WEEK 13: Learning from Animating

As we approach the last week of the semester, thanks to the block posing, I can now commence animating my designated shots.

As Dan highlighted, considering I havent’ animated in over 18 months, I was rusty and underdeveloped. So the best and more efficent method of animating was to begin with the ‘easier’ shots to allow me to experiment and re-engage with animating. Shot 13, in which the character is animated in 4 distinct poses throughout the same composition as day becomes night, needed to be considered carefully and planned accordingly in order to render it efficiently given how it involves transitions. Despite the complexity of the actual rendering method, the animating process was a positive way to stimulate my thinking towards movement.

As I was designated the shot, I believed that because the composition was locked, I could add four rigs and animate them according to their location within the animatic. When I added the rigs, I referenced them and placed them in individual groups. This way, I could simply switch the visibility of each rig rather than having an individual scene for each animation, thus saving time.


Considering it was a transitional fade, I realised that for the animation to appear smooth in these shots, I had to assign myself an extra 72 frames at the start and end of each animated pose. The reason for this was to allow for the overlapping transition to appear as though the character is already in movement as opposed appearing triggered upon transition. I didn’t want the character static during the fade, so I needed to have enough necessary movement to make the transition seem natural.

This continuity also played into the character’s placement around the room. When he ends up on the sofa, I wanted to apply his sense of disinterest and frustration as he slept. He is meant to apply relatively uneasy in his sleep, so movement still needed to seem fluid but not too distracting. It’s a rather calming transition, so this was a moment of achieving subtle but implying movement to address his constant sense of discomfort.

To get this though softly, I created a layer for the pillow. During the first pose of the character dropping, the pillows appear in their natural position during the first run time of the film. Once the character is asleep, I simply hide that layer and make the Pillow_Move visible, showing them on the floor, implying his disinterest and frustration.


This way, the film keeps a detailed flow in the character’s movement so it feels less staged and more like a ‘lived experience’.

Again, I was focusing the addition to detail in the character’s movement so I filled reference to act out his awkward, anxious movements. He’s supposed to show hesitance, resistance and self-conscious about his movements, reflecting his emotional state.

In the poses above, I wanted his movement towards the ground show a sense of fragility as he gradually lowers himself, metaphorically shows his degraded and defeated attitudes towards his inability to exit. The movement should be slow and delayed to give that sense of emotional deterioration. The same when he leans against the door, this internal thoughts are carried by minimalist expression. There is a shifty discomfort further echoed in his inability to be more natural with his movement. The constant movement of his hands, etc are meant to show an urgency he senses but then his lack of action demonstrates the anxious disabling effect demonstrated in the Mr Robot research.

There is a heavy sense of drop to accentuate his defeat. His head falling, his bent posture and the hanging arms are consistent to empathasise his emotions. I took significant influence from Pixar’s handling of Sadness in Inside Out (Doctor, 2016) through the  slow movements and weight carried in both her head and hips. A confident character shows control and fluency in their movement through dynamic patterns, while Sadness feels anchored down to symbolise the emotional weight of the character. The expression of Sadness’ personality is accentuated by her curvature pose and the limited movement. At know point is the character lifting their head or straightening up as their portrays confidence and assertion, so making them feel small and hunched over feels appropriate.

Jess let me barrow Richard Williams’ The Animator’s Survival Kit (2001) to get a better idea of the kind of flow I wanted to achieve. Williams (2001) makes it clear that the key idea was to inform the audience through consistent and exaggerated poses that could be read immediately, hence the use of bad posture and heavy transitions between his movements. Something striking to me was that despite wanting to focus on minimalism, I learnt from Williams’ reading and from my analysis of Sadness’ movement that subtly can’t be expressed in the same realm as live action. It needs to be more identifiable to stand out in such an expressive medium. As Jess added to this, my thinking was too much in the vein of live-action, so I needed to completely reshape my thinking and methodology and become more flexible to the expression of the character.

As a result, I began to notice my animation was become a lot more prominent, in that the increasing exaggeration had a positive effect on my poses and movement. Jess taught me the 12 principals of animation outlined in Williams book (2001), which called my attention to ‘Secondary Action’ and ‘Slow In and Slow Out’. Secondary Action was already inherent to my intentions as a animator: wanting to convey subtle expressions to help the audience interpet the character’s internal emotions. But Jess noticed that it would occasionally call attention away from my main action such as the character going down and his head being too distracting. To rectify this, I realised that my secondary action needed to be dynamically relevant to the main action. For example, as the character goes down, I reduce the head movement and instead switched to having the character’s arms spread out and help support him as he drops to the ground. Instead of being an ‘additional expression’, it made the character lowering to the ground seem more real. Rather than simply lowering down, there was intelligence towards how the rest of his body was utilized to help in this action.


When he is sitting on the ground next to the chair, his leg would extend out rather than remain dormant, breathing more life into his character while remaining emotionally relevant.

This furthered into the use of ‘Show In and Slow Out’. Jess noticed that some actions were either too slow or too fast and became jarring to the character’s movement. This interlinked because I needed to focus on my timing to ensure that the neccessary attention was placed on the right action to avoid the audience being distracted by quick/slow movements that pulled them out of the believable nature of the expression. Hence, throughout my animation process, I will be taking full account for the 12 principals and be more cautious in the logic of my movement than simply trying to represent my movement through estimation.

UPDATE: I was having problems with animation involving movements where the hands were to stay in place as the body moved. I found myself used to FK and manually adjusting the arm joints accordingly, but sometime along the process, trying to keep it stable whilst working with the limitations of the Mixamo rig proved challenging. Both Jess and Dan pointed out that, like the legs, I woiuld be better using IK to keep things static. Intitally, I was hesitant to use IK on the arms because I found it be be relatively clunking for certain movements such as the walk cycle, but I decided to try it because I found myself going in circles trying to achieve the movement I wanted. As stupid as it seems, I just started moving better IK and FK when appropriate. For example, in both door animations above, I used IK to have the character’s hand lean on the down and come sliding down using the graph editor. Then when he’s on the sofa or on the ground, I used FK to achieve more precise movement that proved challenging in IK due to the positioning of the elbow. Moral of the story: Switch between techniques when appropriate.


Doctor, P. (2015) Inside Out. DVD. Burbank, CA.: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Williams, R. (2001) Animator’s Survival Kit. London: Faber

Disney Pixar (2014) Meet Sadness – Inside Out. Available from: https://youtu.be/KHD0NzvtJaY [Accessed 10th December 2016]


One response to “WEEK 13: Learning from Animating

  1. Pingback: Week 15: Setting Up for Render | Ryan Hollinger·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s