement than by its appearance, and the varying
speed of those movements indicates whether the character is lethargic, excited,
nervous or relaxed. Thomas and Johnston describe how changing the timing of an
action gives it new meaning.
Just two drawings of a head,
the first showing it leaning toward the right shoulder and the second with it
over on the left and its chin slightly raised, can be made to communicate a
multitude of ideas, depending entirely on the timing used. Each in-between
drawing added between these two extremes gives a new meaning to the action.
- No inbetweens – The
Character has been hit by a tremendous force. His head is nearly snapped off.
- One inbetween – The
Character has been hit by a brick, rolling pin, and frying pan.
- Two inbetweens – The
Character has a nervous tic, a muscle spasm and an uncontrollable twitch.
- Three inbetweens – The
Character is dodging a brick, rolling pin and frying pan.
- Four inbetweens – The
Character is giving a crisp order, “Get going!” “Move it!”
- Five inbetweens – The
Character is friendlier, “Over here.” “Come on-hurry!”
- Six inbetweens – The
Character sees a good-looking girl, or the sports car he has always wanted.
- Seven inbetweens – The
Character tries to get a better look at something.
- Eight inbetweens – The
Character searches for the peanut butter on the kitchen shelf.
- Nine inbetweens – The
Character appraises, considering thoughtfully.
- Ten inbetweens – The
Character stretches a sore muscle.
With limited animation as many
repeats as possible are used within the 24 frames per second. A hold is also
lengthened to reduce the number of drawings. As a rule not more than 6 drawings
are produced for one second of animation. Limited drawings are produced for one
second of animation. Limited animation requires almost as much skill on the part
of the animator as full animation, since he must create an illusion of action
with the greatest sense of economy.
Full animation implies a large
number of drawings per second of action. Some action may require that every
single frame of the 24 frames within the second is animated in order to achieve
an illusion of fluidity on the screen. Neither time nor money is spared on
animation. As a rule only TV commercials and feature length animated films can
afford this luxury. Animation is expensive and time consuming. It is not
economically possible to animate more than is needed and edit the scenes later,
as it is in live action films. In cartoons the director carefully presumes every
action so that the animator works within exact limits and does no more drawings
Ideally, director should be
able to view line test loops of the film as it progresses and so have a chance
to make adjustments. But often there is no time to make corrections in limited
animation and the aim is to make the animation work the first time.
Timing in general:
Timing in animation is an
elusive subject. It only exists whilst the film is being projected, in the same
way that a melody only exists when it is being played. A melody is more easily
appreciated by listening to it than by trying to explain it in words. So with
cartoon timing, it is difficult to avoid using a lot of words to explain what
may seem fairly simple when seen on the screen.
Timing is also a dangerous
factor to try to formulate something that works in one situation or in one mood
may not work at all in another situation or mood. The only real criterion for
timing is, if it works effectively on the screen, it is good, if it doesn’t, it
What is good animation?
Timing is the part of animation
that gives meaning to movement. Drawing the same thing in two different
positions and inserting a number of other drawings between the two can easily
achieve movement. The result on the screen will be movement, but it will not be
animation. In nature, things do not just move. Newton’s first law of motion
stated that things do not move unless a force acts upon them. So in animation
the movement itself is of secondary importance; the vital factor is how the
action expresses the underlying causes of the movement. With inanimate objects
these causes may be natural forces, mainly gravity. With living characters the
same external forces can cause movement, plus the contractions of muscles but,
more importantly, there are the underlying will, mood instincts and so on of the
character that is moving. In order to animate a character from A to B, the
forces that are operating to produce the movement must be considered. Firstly,
gravity tends to pull the character down towards the ground. Secondly, his body
is built and joined in a certain way and is acted on by a certain arrangement of
muscles which tend to work against gravity. Thirdly, there is the psychological
reason or motivation for his action, whether he is dodging by blow, welcoming a
guest or threatening someone with revolver.
