Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How To Animate A....

     A fist slam is a very simple action but it involves a lot of animation principles and is very physical. I currently gave this task to a friend of mine, she is studying at A.M. (Animation Mentor) I am also helping her on the side develop and get a better understanding of animation. I give her assignments, she sends back work, then I critique work and show her mistakes as well as show her the solutions.
     Learning how to animate should not be a privilege and the information should not be kept a secret. So I'll share the Critique of her fist slam right here for all to read. This assignment shows a nice honest example of a student making some great general mistakes and the best part is, she was big enough to admit and ask, 'I'm stuck, how do I make this better.'

The Video: This is what was turned in:

Above: So it's not bad right? She has some body anticipation, a general arc that her wrist follows, she breaks the joints in the right spots, even some nice subtle settling there at the end. Looks like a success..      ...um .. yea if you're BLIND! Sure this gets the idea of a Fist Slam across but there are some hidden mistakes in her arcs, stiffness in the body, and some weirdness in the head. This assignment will turn from a nice piece of animation to a great example of animation. 

Below upper half: THE BODY-
- Is the most important part. You need to give a lot of attention to this. Bc if it's wrong.. then everything is going to be harder to animate later on. Have you ever gotten yourself into a spot while animating where you get stuck and can not figure out what is wrong and have to backtrack in your animation? It's most likely because your body ('Root' for the animation nerds out there) is not animated right. If you look at her example you can see the body starts of good then stops moving once it is upright. Let me tell you one thing: when animating: NEVER leave something NOT moving. It pixel locks and it destroys the illusion of life. So put a drift or find out how you can keep it moving in a way that makes it feel natural. Take a look below, This is how I would make the body move. It goes up the same way she has it going in her assignment, but the way I come down, I drag the upper body a bit and then do a little overlap action at the end. I hope it is clear because it is greatly exaggerated. 

- This is a study to help imagine the relationship between the elbow and the body. Do you notice that as the body goes back and slowly starts to go forward? That gives the elbow time to go up and allows me to create an arc. These points are not where the elbow HAVE to be, I'm just trying to get the relationship between body and elbow across.

Below upper half: ELBOW AND BODY- cont. 
-In this drawing I am showing that EVEN with (ok) body animation that it doesn't mean the elbow arc is going to be what you imagined. This elbow arc is almost a perfect circle and that's not what we want. We could see why it's making a circle, it's because of the spacing of the body animation  (It goes forward a bit to soon and fast, it doesn't give the elbow any time for 'hang-time' at the top of it's arc.) So in this case, if your arm animation is not doing what you want it to do, go back to the body again and don't erase your animation but adjust it.  

Above lower half: HER ANIMATION-
-This was her animation in her video. Do you see how the body just goes straight forward? There is no follow through, no overlap, no going backwards then forward. Her animation looks good even with this kind of animation, but it can be improved.

Below upper half: LOOKING CLOSER-
- "b B But Danny! If you look at every other frame her arm animation looks just fine. What do you meeaan it can be improved? I think Danny if full of B.S...." Even though her animation looks fine at real time speed, and it even looks fine when you draw and trace every other frame (see below) You can see clearly the Elbow and Wrist Arcs are good and the hand overlap is pretty damn spot on BUT.. yes there's a but.. lets check out those in-betweens..

Above lower half: THE IN-BETWEENS-
-The dark circles represent her in-betweens on the left. That elbow arc doesn't look so pretty now.. you can see where the in-betweens WANT to be because you can spot where the general arc is. On the right is how I would do the elbow spacing and the arc (in RED) and I put her arc and animation (BLUE)  right on top of it so you can compare.

Below upper half: ELBOW AND SHOULDER ARCS-
- Looking at how I would do the spacing and arc, here is a more detailed view of the relationship of the shoulder (RED) with the Elbow (BLUE). 

Above lower half: SHOULDERS ELBOWS AND WRIST oh my-
-The Animation with the wrist and hand included. I also drew the arcs on the side. When the body and elbow animation are done right then the rest comes easy because all you must worry about now is the Pose the lower arm is going to be in and then drag the hand on top of that. The elbow arc animation will be 'echoed' in the wrist and hand arc animation. It's all the same. And all this ONLY works if the body animation is done right. other wise something will be off or at least feel wrong.

Below upper half: HER ANIMATION-
- This is how her arc and her arm animation was working together. You should always do this to your work, trace your arcs and animation! Go buy some tracing paper and scotch tape and keep it by your computer AT ALL TIMES. 

Above lower half: COMPROMISE
- This is me trying to animate her elbow using the body animation she originally had but EVEN then I still tweaked it so that the body goes backwards on a frame...

Below upper half: THE HEAD-
-We're not done yet. the head animation is clearly a little funky. There are some pops in her animation. When animating the head you can either LEAD with it, or DRAG it. Here is how to do both with some body animation. If this is confusing just look at the number and the corresponding head. And Animate it in your mind. Train your eye to animate something in place. YES, like Bobby Fisher playing chess with no chess pieces.. all of you must become Bobby Fishers of animation...

Above lower half: CONCLUSION-
- Sure we fixed and went over animation.. and if you think we're done and covered everything there is to fix here then you need to drop your lollipop and listen up because you still have a lot to learn.
      "Your IDEA" I asked her, "Was that the BEST arm slam animation you could of came up with to say 'ARM SLAM'?" Her arm slam was pretty realistic which is nice.. It was actually pretty damn nice. But the subtext of her animation is saying something more like 'hey! here's my new dead weight of an arm..SLAM.. '
        Because we're Animators: gods of motion and life, lets look at the other side of the spectrum. How could of we have pushed it to make it FEEL more like an arm slam. So I drew her 5 drawings here on top of each other one at a time. This is real life exaggerated but you benifit from exaggerating real life bc you can get a better sillouette, you can improve your line of action, you can emphasize, you can mess with spacing and timing. You can actually do what real life can't which is what ever the fuck you want! Tweak and mess with any element you want, go be a god. Before you do though, make sure you understand what real life has to offer then improve upon it. Every animation book you will ever buy will tell you figure drawing and drawing form life is key and observing life is a must. THEN and only then will you see what parts of your animation to make cartoony and which parts to treat as real life.

I hope this was helpful to those starting out and an insight to those who just like to read. I'm now to return to my own animation that I will post up soon..

-Daniel Gonzales


  1. Awesome! Really hope you keep these going Danny!

  2. I hope you continue doing this, it's really very helpful! :) More Power Daniel!

  3. I will. thanks for the comments. as long as it helps i'll keep on doing it