Acting for animation is an important but a very tough step for an animator to take. The choices one makes for the story, make or break his/her animation piece. There is no denying that doing animation well is very important; no one wants to see a badly moving character with jerks and knee pops but if one makes cliched choices, misses the beat or goes for an acting choice that lacks interest then no matter how good the animation is, audience just won't pay attention. As a storytelling artist, this would be a nightmare.
Acting for animation is also a very broad subject. In this blog post, I would, therefore, like to present top five acting tips shared by our AnimSchool instructors. I hope that these will help you make better acting choices for your animations may it be a pantomime or a dialogue piece.
1. Keep It Very Very Simple
One of the things new animators tend to do is to over-complicate things. Some do it because they think:
a) it will make their animation more interesting;
b) it will help them flaunt their animation skills and
c) doing a simple motion would not help them impress their recruiters.
They want to do something different and thus often make complicated choices. As our AnimSchool instructor points out, simplicity sells the story most, not the over-complicated steps.
Following is the work of an AnimSchool student that explains this point well.
2. The Personality of A Character Drives Acting Choices
Before you start shooting reference for your character, build up a personality for him/her first.
Who is the character?
What is the goal?
How is he/she feeling at the moment?
What is the history of this character? etc.
After you figure it out, you need to start making your acting choices on the basis of that personality.
It is important to understand that it should not be "YOU" acting as "YOU" in front of the camera. It should be the character doing what he/she is supposed to be doing at that particular point.
Our AnimSchool instructor, Garrett Shikuma describes this point best with an example in the following video.
Here is an AnimSchool student who demonstrates this point in this following video.
3. Don't Make A Generic Character
If you are making a dialogue shot, chances are that it is only going to be 10-15 seconds long. In these few seconds, you will have to define not only a character but also the situation the character is in, to the audience in the best possible way. If you truly want to stand out from the other animators, it is very important to flesh out the story element and the scene before shooting reference. One of the best ways to do so is to think not just about that scene but also make up a story outside the scene; maybe something has happened before the shot and that's why the character is acting in a certain way or something is about to happen. This will help you make better acting choices as the character won't be just going through motions but would have intent behind every action and that will help you get the best possible acting choices for your scene.
Our animSchool instructor, Terence Bannon describes this point eloquently in the following video.
This whole idea is encapsulated very well in the following work of AnimSchool graduate.
4. Know Your Rig Well
Before shooting reference, it is important that you understand the limitations and strengths of the character rigs you are going to use. Not every character has humanoid proportions. Sometimes there are characters with huge chest but very small hips and legs. There might be limitations over how much you can control face of the rig. So, try to understand the weaknesses and strengths of the rigs before shooting references. Even if you shoot a brilliant acting reference, it would be of no use if you fail to translate it properly onto your rig. Our AnimSchool instructor. Thom Roberts explains this point in the video below.
Here is the example of such reference shooting by one of our students.
5. Be Visual
As our AnimSchool instructor points out below, animators are visual people. We like to understand story through visuals so don't be coy; be as much visual as possible. Remember, the animation shot is only a few seconds long so use props, costumes, stage your character as much as possible. From the first frame, it should be apparent as to what is going on. Don't hold back!
Following video of the AnimSchool student illustrates this point very well.
I hope this blog helps you with your next animation project. Keep animating!
For more such lectures and tips, apply for AnimSchool's online 3D animation classes at www.animschool.com
What makes animation fun is bringing things to life. Animators often study reference video to get inspiration from real movement, but sometimes what we see in real life doesn’t translate well to animated shots. This is where exaggeration plays a major role; we caricature the motion to stylize the visual result. Without exaggeration an animation can feel boring or lifeless.
Animation gives us the possibility to explore movements that don't necessarily obey the exact rules of real-life physics. With animation we have the chance to take the foundation of real-life physics to a higher level with exaggeration, resulting in something much more interesting and fun to watch.
Real-life movement and poses and acting is already interesting, but how much more entertaining it can be to put your audience into an alternate reality, where the rules of physics and nature are bent and stylized a bit - to make something truly unique.
How would you enjoy watching a classic Bugs Bunny short but with realistic, motion-captured movements? It wouldn't be as enjoyable would it?
It is easy to feel limited by the rig you are working with, but you shouldn’t be scared of pushing it beyond its limits. Although rigs can be broken, it is likely that when played back at full speed, what looked weird for one frame of your shot may be unnoticeable. Testing the rig you have and finding how you can work around its limitations is always useful. Remember to break the rig to your advantage!
One way to exaggerate your animations is through your poses. Animated poses aren't just a reflection of real life, they are staged for the camera or audience's view to more fully embody the moment and action, carefully crafted to tell the story and convey the emotion the best way possible. A carefully crafted exaggerated pose creates more appeal -- it's more interesting to look at. There may be times when you match the pose exactly as you see it in video reference and that may work well, but you will want to find places and parts of the body you can push to make the pose work better. A great way to do this is first creating the pose you see on your reference and once you are satisfied, go back to it and figure out how you can make it more interesting. Can you simplify the line of action running through the body? Can you create a stronger contrast with other storytelling poses? Is this the best, most entertaining way to make this pose?