A live actor faced with these
problems moves his muscles and limbs and deals with gravity automatically from
habit, and so can concentrate on acting. An animator has to worry about making
his flat weightless drawings move like solid, heavy objects, as well as making
them act in a convincing way. In both these aspects of animation, timing is of
The basic unit of time in
The basis of timing in
animation is the fixed projection speed of 24 frames per second. On television
this become 25 frames per second, but the difference is usually imperceptible.
If an action on the screen takes one second it covers 24 frames of film, and if
it takes half a second it covers 12 frames and so on. For single frame animation, where one drawing is done for each frame, a second of action
needs 24 drawings. If the same action is animation is animated on double frames,
where each drawing is photographed twice in succession, 12 frames are necessary
but the number of frames and hence the speed of
the action would be the same in both cases.
Timing on bar sheets:
When the director has given
some thought to the overall timing of a film, he proceeds to more detailed
timing and puts this down on paper on specially printed bar sheets. These are
much like muste manuscript paper, with several horizontal lines having spaces
for dialogue, sound effects, muste and action. He is concerned with timing the
action and this is entered in the spaces very much as music is written, but in a
kind of animator’s shorthand. The horizontal lines of the bar sheet are marked
in frames with heavy lines marking every foot that is, every 16 frames. The
footage divisions on the required number of bar sheets are then numbered for the
length of the film and the timing of the action is ready to begin. If there is
prerecorded music or dialogue to which the action must fit, this is charted
before hand from the soundtrack and entered into the appropriate spaces on the
bar sheets. People have their own individual shorthand, but generally a
horizontal line means a hold, a curve means an action of some sort, a loop means
the anticipation to an action, a wavy line means a repeat cycle and so on. If an
action must take place on a certain frame, this is marked with a cross on the
required frame. The action is also written out verbally with stage directions,
repeat animation instructions and other relevant information.
Timing on bar sheets is an
extremely skilled operation. The director needs a great deal of experience to
time out a film mentally before any drawing is done. When he commits his ideas
to paper on the bar sheets, he is telling the story in terms of film, that is,
cutting, timing and pace (movement). He must run forwards and backwards through
the story any times in his mind, relating the different parts of the story to
one another in terms of dramatic flow. At the same time, he must be trying
continually to judge what the effect will be on an audience who come fresh to it
and who see the film through once only.
At the beginning of the film
the director knows what is about to happen but the audience does not. The timing
at the start of a film is, therefore, probably slow until the audience has been
introduced to the location, the characters and the mood of the film. Once this
has been done the pace may build up to the climax if it is a short film. If it
is a longer film it may build up to a series of climaxes. The bar sheets can
also be useful in that having defined the complete continuity of the film, with
scene lengths and other information, they can also serve as the basic reference
for the composer, and for the editor when the final film is assembled.
When the director has completed
the bar sheets for a film, the information is split up scene by scene ready for
distribution to the animators. The timing is transferred to printed exposure
charts (known as dope sheets in the USA). Some studios use charts with units of
4 seconds (96 frames) on each sheet. Others, who primarily work in television
where the speed of projection is 25 frames per second, use sheets in 100 frame
units that provide 4 seconds of running time for television. The director in the
left column of exposure charts usually indicates animation timing, so that the
animator can work out the number of drawings required to complete each action in
the other columns. This information is useful to all members of an animation
unit; the animators, their assistants and the cameraman. Alongside the
production of animation, the exposure charts are filled in according to the
levels of celluloid to be photographed and eventually serve as guides for
Animation and properties of
The basic question that an
animator is continually asking himself is: “What will happen to this object when
a force acts upon it?” And the success of his animation largely depends on how
well he answers this question.
All objects in nature have
their own weight, construction and degree of flexibility, and therefore each
behaves in its own individual way when a force acts upon it. This behavior, a
combination of position and timing, is the basis of animation. Animation does
not consist of drawings, which have neither weight nor do they have any forces
acting on them. In certain types of limited or abstract animation, the drawings
can be treated as moving patterns. However, in order to give meaning to
movement, the animator must consider Newton’s laws of motion that contain all
the information necessary to move characters and objects around. However, it is
not necessary to know the laws of motion in their verbal form, but in the way
which is familiar to everyone, that is by watching things move. For instance,
everyone knows that things do not start moving suddenly from rest. Even a
cannonball has to accelerate to its maximum speed when fired. Nor do things
suddenly stop dead, a car hitting a wall of concrete carries on moving after the
first impact, during which time is folds itself rapidly up into a wreck
It is not the exaggeration of
the weight of the object that is at the centre of animation, but the
exaggeration of the tendency of the weight – any weight – to move in a certain
way. The timing of a scene for animation has two aspects:
- The timing of inanimate
- The timing of the
movement of a living character.
