Character animation is a specialized area of the animation process, which involves bringing animated characters to life. The role of a Character Animator is analogous to that of a film or stage actor, and character animators are often said to be actors with a pencil ot a mouse. Character animators breathe life in their characters, creating the illusion of thought, emotion and personality. Character animation is often distinguished from creature animation, which involves bringing photo-realistic animals and creatures to life.
Though typical examples of character animation are found in animated feature films, the role of character animation within the gaming industry is rapidly increasing. Game developers are using more complicated characters that allow the gamer to more fully connect with the gaming experience.
On-going computer science research on character animation deals with the question of generating multi-layer level of detail at run-time to allow large crowd rendering in real time applications.
Given are the main principles of character animation that has all the basic and essential characteristics of both traditional and digital animation.
Timing and Spacing
Timing refers to the number of frames between two poses. For example, if a ball travels from screen left to screen right in 24 frames that would be the timing. It takes generally 24 frames or one second for the ball to reach the other side of the screen. The spacing refers to how those individual frames are placed.
Squash and Stretch
Squash and Stretch is what gives flexibility to objects. There’s a lot of squash and stretch happening in real life that you may not notice; in animation this can be exaggerated. For instance, there’s a lot of squash and stretch that occur in the face when someone speaks, because the face is a very flexible area. The easiest example to understand how squash and stretch work is to look at a bouncing ball.
Anticipation is used in animation to set the audience up for an action that is about to happen. An easy way to think about this is that if a person needs to move forward, they first must move back. For example, if a character is about to walk forward, they might move back slightly, this not only gets their momentum up, but it also lets the audience know this person is about to move. Or if a character is reaching for a glass on a table, they might move their hand back, before moving it forward.
Ease in Ease Out
As any object or person moves or comes to a stop there needs to be a time for acceleration and deceleration. Without ease in and ease out or slow in slow out, movements become very unnatural and robotic. For example, as a car starts from a stop, it does not just reach full speed in an instant, it first must accelerate and gain speed. As it comes to a stop it doesn’t go from sixty to zero in the blink of an eye, if it did, it would be extremely uncomfortable. Instead, it slowly decelerates until it reaches a complete stop. The same must be accomplished in an animation, and the easiest way to accomplish ease in and ease out is to utilize the principle of spacing.
Follow Through and Overlapping Action
Follow through and overlapping action can be considered two different principles, but they are still closely related. Follow through is the idea that separate parts of the body will continue moving after the character has come to a stop. For example, as a character comes to a stop from a walk, every part of the body would not stop at the exact same time, instead, the arms may continue forward before coming to a settle. This could also be articles of clothing that continue to move as the character comes to a stop. Overlapping action is very similar in that it means different parts of the body will move at different times.
Everything in real-life typically moves in some type of arcing motion, and in animation you should adhere to this principle of arcs to ensure your animation is smooth and moves in a realistic way. The only time something would move in a perfectly straight line is if you’re trying to animate a robot, because it is unnatural for people to move in straight lines.
Exaggeration is used to push movements further to add more appeal to an action. Exaggeration can be used to create extremely cartoony movements, or incorporated with a little more restrain to more realistic actions. Whether it’s for a stylized animation or realistic, exaggeration should be implemented to some degree.
In 2D Animation, solid drawing is about creating an accurate drawing with volume and weight, and thinking about balance, and the anatomy in a pose. With 3D animation, animators are less likely to rely on their drawings, but the idea of solid drawing is just as important.
This principle can really come down to adding more appeal in many different areas of your animation, such as appeal in posing. However, the most obvious example is appeal in the character design, you want to have a character that the audience can connect to or relate to. A complicated or confusing character design can lack appeal.
Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose
Straight ahead and pose to pose refers to the two different techniques for how you go about animating. With straight ahead it is a very spontaneous and more of a linear approach. You will create each pose or drawing of the animation one after the other. For example, if you’re animating a character jumping in the air you would create the pose where that is standing, the next where he is beginning to kneel down, the next would be him completely crouched, and so on. You are really working through the animation as you are going. With pose to pose it is much more methodical and planned out, with just the most important poses required to properly tell the action.
Secondary action refers to creating actions that emphasize or support the main action of the animation; it can breathe more life into an animation and create a more convincing performance. It is important to remember that the secondary action should typically be something subtle that does not detract from the main action happening, and can be thought of as almost a subconscious action.
Staging is how you go about setting up your scene, from the placement of the characters to the background and foreground elements and how the camera angle is set up. The purpose of staging is to make the purpose of the animation unmistakably clear to the viewer. This could be ensuring the camera is set up in a way to communicate the characters expression clearly, or setting up two different characters so that both of them are easily viewed from the specific angle.