The other major opportunity is exaggerating timing. Animated movements often have simplified transitions, sped up to
emphasize the poses before and after. That makes an animation look
The timing in your video reference should only be used as a guide and most often you want to push it for maximum effect. Imitating reality can lead to very floaty and dull animations.
Depending on the context, exaggeration can be in small or large amounts. If the production and designs are more realistic, exaggeration should be minimal. More stylized designs lend themselves to more stylized movement and posing. It is important to keep in mind that a subtle exaggeration in timing or spacing may be just what your animation needs. Don’t forget that you often want to feel the exaggeration more than you want to see it!
Mastering the art of animation can be truly hard. It can take years of hard work and dedication to get you to where you want to be, and as technology grows and develops, there are always new things to be learned in the animation field. However, following the right workflows and techniques can help you develop your skills as an animator faster than you might think.
It’s all in the basics!
When you start learning animation, you might want to tackle a walk cycle or a complex acting shot right away. Still, you should start out simple and try not to take on an animated shot above your skill level, as it will probably frustrate you when you should be having fun!
Instead, you should start with a simple ball bounce. This is the first exercise any animator must master. Once you feel confident, you can move on to animating a ball bounce across the screen and eventually incorporating squash and stretch, adding more personality to the ball. Soon you will see that with each new exercise you tackle, your skill level will grow and you will have incorporated new animation principles to the mix. Remember: working in small chunks will guarantee that each technique is mastered before you can move on!
One of the best ways to improve your animation skills is to find out what inspires you as an animator. Watching your favorite animated movie is a great way to study how the animator incorporated the principles, so you can then try to implement those techniques into your own shot. Keep in mind: watching these amazingly-executed animations should make you want to jump onto the computer and animate, and not make you feel discouraged by their level of complexity. Use movies to inspire you to get to that level!
Get Your Body Mechanics Working
Once you know the principles, you can start learning about body mechanics. Knowing how a human should move is they key to a great acting shot. The best way to start is by animating a simple walk cycle. Once you have nailed that down, you can try to animate a character walking and coming to a stop. Take each exercise one step at a time and keep them short, from three to four seconds. Each shot will be a bit more difficult than the last, but as your skill level grows, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve progressed.
Act It Out
Once you feel ready to take on acting and dialogue shots, on of the most useful things is to study live action films. You can take a scene in a movie and analyze the actor’s movements. This is a great exercise to help you incorporate small nuances found in great acting.
The More Feedback The Better
Working on your shot for a long time can make you skip little mistakes. In other words, if you are the only one looking at your animation, it can get very hard to give yourself feedback and notes. Asking for someone to look at your shot, even if that person doesn’t have animation knowledge, will help you see if something isn’t looking right. Remember not to take it personally if someone has a different idea for your shot-- sharing your work is a great way to improve!
Learning animation is a never-ending process, but learning it in small chunks and having the right mindset will ensure that your animation skills grow faster. It’s not about the length of your shots, but rather how many shots you get completed and how much you push yourself with each one!
There are a large variety of animation books for different uses out there, such as 2D animation, stop motion, 3D and much more. Still, there are 5 books that any aspiring and professional animator should have.
1- The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams
When it comes to the principles of animation and body mechanics, this book starts you off on the right track as it thoroughly covers the basics of spacing, timing, weight, anticipation, walks, dialogue and much more.
Richard Williams is best known as the Director of Animation and designer of the new characters for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, for which he won two Academy Awards.
This book will provide you with the best training while learning to be an animator.
2. The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
Considered by many to be the animation Bible, this book gives us lessons learned from the early Disney films, providing the theory behind every principle of animation. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston worked at Disney since its earliest days, and wrote this book to take the reader through their experiences as they discovered and researched the best methods of animation.
3. Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair
This book focuses on five key areas; character movement, character development, animation, dialogue, and camera sound. It comes in handy for developing a cartoon character, animating dialogue with action and creating dynamic movement. Preston Blair worked in big studios such as Disney and Hanna Barbera. His book is also considered to be great for animal animation, since it shows in detail a lot of examples of animating different types of cartoon animals.
4. Draw the Looney Tunes: The Warner Bros. Character Design Manual
This animation manual was created during the Golden Era of Animation, and it focuses mostly on traditional animation and drawing. Although it doesn’t dive into the principles of animation, it does provide great insights and tips on how to pose characters and how to break down live action photos into readable animation poses.
5. Acting for Animators by Ed Hooks
Any animator knows that storytelling is extremely important when it comes to animating a shot. This book is a toolbox to discover and create your character. Ed Hooks, industry-known acting instructor for animators, gives the reader a taste of acting theory as well as exercises and examples to take your animation to the next level.