With inanimate objects the
problems are straightforward dynamics. ‘How long does a door take to slam?’ ‘How
long does it take a steamroller, running out of control downhill, to go through
a brick wall?’. With living characters the same kind of problems occurs because
a character is a piece of flesh that has to be moved around by the action of
forces on it. In addition, however time must be allowed for the mental operation
of the character, if he is to come alive on the screen. He must appear to be
thinking his way through his actions, making decisions and finally moving his
body around under the influence of his own will power and muscle.
Movement and Caricature:
The movement of most everyday
objects around us is caused by the effect of forces acting upon matter. The
movement of objects becomes so familiar to us that, subconsciously, these
movements give us a great deal of information about the objects themselves and
about the forces acting on them. This is true not only of inanimate objects, but
also of living things – especially people. The animator’s job is to synthesize
movements and to apply just the right amount of creative exaggeration to make
the movement look natural within the cartoon medium. Cartoon film is a medium of
caricature. The character of each subject and the movement it expresses are
exaggerated. The subjects can be considered as caricatured mater acted upon by
Cartoon film can also been
dramatic medium. This particular quality can be achieved, among other means, by
speeded the action and highly exaggerated timing. The difference between an
action containing caricature or humor or drama, may be very subtle. Eventually,
with enough experience in animation timing, it becomes possible to emphasize the
difference. Caricatured matter has the same properties as natural matter, only
more so. To understand how cartoon matter behaves it is necessary to look more
closely into the way matter behaves naturally.
Cause and effect:
There is a train of cause and
effect that runs through an object when it is acted upon by a force. This is the
result of the transmission of the force through a more or less flexible medium
(i.e. caricatured matter). This is one aspect of good movement in animation. An
animator must understand the mechanics of the natural movement of an object and
then keep this knowledge in the back of his mind whilst he concentrates on the
real business of animation. This is the creation of mood and conveying the right
feeling by the way an action is done.
Newton’s laws of motion:
Every object or character has
weight and moves only when a force is applied to it. This is Newton’s first law
of motion. An at rest tends to remain at rest until a force moves it and once it
is moves it tends to keep moving in a straight line until another force stops
it. The heavier an object is or strictly speaking, the greater it’s mass, the
more force is required to change its motion. A heavy body has more inertia and
more momentum than a light one.
A heavy object at rest, such as
a cannonball, needs a lot of force to move it. When fired from cannon, the force
of the charge acts on the cannonball only whilst it is in the gun barrel. Since
the force of the explosive charge is very large indeed, this is sufficient to
accelerate the cannonball to a considerable speed. A smaller force acting for a
short time, say a strong kick may have no effect on the cannonball at all. In
fact it is more likely to damage the kicker’s toe. However, persistent force,
even if not very strong, would gradually start the cannonball rolling and it
would eventually be traveling fairly quickly. Once the cannonball is moving, it
tends to keep moving at the same speed and requires some force to stop it. If it
meets an obstacle it may, depending on its speed crash straight through it. If
it is rolling on a rough surface it comes to rest fairly soon, but if rolling on
a smooth flat surface, friction takes quite a long time to bring it to rest.
When dealing with very heavy objects, therefore, the director must allow plenty
of time to start, stop or change their movements, in order to make their weight
look convincing. The animator, for his part, must see that plenty of force is
applied to the cannonball to make it start, stop or change direction.
