Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Character takes a drink

"An Animator is an Actor with a pencil." Chuck Jones

In order to bring a performance to life in animation, the Animator must be able to "Act Out" what you want the character to do. As an Actor, you must know who your character is or what type of person are they.

"Every animator is really an actor performing in slow motion, living the character a drawing at a time." John Lasseter

Many animation students don't want to act in front of an audience, they draw out their poses and wonder why their animation is very stiff or doesn't move the right way. By "Acting it Out" you will learn how your character needs to move, be aware of which foot your weight is on. How do you move from one pose to another? Can you try moving to the next pose in a different way?

To begin the process, keep a small mirror at your desk. This mirror can be use to help you draw facial expressions. Make a face in your mirror and study how your brows, mouth, nose and eyes make that expression. Draw the expression onto your character. You can also use it to see how your hand looks when holding a prop like a glass. Which side of the hand does the thumb go?
And with a bigger mirror you can see how your body gets into a position or out of one. A more modern solution is to record a video using your phone.  Shooting reference of your scene allows you to study how your body and facial expression work together to tell your story. It also allows you to figure out the timing or your actions and break them down into frames.

"In our animation we must show only the actions and reactions of a character, but we must picture also with the action...the feeling of those characters." Walt Disney

A scene starts in the middle of a situation.  The Acting assignment will be in a medium shot where you r character is seated at a table with a drink sitting nearby. You will need to show who this character is at the beginning of the scene and...  

"What is your character thinking  and why does he feel that way." Ollie Johnston

Think about what kind of drink is it. It could be poison or a cure. It can be super sour or sweet, too strong, too weak, too hot or too cold. Come up with your own idea.
Acting is reacting. Your character will play an action until an event makes them play a different one. In this case, we need the character to be doing something, either internal or external before they decide to take a drink.  Are they bored, upset or drunk?  Think about how your character is going to take a drink. Will they take a little sip or a big gulp?

You are showing your character's story to your audience one pose at a time.

How does the character react to this drink? tThis will tell your audience how your character reacts and thinks about the drink. They don't have to have a big cartoony reaction, but you will need to show some sort of "take" and hold on the character's expression long enough, so your audience will understand what's going on.

To help you conceive this acting situation;  I suggest you come up with a character and act out the scene for yourself. Figure out how your character is feeling at the beginning of the scene. Then put yourself in the same frame of mind. Act like the character, practice a few times, try it out one way and then try acting it out a different way. Decide which way works for you and drop anything too confusing to do.

Once you've worked out your "act", make a video with your phone of yourself seated at a table with a drink in full view. Notice the drink and take a sip. You are the character, push yourself; don't just take a sip, yum, the end. Exaggerate if needed. Tell your character's story by acting it out. Here's mine...

This will be your reference footage. You can see how you move from one pose to the next and what facial expressions you are making. You also know how long it takes to reach for the drink, how long does it take to pick it up and bring it to your face, etc. You can convert the seconds into frames.

1 second = 24 frames, if you are shooting on twos, 1 second = 12 drawings. 

Same Action, 3 different performances

Can you tell what the character is feeling or thinking?

Reference 3 from Toondini on Vimeo.

Everyone is starting to hand in the same acting choice, but your drink can be sour, super sweet, taste like vomit, think what kind of drink. Your character can be dying of thirst or upset about something, has a cold or is late for class.

NEXT TIME:  Finding the Key Poses!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Personality Walk

Here's the challenge

Your character enters the scene in an emotional state that your audience will understand, showing who the character is or how they are feeling at the time?

Once you've figured that one out, try having something in the scene before the character enters. Let your audience see it before the character, and when he/she does arrive, show how they react to the thing in the middle of the room. It can be big thing or a small one, living or inanimate.

The ending to this scene is how will your character get around the "thing"? This is the assignment that you need to think about, storyboard some key poses and figure how a simple approach to this situation.

There are a lot of great examples of how to animate different walks in the Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams. Study his Key poses and breakdowns to apply those to your character. Here's a link to the book

After getting this assignment, I usually see a group of people silently thinking about what to do next. Its a lot to take in at first, especially if you have never done something like this before. The best place to start is to think about a character in this situation and what is the "thing" that is blocking his path? The thing can be something small like a live mouse or a wallet full of money. How does the character react to this? This is how to character acts and reacts to it.

This scene doesn't have to have a joke at the end or a punchline. Just try to animate a character to show your audience a character personality they might know.

Wants it, Curious about it or doesn't want it all

Rough out some storyboard ideas to show the "thing" in the scene to set up the situation, the character enters showing us what type of person he is. Is he a sad begger, shuffling in or is he a proud upright wealthy person? Whatever the "thing" is, the character must either want it, find it interesting or doesn't want anything to do with it. This is in their reaction to the "thing" and you must let the audience see how they feel about it.

Students tend to fly by this part which is the heart of the scene. Instead, they do a wild take and then have the character jump over the object. They don't give enough time to the character's reaction which isn't just in the face, but the body is the driving force and the face is the secondary part. Watch this Flour sack animation, there is no face, but you know how he is reacting to different situations by his body language and attitude. 
Flour Sack Animation test from Ron Zorman on Vimeo.

I often ask students to think about their scene more, perhaps even act it out themselves in front of a mirror or video camera. This saves a lot of drawing sometimes.

Here's a great amount of animated walks and runs from Disney's "Robin Hood". You want to turn down the sound to study the animation. But here you can see attitude's in motion during their walk or run.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Borrow from the Best!

When you start to layout an animation scene and not sure how to do it, this is a good time to see how other people have solve this problem. I have been working on this short called "WatchCat" and there are a few sequences were we have a fight between the hero and the bad guys. 
Believe it or not, I'm not a Martial Artist expert, so to animate a flying kick I need to find an expert in the form of visual reference. Bruce Lee was probably the best reference when it comes to doing this action and makes it look cool at the same time.

Stop reinventing the wheel!

I did a little research to see how a good fight sequence is cut together. At first, my scene was too much little a dance and lacked any kicks or punches in the editing. Luckily, there are a lot of people fighting each other in films and so here was the result of my research.

Here's the animation based off the reference footage the scene is still in production, but the timing is looking better.

So whenever you find yourself fighting to figure out how to put a scene together or make an action work, borrow from the best reference images and videos you can find.

Did this help? Did you learn something from it? Let us know below in the comment section. And by the way, you can become a Follower of this blog by clicking on the Follow button. Then you will get updates without have to click all those clicks to see this blog!