Barry's hopefully helpful hints.

Tips, hints, how to, how not to etc.

Barry's hopefully helpful hints.

Postby Barry » Sun Feb 13, 2005 1:26 pm

[Students and aniamtors I have worked with will know these too well, but I thought it was time to put these on. These are several years old so I will update them with plenty more when I get the time. I hope they are are of use...they sound a bit moralising after having read them over the weekend. But there are some good basic tips on animating and practice. Watch this space for more


1- WHY? This is possibly the most important thing to ask before you start anything. Animation is not a matter of how things move, but more about why they move. What is being expressed. What story is being told. What is the motivation, and what is the emotion. Why is something moving. Answer that before moving on.

2 - Firstly make sure that your puppet, object is up to the task. Will it fall to pieces with too much handling? Check everything about the puppet before starting. Is it well secured to the set.

3 - Is everything secured to the set that needs to be. Nothing is going to wobble as you brush past it. Can you get in to reach the puppet. Is the camera in the way of your access?

4 - Are you aware of the accurate frame shape.

5 - Have you done your homework about the shot. Do you know exactly what needs to be expressed. Do you know where this shot comes in the story. Do you know what happened in the previous shot, and in the incoming shot. Do you know how many frames you have available, and have you paced the shot? Try and write everything down if you can.

6 - More often than not, start with a tiny move - ease into every action. Nothing ever starts at full speed.

7 - Likewise, always finish with one more than you think necessary tiny move. This will soften things. Nothing ever comes to an immediate halt.

8 - Anticipate a move or gesture - don't start with a jerk. A couple of frames or so in the other direction is always effective. Likewise when you stop a movement, a few frames in the other direction often help.

9 - Do not start everything at the same time. Remember things will try to stay where they are, and will have to catch up after a few frames. The trick of leaving one thing in the same place as everything else moves always works. Think of a whiplash effect.

10 - Likewise, things do not want to stop moving once they have started. Do not stop everything at the same time.

11 - Always ask yourself, where is the movement, the energy starting from. What is the last bit to get this energy, and what is the last bit to lose this energy. Again keep thinking, why is anything moving.

12 - Keep the eyes focused on something the whole time, unless being deliberately unfocussed. Lead with the eyes, or deliberately trail behind. The eyes are the main motivation for any movement. Keep the head especially focused when walking - don't let the head wobble about too much.

13 - Don't get bogged down with the idea of a walk cycle. No-one actually walks in a cycle. Characters walk for a reason, to get somewhere, and with some expression. A cycle implies something mechanical.

14 - Do not be afriad of large quick movements - if you feel a movement is perhaps too big, try moving slowly alongside it. this seems to make the big move look deliberate and balance things out.

15 - Extremely large movements work well if use a few frames to soften them at the end. If doing a huge movement, keep something in the same place - this helps to keep the action planted and readable.

16 - Keep movements soft and fluid - let things flow into each other, just allowing enough time for the strong pose to read. Keep movements clean and clear. As a suggestion, always do one telling gesture instead of two less clear gestures.

17 - Clearly let a gesture be read by the camera. Don't do something important if it is hidden by the body. Always be aware of the camera and the composition within the frame.

18 - Adjust the subtly of performance to whether the shot is a close-up or a wide shot, and so on. It's important to always remember how big a move is in terms of the travel in the actual frame.

19 - Don't even try to use real life timing as a guide. We are not dealing with realistic actions. We need to emphasise certain things more and this effects our timings. Rotoscoping, I'm afraid, is not relelvent to animation.

20 - Don't do anything half hearted - let us see a gesture. Make sure you have enough frames for it to read clearly. If you only have a few frames it is probably not worth doing it. Don't dither with fussy cluttered gestures.

21 - Always think ahead to where your character will be in 12 frames. Have you allowed enough frames to get there. Is the choreography of the body worked out to get into the next pose simply. Think ahead.

22 - If it helps, use the bar sheets to draw some simple stick figures to work out the choreography. The puppet may dictate to some extent what it will do, but it is important to have a pose to aim for, and by a certain frame. Plan as much as you can.

23 - Don't depend on the technology too much. Monitors are good for framing and composition, but feel the puppet moving in your hands. Internalise any movements before you start. Work out what is going where. Try to make the acting instinctive, and give it a shape and a flow. Think of the whole 'sentence' rather than the actual 'letters'.

24 - I'd discourage any notion of shooting in double frames. You would not want to write with half the letters in the alphabet, or play the piano with half the keys taken away.

25 - Always be aware of the previous and forthcoming shots, so you can match the speed and emotion. Don't ever think of a shot as a complete story. Lead into the next shot, make things flow. Don't let things come to a pause at the end of a shot. Try to think of the whole picture of a scene, not just the individual shot you are working on.

26 - Listen to the rhythm of a voice or music, and find the phrasing. I'd be careful about over-emphasising lip-synch. It's the eyes we watch not the mouth. Give the impression of lip-synch rather than open-close on every syllable.

27 - If you have several characters in a scene, work out who the main one is, and don't distract from him. stage it so that the focus is clear. Try not to have several characters being busy at the same time. It's OK to have moments of stillness. AS you start a shot, don't suddenly have a mass of movement that slows down towards the end of a shot. pace a shot - don't do all the interesting things at the start when you are fresh.

28 - If you are working with several characters, try and find an order in which to animate them and stick to it.