Light objects have much less
resistance to change of movement and so behave very differently when forces act
on them. A toy balloon needs much less time to start it moving. The flick of a
finger is enough to make it accelerate quickly away. When moving, it has little
momentum and the friction of the air quickly slows it up, so it does not travel
very far. The way an object behaves on the screen and the effect of weight that
it gives, depends entirely on the spacing of the animation drawings and not on
the drawing itself. It does not matter how beautifully drawn the cannonball is
in the static sense, it does not look like a cannonball, if it does not behave
like one and the same applies to the balloon, and indeed to any other object or
Objects thrown through the
If an object is thrown
vertically upwards, its speed gradually diminishes to zero. It then starts to
accelerate downwards again. The height to which it rises depends on the speed at
which it is thrown but the rate of deceleration is the exact opposite of the
acceleration. If a ball is thrown upwards at an angle, then its movement has two
components, vertical and horizontal. Vertical speed diminishes to zero and
increases again as it falls, whilst at the same time its forward movement
remains fairly constant. This means the ball moves along a parabola. If a rubber
ball is thrown down on a hard smooth surface, it moves with a series of bounces.
The curve between one bounce and the next is again a parabola. The parabolas
diminish in height each time as some energy is lost by the ball on each bounce.
If possible the drawings around
the actual bounce should be spaced as in the figure just above. The drawing
after the squash should overlap the squash drawing slightly as the ball
accelerates to its maximum speed again. On the remainder of each parabola, the
drawings tend to bunch together at the top and spread apart at the bottom of the
curve. If when the ball is timed out at the required speed, there is a large gap
between one drawing and the next, compared to the diameter of the ball, then it
is a good idea to stretch the circle slightly into an ellipse in the direction
in which the ball is traveling. This possibly with speed lines added helps to
lead the eye from one drawing to the next and smooth out the movement. This
should not be overdone, however, particularly at slow speeds, as it may give a
rather floppy effect to the ball.
Timing of inanimate objects:
An inanimate object that has
weight and is being acted upon by known forces moves in a predictable way. As a
simple example, consider an object falling from rest under the influence of
gravity. Disregarding air resistance all objects fall with the same
acceleration, which is about 9.8 meters per second. The buoyancy of the air
makes a leaf behave very differently from a lump of lead when dropped. However,
assuming that an object is dropped which has an average weight, then the
distance if falls in a time ‘t’, with acceleration, ‘f’, is given by the
Distance = ½
By substituting some values for
‘t’ distance fallen are as follows:
second – 0.08meters.
¼ second –
½ second – 1.2
1 second – 4.9
meters, and so on.
A graph with the time in frames
plotted against the distance fallen, gives a parabola. At a projection speed of
24 frames per second, the object fails as follows:
after 3 frames.
after 6 frames.
after 12 frames.
after 24 frames, etc
In animation it is not usually
necessary to work out a movement like this mathematically. It is alright if it
looks right and it looks right if the movement is based on what actually happens
in nature, simplified and exaggerated if necessary for dramatic effect.
Timing a fast action:
The important point to remember
about timing fast action is that the faster the movement is the more important
it is to make sure the audience can follow what is happening. The action must
not be so fast that he audience cannot read it and understand the meaning of it.
With fast action anticipation is very important indeed. The character prepares
for the action he is about to do so that the audience is ready for the quick
moment when it comes and so can follow it even though it may be very rapid. In
an extreme case, for example where a character zips off screen, the anticipation
alone is sufficient and it is possible to miss out the zip altogether or perhaps
dissolve it into a puff of smoke or ‘whizz’ lines.
Of course there are times when
anticipating every movement becomes tedious and it is necessary for dramatic
effect to shock the audience with a surprise move. For example, if one character
a punch on the chin of another, it would be necessary to freeze the position of
the first at the end of the punch long enough for the audience to ‘catch up’
with what has happened. It might give more impact to shoot the first out too
far, bringing it back relatively slowly to the hold. This would give a bunching
together of the drawings at the end of the punch that would make it easier to
Getting into and out of
The time it takes to reach a
hold depends on the momentum of the object or character. A heavy man running
takes several seconds to come to a stop, whilst someone leaning forward to
listen simply slows into a stop.
