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6 Basics to Brilliant Animation

Ever wonder how the seasoned pro’s over at Pixar and Dreamworks create such brilliant and beautiful moving works of art? Believe me, I always wanted to sample a little of the secret animator sauce they marinade their meals in. But, it might shock you to know it’s really all about the basics… and sticking to them. You don’t have to be Eadweard Muybridge to achieve a sense of realism.

Allow me to reveal those basics with you, now:

1. Lines are the Key

Anyone can draw a line and the simplest of lines can be beautiful. It can show the direction a character is moving in, or simply act as a center line for the character to pose on. One line can set the start of an action and another line be used to accentuate its movement to the end of the action. Conquer your self-esteem and draw out your key poses with stick figures. Even the pro’s start with stick figures.

2. Simple Shapes

Ovals, rectangles and triangles, being the simplest shapes you can draw, also happen to be the best and most commonly used shapes to animate with. Ovals are great for just about every need. They can be 3-dimensional, rigid or squishy. Rectangles can be solid features, or flexible portions of a character. You’d be surprised just how versatile a rectangle can be, especially when you pull out the corners. Triangles are great filler shapes and greatly enhance character and object silhouette.

3. Less Is More

In every aspect of visual expression, it is imperative that you resist the urge to think too big! Thinking outside the box is encouraged, but be sure you don’t lose sight of the box in the process. If the box is what everyone else has done and the outside is all of your amazingly unique ideas, be sure you can deliver on those ideas – because it means you won’t have any references to fall back on, when you get stuck. Also, creating more work for yourself is daunting, especially if you’ve never drawn or animated anything before.

4. Extreme Key Workflow

When animating, remember this essential workflow: Extremes; In-Betweens; Timing; Refining. Extreme poses are the outward-most points in an animated action. Imagine a Ballerina in a pose that might appear as if she can’t continue without losing her balance. That’s an extreme.

Then, key the arcs of each moving part, in-between the two starting and ending Extremes. Be sure to frequently playback the action to see how fast the action occurs. Too fast? add more time, in-between. Too slow? bring your Extreme keyframes closer together. Refine the spaces in-between all keyframes and stagger the timing of all secondary parts (like loose clothing, balanced objects, held items, etc.).

5. Big to Small

When animating key elements, (such as character’s or supporting interactive objects) you should start with the biggest movements. If a character moves from one side of the scene, to the other – key that big move first, and then each part that can be used to accentuate that action, afterward. So on and so on, from torso to fingertips, ending with your secondary parts.

6. Instant Appeal with Ease

If you have never heard of the term “easing” you are not alone. Many people experience easing in day-to-day life without even knowing. In fact, it’s hard to come by moving things that don’t contain naturally easing actions of some kind. A car getting up to cruising speed, doesn’t accelerate at a constant velocity – it eases into that speed. The same but opposite effect as when it comes to a full stop. In animation terms, these are referred to as “Easing In” and “Easing Out”. Animatron helps you to automatically insert these easing effects and provides an astonishing, significantly noticeable change.

Well, these 6 basics should help you get to that brilliant animation you so desire. Remember, Animatron has your back when it comes to those hard, technical animation questions. Just let us know what you’re trying to do and we’ll help you through the process.

Send your questions into to get help with all of your animation sorrows. And be sure to comment below, to let us know how this helped you out with your projects!

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