Hi everyone! I just wanted to give a big shout-out to all my friends (old and new!) up in Montreal. Carlos Baena and I were up there last week where we were honored to have been invited to speak at ADAPT conference. We had a blast!
Carlos and I gave a presentation about eye animation and blinks, and someone had a good question about whether or not the character design might affect the way the eyes are animated. It seemed like something worth posting on the blog, so I thought I'd throw it on here in case anyone is interested.
I would say that generally, a particular character design probably wouldn't affect the way I would animate the overall eye movements, as far as eye darts (saccades, if you want to get fancy), timing of the eye looks, etc. However, the audience member did have a really good point that the character design can sometimes affect the eye animation in larger, more global ways.
For example, a character may have an injured eye, or the design may simply call for one eye to be larger than the other. In these cases, the design will definitely dictate the way you shape the overall eyes, and will also affect how you relate them to the brows.
That said, though, I think I'd say that the main thing always needs to be that the eyes should communicate clearly to the audience, and in order to do that, the audience needs to be able to relate to the eye animation you've created. They need to recognize themselves in your work, and recognize the way we all use our eyes to communicate. Our eyes are our most communicative visual feature, and overdone or overly unique eye animation will jump out to us and just feel strange, at least on a subconscious level.
Don't get me wrong, it's always great to add a little special something into your work - something that makes that character unique, but there is a fine line between stylized caricature and overanimated confusion.
So, I guess I'd say that it's important to take the design into consideration, but as always, your primary focus needs to remain attempting to create a performance that is not only believable and entertaining, but is clear and communicative.
Thanks to everyone in Montreal for coming out to see us! We had a blast meeting all of you, and look forward to hopefully hanging out with you guys again next time!