Avoid having all parts of the
figure coming to a stop at the same time. If a character jumps into a scene, for
example, he might come in on an arc, squash, and then recoil upwards too far
before coming to rest in the final pose. Even after his body has stopped it may
be effective to have his arms continue for another few frames. If the character
has any loose ends, such as goat tails or feathers in his hat, these must take
some time to stop. These would probably be drawn on separate cell levels to
allow for this. When a figure comes to a hold, any extremities which have been
trailing behind keep on moving then settle back, perhaps too far, before coming
If a character makes a quick
movement of surprise that shows a rapid lightening up of the muscles or a reflex
withdrawal from danger, then he must go into the hold quickly. If the hold is
made slowly in this case, the feeling of surprise is lost. With a quick stop
such as this, it is even more important to have an overlap on the movement of
the arms or hair, for example, to soften the sudden stop.
When moving out of a hold, the
spacing of the drawings usually gradually increases if the movement is fairly
gentle. Any extremities hang back slightly until they are pulled along by the
body. If the character goes into a more violent action, such as starting a walk,
then the movement should be anticipated. The figures should draw back slightly
before moving forward. As the front foot is raised the body begins to fall
forward into the first step. If going into a run, the anticipation is more
violent, with the body perhaps twisting away from the eventual direction of
movement as the front foot is raised, and then leaning forward into the
direction of movement so that the push on the back foot propels the body
Weight: Timing can also
define the weight of an object. Two similar objects can appear to be vastly
different weights by manipulating timing alone.
For example, if you were to hit
a croquet ball and a balloon with a mallet, the result would be two different
actions. The croquet ball would require more force to place it into motion,
would go farther, and need more force to stop it. On the other hand, the balloon
would require far less force to send it flying, and because of its low mass and
weight, it wouldn’t travel as far, and would require less force to stop it.
Timing can also contribute to size and scale of an object or character. A larger
character has more mass, more weight and more inertia than a tiny character,
therefore it moves slower. In contrast, a tiny character has less mass, weight,
and inertia, therefore its movements are quicker.
Timing play an essential role in illustrating the emotional state of an object
or character. It is the varying speed of the characters movements that indicate
whether a character is lethargic, excited, nervous, or relaxed.
Timing to suggest weight and force – 1
Each part of the body moves as
a result of the action of muscles, or as a result of the movement of another
part of the body to which it is attached. For example, when the arm is raised,
the upper arm tends to be raised first by the shoulder muscles. As the elbow is
a flexible joint, there is a time but before the forearm starts to move and
similarly another time lag before the hand moves.
In a walk, the knee is a hinge
joint and the ankle acts almost like a ball and socket joint. If the angle
between the shin and the foot is kept the same, the ankle joint appears to be
rigid, so this angle must vary. For example the foot starts on the ground and
is lifted forward for the step. The knee is raised, but the foot tends to hang
back and so comes up heel first. The toe trail downwards until the top of the
movement, but as the leg straightens the foot tends to keep going up and so, as
the heel goes down, the foot rotates until the heel hits the ground. The foot
now ends to continue its downward movement but as the ground stops it quickly
slaps down flat.
A character is to give a strong
pull on rope, the first part on the body to move is probably the hips, followed
by the shoulders, the arms and finally by the rope. This amount of movement
depends on the strength of the character, the weight on the other end of the
rope and the mood of the scene, but the order in which different parts of the
movement take place is the same.
If, in the same situation a
force at the other end of the rope is pulling the character, then the order of
events is reversed. First the rope moves, then the arm, the shoulders and the
hips. The first part of the pull takes up the slack in the rope and if the
movement is fast, the shoulders do not move until the rope and the arms have
been pulled into a straight line. At this point the shoulders jerk forward and
the character tends to pull out into a straight line as he goes out of screen.
In a slow, steady pull the character may have time to react and try to resist.
Timing to suggest weight and
force – 2
To give the impression that a
character is wielding a heavy hammer it is important to time the movement
A man is relaxed with the
hammerhead resting on the peg that he is going to hit. To start the movement he
lifts the hammer. If it is heavy, he cannot do this, as he would then be
off-balance and would topple over. In order to transfer the weight of the hammer
over his feet to that he is balanced, he must step forward and grasp the hammer
near its head.
