Anticipation is a really helpful tool that animators can use to make their shots clear and readable. Combined with solid poses and clear silhouettes, it prepares the audience to what is about to happen in your scene. It gives them time to process your character's actions and intentions, thereby making it absolutely clear what the character is doing or thinking.
On another level, anticipation helps to emphasize the physicality of your character. Flesh and blood characters have muscles and need to overcome gravity with each move they make. If you wanted to animate a baseball pitcher throwing a fastball, for example, you would need to have a big wind up (anticipation) pose before going into his throw. If the wind-up is left out of the scene, the physicality, believability and the clarity of the animation would suffer.
As a general rule, the broader an action I'm animating, the bigger the anticipation I put in. I also try to make sure that I incorporate it into my blocking as early as I can to feel out the overall timing and the rhythm of my shot. The advantage of doing this is that it is easier to dial down, delay and adjust it accordingly down the road.
Another thing I try to pay attention to as I flesh out my animation is to delay the various parts of the anticipation so they don't all fall on the same point in time. Try to offset the brows, lids, or a head move to give your character that nice organic quality, even if you are animating something that is really pushed or cartoony. Remember to keep things clear and simple to get the most out of your poses.
The last thing to remember with anticipation is to make sure that it feels natural and not over done. A common mistake is to put in a big anticipation on EVERY action. This will end up giving your character an odd pattern of movement that will distract and unsettle the viewer. Some robotic objects, for example tends to move quite linearly and have very little (if any) anticipation. Similarly, some insects or animals will have quick staccato movements that are inherent in the way they move. Know what you are animating and use anticipation accordingly!
Guest Blogger Chris Chua