Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm About to Tackle Lots of Realistic Animal Animation. Do You Have Any Tips?

I sure do! I have three tips for ya:


If you're doing some realistic animal work, then reference is an absolute must. And I don't mean just finding a video clip of a similar animal and copying some of what you see. I mean watching as much footage of the animal as you can, making notes of their behaviors, studying what it is that makes that animal unique. What makes that tiger a tiger, or what makes a wolf a wolf?

Make a list for yourself of the behaviors, timings, and body mechanics you see (which moves first, the head or the ears? Which paw lifts first as it goes into a run? How does the tail behave?), and keep that around to read through now and then and remind yourself of all the great nuances you studied.

2) Exaggeration

Just because it's going to be "realistic" animation doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't exaggerate certain things. Don't forget to look for ways to help bring your animal to life, and to subtly caricature the behaviors, timing, and poses that you've studied from the reference. The key here is SUBTLY, as the more you exaggerate those three things, the cartoonier the animation will get.

There's an interesting progression of exaggeration you can apply to a creature. No exaggeration might look mostly "correct," or even "real," but it won't have the tiny bit of added punch that will give it character and life, particularly on the big screen. A tiny bit of exaggeration in just the right places (maybe making sure the animal going into a jump moves along a singular line of action, including the tail, even if the reference didn't, or dropping the chest to make a pose more dynamic, or exaggerating the ear movement so it's more visible to the audience) can take that animation from "real" into a "hyperreal" state, that still feels real, but is suddenly much more alive. (incidentally, this is the same exaggeration necessary to take motion capture -- yes, even Avatar -- from looking kind of stiff and dead into becoming something more special).

Once you push the exaggeration beyond that hyperreal point, though, you start pushing it more and more into the "cartoony" realm, so be really careful how far you push this sort of thing.

3) Reference AGAIN!

Once you have your animation pretty much blocked in and are starting to get into the polishing stage where you are ironing out your in-betweens, getting the arcs nice, getting that tail on a nice path of action, etc. Once you're there, it's time to bust that reference out again and watch a bunch of it.

If you have time, give yourself a good 10 or 20 minutes to just watch these animals in the real world again. Look again for behaviors you might have missed, or movements that you didn't notice before you had worked more heavily with the character.

Then, watch your animation again. Does it hold up? Does it look like it could be hanging out with those animals you were just watching? If not, what is it missing?

Often, this process can reveal a behavior or body-mechanics nuance that you simply missed the first time, and once you add it into your animation, it'll suddenly feel right!

Good luck!

Shawn :)


Shenya de Silva said...

Thanks for the tips
I always do reference not only prior to animation, but before modelling too.But I've never done that after animation.
I sure must do that.

Virgil said...

I think a lot of times that second part, exaggeration, is over-done by animators, even in big-budget movies. there's a bit of cartoon in a lot of cg characters. it may look cool, but it's not realistic. I guess it's not as much a decision of the animator, but that of the supervisors/director etc... And I think this is one of the reasons why cg characters tend to feel cg, rather than real, even to a non-connoisseur. they're a bit 'sharp'.

boppi said...

Great sir.
I always got confusion that exaggeration should be applyed or not for realistiic animation.this
artical made it clear.

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