He can now slide the hammer
towards himself and lift it above his widely spaced feet. As the head of the
hammer rises above shoulder level, he starts to move its weight backwards in
preparation for the forward action. However he cannot let it go too far behind
him or he would overbalance backwards. So he starts to move his body forward and
downwards to give a forward impetus and the job is done. Now he need only step
back and the hammer will fall and hit the peg.
Timing to suggest force:
In a repetitive to and action
such as sawing, it is not sufficient to draw the forward and backward extremes
and then inbetween them. To convey the feeling of effort being put into the
action it is necessary to analyze the relationship in time between the movement
of the body weight, the muscles of the arm, and the action of the saw. Normal or
mental miming can do this. If a lot of effort is needed to push the saw through
the wood, the arm muscles alone cannot supply this, as straightening and bending
the arm would move the shoulder back and forth as well as the saw. Immediately
before straightening the arm, the whole body weight must be moved forward, so
that when the arm does straighten it does so against the forward momentum of the
body weight and so the thrust is applied to the saw. Rotating the shoulders at
the same time increases the thrust.
When sawing with the right hand
the right shoulder is held back during the beginning of the forward body
movement, and then it is quickly brought forward, followed immediately by the
straightening of the right arm, which puts the full effort of the movement it
into the action of the saw. On the return stroke, little effort is required in
the movement of the saw that cuts only on the forward stroke and so the sequence
of events is less complicated. Some time lag between the backward movement of
the body and the saw makes the animation more fluid, but otherwise
straightforward inbetween drawings are sufficient.
Timing to give a feeling of
The way a movement is timed can
contribute greatly to the feeling of size and scale of an object or character.
When animating a man with naturalistic proportions, his movements may be timed,
as he would perform them in real life. If however, he is to appear as a large
giant, his action must be retimed. As a giant he has much more weight, more
momentum, more inertia; he moves more slowly than a normal man. He takes more
time to get started and once moving takes more time to stop. In fact any changes
of movement take place more slowly. Conversely, a tiny character has lee
momentum, les inertia than normal and so his movements tend to be quicker.
The effects of friction, air
resistance and wind:
Imagine a cartoon elephant
running along. He wants to make a sudden stop. How should he be animated? If he
is on an ice rink it is difficult to see how he can stop. It might be possible
to turn him round and make him work his legs as though running in the opposite
direction. On ice, he would get little purchase and so this method would produce
little result. If he is on a normal surface he can use the friction between the
ground and his feet to slow himself down. The animator must, however, arrange
the elephant’s weight to be as far as possible behind his feet as he slows down.
If he was upright the friction would slow down his feet, but the upper part of
his body would continue moving quickly and he would fall forwards. So his body
must lean backwards. He might go into this position with a slight jump to
achieve the maximum effect of his weight bearing down onto his feet. With his
back foot covering the maximum area of ground for friction and his front heel
ploughing into the ground for maximum braking effect, he can stop quickly. As he
stops he must bring his body upright to avoid falling backwards.
Similarly, if a man applies the
brakes suddenly in a motorcar it may be effective to draw the car in a
backwards-leaning position, with the tyres squashed so that they have as large
an area as possible in contact with the road. If the hubs press forward against
the tyres while the friction from the road surface stretches them backwards and
the driver leans back pulling on the brake lever, a good effect should result.
Wind is a useful device to give
life to an animated object it can very occasionally be animated as dry brush but
is usually shown by its effects. Leaves are swept along, tress bend and wave
according to the wind speed, and so on. Moving air flows and eddies around
objects, such as dead leaves, is swept along more or less at wind speed in
curves and eddies. There is usually an area of calm air in the lee of a solid
object in which windswept material collects. Driving snow does not make a drift
until the wind meets an object such as a wall. The snow is then deposited
against the wall. Anything fairly flexible, such as a plant or a tree has its
own natural vibration period suspending on its length like an inverted pendulum
when blown by gusty wind, such an object tends to sway in this natural rhythm. A
tall tree might sway to and fro in two or three seconds and a plant as less than
one second. The speed and mood of the wind is also well shown by curtains,
waving flags and clothing, the animation of which can be graduated from a slow,
languorous wave to a violent, raped flutter as the cloth strains to tear itself
from its support
Repeat movements of
In straightforward to-and-fro
movements, such as those of a piston or pendulum, it may or may not be possible
to use the same drawings in the reverse order for the return movement. With a
rigid pendulum it would be possible, but with a cartoon piston animated with
steam pressure in mind, the drawings used for the forward movement would not
work in reverse. In any flexible movement, or that of any object, which has
something trailing, then a fresh set of inbetweens must be done for the two
directions of movement.
