Principles of Animation

Today’s essential question: How can I use the principles of animation to make a realistic animation?

Today we will view several examples of the principles of animation.

12 Principles of Animation



1)    Squash and stretch: Squash and stretch is when an object changes shape based on some sort of impact or movement. For example, when a hard rubber ball is thrown, it may hardly change shape, but when a softer ball is thrown, it may change shape depending on the force of the impact. Squash and stretch is used in animation to give it a more realistic feel. For example, if in an animation, a character is punched in the face, squash and stretch would be used to show the impact in the face, and it would show the impact on the hand too.

2)    Anticipation: Anticipation in animation is the same as anticipation in real life. When a character is going to kick a ball, the anticipation would be the character moving his foot back before kicking the ball. Another example is a character preparing to run by putting one foot behind its body, and getting lower to the ground. Anticipation is used in animation to give the viewer a better understanding of the action that is about to happen. For example, if there is an animation of baseball game being played, the anticipation for the batter would be to move the bat behind his head ready to swing. The anticipation of the pitcher would be to lift his leg up and get ready to throw the ball.

3)    Staging: Staging in animation is when you make an idea clear to the audience. The idea could be an action, a personality, an expression or a mood. The key point to staging is to make sure you catch the viewer’s eye and that they are draw towards the idea that is taking place. The animator must use different techniques to make sure the viewer is looking at the right place at the right time. This could be something as simple as moving the camera so that it focuses on the key event or idea taking place.

4)    Straight ahead action and pose to pose: These are two different approaches to the drawing process. The straight ahead action in hand drawn animation is when the animator starts at the first drawing in the scene and then draws frame after frame until they reach the end of the scene. The pose to pose action is when the animator carefully plans out the animation, and draws a sequence of poses. These are usually the starting pose, some poses in the middle, and the final pose. Then that artist, another artist, or a computer draws the inbetween frames. This is similar to key framing with computer graphics, but it must be changed slightly since the inbetweens may be too unpredictable.

5)    Follow through and overlapping action: Follow through is the end part of an action. For example, when throwing a ball, the hand continues to move after the ball is released. Overlapping is just starting the second action before the first action is finished. This keeps the viewer interested because there is no dead time between actions.

6)    Slow in and Slow out: The principles of slow in and slow out in animation is to make the animations look more realistic. This is as simple as a ball bouncing. The ball starts out stationary in your hand. Then when you let go it builds up speed until it hits the ground. Then it would come back up slightly slower than when it went down. Then when it reaches its maximum height it stops and repeats the process. Every time the ball hits the floor or its maximum height it loses speed, so the ball would eventually stop bouncing.

7)    Arcs: An arc is used for an action or movement. This could be moving your arm. You would have a key frame at the beginning and at the end of the movement. The arc is the action in between the two frames. This is usually used for characters but can also be used on objects.

8)    Secondary action: A secondary action is an action that comes from another action. Secondary actions are used to heighten interest in a scene, and to add a realistic complexity to the animation. If the secondary action becomes more interesting than the main action, then it is either the wrong choice for secondary action or it is staged wrong.

9)    Timing: Timing is an important principle because it gives meaning to a movement. Timing can affect how real a scene looks. Timing is used for characters feelings, and facial expressions. For example, if a character is shocked, you should be able to tell he is shocked because he should look shocked in his facial expressions right after the shocking event has occurred. If the characters shock was delayed, and the character didn’t react until 5 or more seconds after the event, the scene would not be realistic, and you could lose the viewer’s interest.

10)  Exaggeration: Exaggeration is used in animation to help the audience know for certain how a character is feeling or acting. For example, if a character is angry in a scene, you could make him furious, with his eyebrows down, and gritting his teeth. A scene has components such as action, objects and emotion. Exaggerating all of these can create an uneasy and unrealistic scene, so finding a balance of exaggeration is important.

11)  Solid Drawing: Solid Drawing is used to make the main character or object stand out from the rest of the animation. This is so the character does not blend in to the background, and so that the character can easily stand out for the viewer. Solid Drawing is always drawn on its own layer so that it can be animated more easily.

12)  Appeal: Appeal in animation is the same as acting in a film. The way the character or object looks, moves and interacts with other characters has a large impact on the viewer and how much interest they have in the animation. Usually, the more realistic the character the more interest the viewer has.

Videos Illustrating the Principles of Animation:

Today we will:

  • View examples of and discuss the principles of animation

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