The world of animation is fascinating. All manner of fantastical creatures, objects, and scenarios are possible. The only limit here is your creativity. However, to bring your ideas to life, you can’t just depend on good artistic skills. There are a number of other things that good animated video company experts always keep in mind, and you must too.
Start from the Basics
We know you might be enthusiastic and all pumped up to begin creating fantastic animated characters, but sit down and pull that pencil paper out. True, there are numerous powerful software programs available to begin your work on, but all that is supposed to come later. All these software programs are just tools – what matters is your understanding of movement and artistic skills. First and foremost, you need to hone these skills.
Start by sketching something basic on a piece of paper. It could be an object as simple as a ball. Sketch its movements while keeping the squash and stretch technique in mind. Although this may seem like an easy exercise, its purpose is to enhance your understanding of the ball’s movement and how objects are in real life.
Attention to Detail
In animation, the devil is in the details. To become a fine animator, you need to start honing your observation skills. The real world is perfect for observation of the little movements that we usually miss but can make all the difference in animation.
The slight eyebrow someone raises when expressing an emotion, or the slight tilt of head when we drink water – usually, these minor details are dismissed. Don’t make this mistake and pay careful attention to such minuscule but important details.
Can’t find any good examples around you? YouTube is your best friend here. Look at video clips of simple movements repeatedly and jot them down for a reference if you feel the need.
Focus on Working in Layers
Any good animation requires the artist to start by building a foundation first. Try not to get stuck on refining and building upon a certain area. Instead, go with a strategy of working in levels. The first level would be to just design some quick poses at different frames.
This will let you get a rough idea about how to time your animation and will act as the building block for the next and more complicated layer. You will not only be able to see your work from a bird’s eye view but will also notice the results are more lifelike and natural.
Focus on the Movement Sequence
The human body works in a very purposeful manner. None of the movements are useless although that might not seem to be the case at first glance. A great example of this is when an individual is going somewhere. First, the eyes move. It makes sense too because we use our eyes to navigate physical obstacles or gain visual information about our surroundings.
Next, the head and the neck follows. Although the movement of the head may be small and imperceptible, it is there. Once information about the surroundings has been gained, a decision is made and the body starts to move. This sequence of events is always present and must not be ignored.
Timing is key
In animation, there are some variables that must always be taken care of if you want to convey the right impression. Timing is one of them. It gives users cues about things such a weight, strength, agility, etc. think about it this way: if a character is moving fast, it will automatically be assumed to be agile.
On the other hand, a slow and laborious movement will be always associated with weight which could be further translated to power depending upon the situation. At the same time, as a game animator, you should also be careful to not make some motions too fast – this can give the appearance of weightlessness which might not go with the message you are trying to convey.
With all the stress that has been put on observing and mimicking real-life movements, one would expect exaggerated movements to be condemned. However, anyone who has played an animated video game will agree exaggerated movements are present.
A screaming character will be often seen with their mouths opened at an unnaturally large size or a shocked character showing exaggerated eyebrows that are about to pop out of the forehead any second. In real life, we all know none of this is anatomically possible.
The point of exaggerated movements is to accentuate the poses and so that they become easier to grasp. These exaggeration techniques let players catch on to what is happening quickly.
The 12 Cardinal Rules of Animation
Although written towards the end of the 20th century, these 12 principles still hold their importance to date. Anyone with a real interest in animation must be aware of these 12 rules and should know how to follow them and to what extent. These rules are as follows:
- Squash and stretch
- Straight ahead action and pose to pose
- Follow through and overlapping action
- Slow in and slow out
- Secondary action
- Solid drawing
We already discussed the first principle, squash and stretch above, so you know what they are about. Finding an appropriate balance between game feel and character responsiveness is crucial. You might have to compromise on one in order to accommodate the other.
The Laws of Physics
If your physics is even a little bit rusty, you might want to brush over some of the basic laws and concepts. These are very important in understanding how the human body, solid objects, and all matter, interact with each other.
A clear understanding of this is crucial to developing a good game. It’s true, your characters don’t have to abide by the laws of physics very strictly, but they cannot be discarded outright either.
You don’t need to enroll in a university course or this – some YouTube and Google research will be enough to teach you all that you need to learn.
About the Author
Sarah Jay is a video game slash animation slash cat enthusiast who likes to design characters and play with her cat Nancy in her free time. She has been involved in animations for the past three years now and wants to pursue video game animation as a fulltime job in the future.
At the same time, Sarah Jay also loves to remain updated on all things related to technology and new advances in it. Being an avid tech magazine reader, she has developed a new love for writing and producing informative content on her topics of interest.
In the past, Sarah Jay has written to reputable magazines and gotten her articles published. She hopes to continue writing and exploring other topics to write about as she pursues video animation in the future. Like what you read from Sarah Jay? Give us your reviews!