In a to-and-fro movement in
which the same drawings can be used in reverse, an optical problem arises at the
ends of the movements suppose the animation is done on double frames and
charted. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, … etc it will be seen that
drawings 5 and 2 occur twice, that is they are on the screen for four frames out
of six and so make a greater impact on the eye than the actual extremes, which
in this case are 1 and 6. This effect can be avoided either by holding drawings
1 and 6 for four frames each, or else by missing out one of the exposures on 5
and 2 thus: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 5, 4, 3, 1, 2, 3…etc.
A similar optical effect can
occur with eye blinks if the same inbetweens are used on the way down as on the
way up, especially in close ups in this case it is better to space the two sets
of inbetweens differently so that the same positions do not occur on both the
opening and shutting movement
Timing a walk:
What are the main features of a
normal human walk?
Walking has been described as
controlled falling – a skilled manipulation of balance and weight. The only
point in walk when the figure is in balance is at the instant when the heel of
the front foot touches the ground; the body weight here is evenly spaced between
the two feet this is usually the main key drawing. It gives the stride length
and so can be used for planning the number of steps needed for the character to
cover a certain distance. This step position is the one with the maximum forward
and backward swing of the arms. It is actually the middle of the fall forward
onto the front foot, when the front knee bends to cushion the downward movement
of the weight. The key position here is usually known as the squash position.
The body’s centre of gravity is not its lowest point and the front leg supports
the body weight. The back foot is almost vertical, and although the toe is just
touching the ground, it boars no weight at all in this position.
There are two slightly
different ways of animating a walk–the choice is use of convenience. Suppose a
character makes an 18in stride in 12 frames. Assuming that the walk is a repeat
movement, than if we call the left step drawing in this drawing will appear
again 24 frames later (i.e. drawing 25 – drawing 1) 3.6in left or
right of the original position so the intermediate positions of the walk can be
animated between these two positions. The character can then advance along the
cells, relative to the pegs.
The alternative method is to
animate from drawing 1 back to drawing 1 in the same positions so that all the
bodies in the cycle are superimposed over one another, with an up-and-down
movement only, instead of advancing along the cells. The 3.6in that the figure
moves along every two paces is now taken up by moving the foot backwards 15in
per frame. After 24 frames the feet have effectively slid back to make up the
two steps this is called ‘animating on the spot’ because to make a man walk by
this method the pegs carrying the figure remain static while the background pans
backwards by the same amount as the feet per frame.
The use of timing to suggest
The creation of mood is the
stock-in-trade both of the cinema and the theatre. It is also important in
animated films, but as animation is a medium of exaggeration, it is advisable to
avoid subtle shades of expression. In general terms, the moods of depression,
dejection, sorrow etc, depend on slow timing for their effect, whilst the moods
of elation, joy, triumph and so on depend on quicker timing. Other moods such as
wonder, puzzlement and suspicion may depend on facial expression and body
posture. The aim is always, however, to convey to the audience the mental state
of the character, and match this to the mood of the backgrounds, the camera
movements and everything else that contributes to the visual effect on the
To express depression, the
character must appear to have no energy. His body droops forwards, his head
hangs on his chest, his knees sag, and his movements are slow, with frequent
long holds and sighs. Anything that can be used in the drawing to convey the
feeling of depression should be used-the hair and clothes hang limp, perhaps the
hat down over the ears, and the shoes squash with the extra weight of gloom.
