Principles of Animation

I feel like it’s really important to be aware of the twelve principles of animation. I already looked at them every now and again before we got this assignment from Mike, but it’s never a bad thing to look through it again and again.

I found a few useful sources next to the book The Illusion of Life, which was the first book to talk about the issue. Honestly, it was still the most useful text to look at, although I got a much better understanding while looking through videos like Alan Becker’s tutorials on youtube, or Aaron Blaise’s course on the subject. I also learnt a lot about these things while reading The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams.

According to the book the first principle is squash and stretch. It emphasizes speed, momentum, weight and mass. It’s important to keep the volume of the object/character consistent while using this principle.

The second principle is anticipation. It’s basicly preparation for an action. With the help of anticipation the audience is informed what will happen next. It also helps the character to gather energy, so the action will be more realistic.

The next principle is staging. It’s the way of presentation of an idea so it will be clear for the audience. The staging directs the eye where to look, and if it’s badly done the main action can be lost among all the other things going on on the screen even if it’s just in the background.

The forth principle is straight ahead and pose to pose. Theye are two different methods of animating a scene. The first one is about animating as you go, draw the first frame, and then the next, etc… This is a great approach to be creative, but it’s more likely to make mistakes and it’s harder to fix as well. The second, pose to pose means that first you draw the key poses and than add the inbetweens. This gives more control, and there’s less opportunity to make mistakes which are easier to fix. According to every sourse I read and watched they are the best when used together.

Follow through and overlapping action is the fifth principle. An other word to describe it would be ‘drag’. It means that when the main body moves the tip of the appendage is the last that catches up, and follows through the body. The amount of drag someone gives to an object gives it weight and mass as well. It’s importatnt to keep in mind that this movement is always the result of the main action.

Slow in and slow out, the next principle, gives life to the motion. It covers the fact that all movements start slowly, build up speed and finish slowly. In hand drawn animation it means that the drawings are closer together at the start and the end of an action, while in computer animation it depends on the curves of the graph editor.

It’s also important to keep in mind that most living things move in arcs, which is the seventh principle. It gives more character and it’s a more natural way of action as well.

The eighth priciple is called secondary action. These are mostly gestures that support the main action. One has to keep in mind that is only to support, and it shouldn’t grab the audience’s attention more than the main action.

The amount of frames inserted between each extreme affects the nature of the animation and the movement. The more frames there are the slower the action is. This is called timing.

The next principle, exaggeration is used to encrease the impact on the viewer. There are different levels of using it, if there’s less the action is more realistic, if there’s more it is more cartoony.

I think solid drawing is one of the most important principles – and the one I have the most trouble with. A character or an object have to keep its weight and volume consistant throughout the animation. You have to keep in mind perspective and balance, not to mention anatomy. It takes a lot of practise. An important note is to avoid ‘twinning’, which means the body is symmetrical, and the arms and legs do the same things at the same time.

The last principle is appeal. It means that the character has to be pleasing to look at, the design has to be dynamic with a variety of shapes. Keeping it simple is important as well, a design that’s too detailed lacks appeal in animation.



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