29 - I find it always helps to click the camera myself - I then clearly know that that frame has been taken, and I can move forward.

30 - Do not start a shot without knowing what the characters are going to do.

31 - If you are not happy with how a shot is going, start again as soon as possible before getting yourself in a mess and wasting time and film. Remember the real world is full of ghastly schedules and budgets.

32 - Try not to over-do the blinking. Blinking is basically a form of puncuation; the finishing of one gesture and being ready for the next one.

33 - Likewise, I'd avoid the Disney ducking of the head and body before a movement. Anticpate but not so exaggerated.

34 - Set yourself a speed when you are filming and keep to it. One second in half an hour is good.

35 - Concentrate and try to complete a shot in one session. If you come back after lunch you can guarantee you, and thence the character, will be in a different mood and a different speed.

36 - Enjoy it - because someone else would love to animate even if you don't. Remember that every mood, even your hangover, gets passed onto you puppet, and that film will be there as a constant reminder of any lapse.
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Postby Daniel Poeira » Tue Feb 15, 2005 8:40 pm

As a desperate stop motion newbie struggling to get a movie done, I found those greatly useful. Thanks a lot, Barry.
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Postby Barry » Tue Feb 15, 2005 10:34 pm

hi Daniel, glad those were useful....the best tip I can give is to keep it simple. Really, don't over complicate things......
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Postby Daniel Poeira » Wed Feb 16, 2005 7:40 pm

Today I started animating to test everything, and guess what... the puppet doesn´t work. It´s too heavy on the tips, the arms and legs are too heavy. The puppet shakes everytime I touch it, and it´s almost impossible to make subtle movements on the joints. I should have it coming.

Discovering this on the same day I found out I didn´t get the scholarship for the third time was a bit overwhelming. I was very very close from giving up the whole thing.

But I´ll try again. I don´t know why but I will. Tonight I will remodel the entire puppet, using styrofoam instead of epoxi, and then I´ll finish it with acrylic plaster. Hope this works.
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EYE ACTING c/o Ed Hooks

Postby Barry » Wed Mar 16, 2005 8:01 pm

Ed Hooks (Acting for Animators) posted this on his newsletter today, and is darn useful and observant. I'm alwasy going on about eye acting, and using blinking as a punctuation to the grammar of body language. So much is said through blinking and eye movement, but have a look at Ed's thoguhts. If you ever get a chance to catch his masterclasses, they are magnificent. Very different to me as he is far more technical, whereas I am pretty instinctive, but we both are totally enthusiastic in our classes.


Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, on the subject of eyes in mo-capped humans. As everybody knows, eyes in mo-capped humans are pretty awful, whether they be in movies or games. They often make the characters seem like something from "The Night of the Living Dead". The explanation I hear most often is lack of time and production money. Eyes can't be mo-capped, and it takes too much time to keyframe them. Anyway, the game players aren't complaining, so why fix it if it ain't broken?

It doesn't surprise me that the players don't complain. They are there to play the game after all, not study gaze behavior. However, if your goal is to create a deeper and more nuanced emotional interaction with your players, eyes and gaze behavior are an excellent place to start. We are hard wired by nature to read and respond to eyes and facial expression.

The primary aesthetic problem is that an on-screen mo-capped human raises the threshold of disbelief for the player or audience. Once he sees a photo-real human body, he expects the eyes to also be perfect. If they are not, they stand out as shockingly out of place, even weird. It's not like it is with cartoons. There, the eyes are important but not a deal breaker.

For those among us that are working on the problem of eyes in mo-capped humans, let me share with you some interesting tidbits:

The eyes are the first thing a child develops to its full maturity, at three months of age. This fact alone underlines the evolutionary importance of eyes.

Eyes and eyebrows are the most expressive part of the human face.

Controlled studies have shown that, in conversation, the listener will gaze into the speaker's eyes about 75 percent of the time. The speaker will gaze into the listener's eyes about 40 percent of the time, with a length of 3 seconds per glance. 30 percent of conversation is a mutual gaze averaging 1.5 seconds.

In conversation, the speaker sends a signal with his eyes that he is about to conclude a thought. That is how the listener knows to pick up his cue. Conversation will progress more slowly without eye contact.

When greeting someone, we typically smile, nod and raise our eyebrows.

Pupil size is uncontrollable. They dilate when they are attracted to something. That is why they are a pretty reliable measure of sexual interest.

Women tend to look away after an initial gaze sooner than men.

Breaking eye contact lowers stress levels (breathing rate, heart rate, sweaty palms).

Eye contact arouses emotion. That is why we feel an impulse to look away after about three seconds.

Men tend to hold eye contact in order to hide emotion. If the interaction is positive, a man will tend to look away. Women, by contrast, will want to increase eye contact if the interaction is positive.

Short-term memory (what you had for breakfast day before yesterday) will tend to make your glance move upward; deeper and more personal memory will tend to make your glance move downward.

When you glance up, your eyelids automatically raise, too. That is because the muscles that control eyeballs and eyelids are fused.

When we look at another person, we look first at the right eye and then scan to the left eye. This is a universal trait and explains why we project our public persona on the right side of the face.

Ed Hooks
Acting for Animators

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Postby Daniel Poeira » Wed Mar 16, 2005 9:38 pm

Bloody awesome! :D
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Postby pingu81 » Fri Oct 07, 2005 10:15 am

I love the idea of actually becoming the puppet. Its something we as animation students read about but you explained it very clearly and hit home.
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