Elation and joy on the other hand need plenty of energy, which gives quick
bouncy movements with the character frequently airborne. The body is upright or
curving backwards, with hair and clothing springy and a general lightness of
step. Suspicion requires a deliberate expression of puzzlement and cannot be
hurriedly timed. Give enough time for the audience to read the facial expression
of the character and animate his hands for further emphasis if there is time.
Weight and Momentum:
This covers a number of things,
mostly related to animating objects as if they were real and actually had
weight. If you want to do abstract movement, this subject has little bearing.
You can animate objects and characters as if they had no real mass and weight,
but their movements would not seem real. A little reality can help in animation,
though you probably don’t want to go to the hyper-realistic extreme that studios
like Disney have locked them into.
Weight can be indicated with as
little effort as having a character squash a little bit as he comes down on each
foot when walking or running, or by having a heavy object move like the real
thing. If you pushed a metal chest across the floor, the overall speed and
pauses in the action would be different than if you pushed an office chair on
wheels. The metal chest is much more massive and more difficult to move.
Likewise, someone carrying an anvil should walk as if he’s supporting a great
weight. The anvil is just a drawing, but the way it is moved lends it a sense of
Weight has bearing on momentum.
If you animated two cars, one traveling at low speed and the other going fast,
with both having to make left turns, the slow-moving car would execute it easily
and gracefully. Conversely, the fast-moving car would careen around the turn in
an ungainly arc, probably leaning into the turn because it has to overcome its
own considerable momentum in order to make the turn. The same can be said of a
walking man and a running man. Furthermore, a ball thrown at a relatively low
speed will connect with a catcher’s glove with little impact, resulting in the
gloved hand moving only a small distance. The harder the ball is thrown, the
greater its momentum and the greater the impact. In many cases, the on-screen
speed of an animated object is insufficient to indicate how fast it is
traveling, but the effects of its momentum when it hits something or changes
direction communicates this information quite well, in addition to making the
animated action look more real.
Momentum and weight also have
bearing with some animated objects. For instance, when I have Megabit Mouse turn
around slowly, his tail lazily drags behind. If I make him spin suddenly, his
tail comes off the ground, whips along behind him and continues moving even
after his body has stopped turning. His feet have provided the resistance to
overcome his body’s momentum, but his dangling tail keeps going until it reaches
the limit of its movement and/or its momentum runs out. And when he turns
around, he doesn’t just “freeze” in that position; his body sways as the last of
the turn’s momentum is lost, and he shifts as his weight settles.
Weight and Size:
The computer gives the ability
to create images that look absolutely real. Especially with the latest
techniques in rendering, texture mapping, ray tracing and radiosity, you can
make an object look just like it’s made of marble or rubber or whatever you
wish. But to make it look like marble or rubber when it is in motion, has very
little to do with the way the object is rendered. It has everything to do with
the way the object is animated. It is animation that gives an object its
physical properties. More that anything else, the timing of the movement of an
object defines the weight of that object.
Two objects, identical in size
and shape, can appear to have two vastly different weights by manipulating
timing alone. The heavier an object is, the greater it’s mass, and the more
force that is required to change its motion. A heavy body is slower to
accelerate than a light one. It takes a large force to get a bowling ball
moving; but once moving, it tends to keep moving at the same speed and requires
some force to stop it.
When dealing with heavy
objects, one must allow plenty of time and force to start, stop or change their
movements, in order to make their weight look convincing. Light objects have
much less resistance to change of movement and thus require much less time to
start moving. The flick of a finger is enough to make a balloon accelerate away.
When moving, it has little momentum and even the friction of the air quickly
slows it up.
The way an object behaves on
the screen, the effect of weight that it gives, depend mostly on the spacing of
the poses and less on the poses themselves. Again, no matter how well rendered a
bowling ball may be, it does not look like a bowling ball if it doesn’t behave
like one when it is animated.
The proper timing of a motion
can also contribute greatly to the feeling of size and scale of an object or
character. A giant has much more weight, more mass and more inertia than a
normal man; therefore he moves more slowly. Like a bowling ball, he takes more
time to get started and once moving, takes more time to stop. Any changes of
movement take place more slowly. Conversely, a tiny character has less inertia
than normal, so his movements tend to be quicker.