Category Archives: Reference

Animation Styles In CG

The other day I was watching some of the first shots I did on a production and could see one of the main problems I had early on was not fully understanding the style. At A.M shots tend to fall into a “Disney style” or very cartoony, but I think CG animation has become much wider than that and the industry more demanding.

I’m now working on my third production, each time a different style of animation has been required and each with little to no ramp up time. I think it’s a valuable exercise to not just study but try different styles of animation, I’ve found understanding and being able apply a style are two different things.

I’ve made a list of what I think are different styles with examples below, the categories are purely opinion and meant to be just food for thought, but feel free to comment if you think I’ve missed anything glaring.

Realistic
With motion capture

Without

Highly nuanced

“Disney/Pixar style”
A very loose way of describing it. Both studios use slightly different styles in different productions.

Cartoony

Exaggerated cartoony

Limited animation

Very limited animation

Stop Motion influenced

Claymation Style

Hand drawn influenced

Paper cut out influenced

Stop Motion/CG hybrid

Multiple animation styles in one production

Shaun the Sheep Teaser

Another analysis of something I enjoy, the work of Aardman Animations. They’ve just released a new trailer for their upcoming film, check it out:
YouTube Preview Image

What is similar in Shaun the Sheep and Goodnight Mr Foot? (see previous post)

  1. Character introductions
    Shaun and Bigfoot are introduced on screen in the same way. It is a coincidence, but the movement is visually entertaining, cute and also gives a sense of vulnerability to the characters. In my opinion this introduction instantly gives the characters appeal.shaun12
  2. Flat perspective
    Both mainly use flat perspective throughout, only bringing depth to exaggerate dramatic points. Read this on flat vs deep staging or grab a copy of Visual Story for more on that idea.
    shaun11
    Examples where depth is used to highlight drama.
    shaun10
  3. Snappy animation
    In the Goodnight Mr Foot post I mentioned the characters go from starting pose -> anticipation -> pop to extreme -> settle over 6 – 8 frames. The same is done in Shaun the Sheep
    shaun03

How is good and evil established?
The farmer and the Animal Containment officer’s goals are in direct conflict with Shaun’s but have a look at how the characters are presented differently.

The farmer has a stern face but we know he’s not a threatening character; there’s the warmth in the colours, he struggles to wake up, flower patterns on the bed cover and the wall, etc. But also the appealing design, he has no eyes. His blindness to Shaun is exemplified in his design, this also makes him a little goofy and appealing when he squashes the dog. He’s presented in humorous ways in his first 2 shots.
shaun13

In contrast the officer wears military style clothing, but also the neck tie, gloves and protective eyewear give us a sense that he’s a bit nuts, threatening and highly organised. There’s nothing fun or warming about him.
shaun01

Speaking of good/evil, a nice homage:
shaun06

How are thought processes shown?
In this shot watch closely as he detects something in the corner of his eye, blinks, sits up, eyes dart around and then finally turns.
shaun02

How is focus kept?
Watch how despite having so many characters, the dog is the only character that continues to move until the very of the shot. He obviously also stands out with the use of colour, but also the moving car starts form directly behind him.
shaun05

Is everything animated to a high level?
Basically, no. There is some amazing detail to some of the animation. The hen for example has feathers moving, a beak animated on 1’s and even the legs and feet move on the turn.
Also watch how the farmer’s toes wriggle while he is in bed. Very subtle.
Then compare this to the shot of the guys taking a photo, apart from the mechanical feel of the shoulders going up and down the characters basically just twist on the spot. More attention is paid to some shots than others.
shaun07

How are animation principles used?
There’s a lot in this one shot. The hand comes up and anticipates the action. It then tries to hit the alarm clock and misses. There is drag on the wrist, a nice arc and easing in/out. The hand comes back, pauses again and then jumps to the clock. Much greater spacing is used compared to first attempt to give impact to the slam and also give texture to the timing.
shaun14

What would I have changed?
Just a personal thing but I think the mouth positions to the side of the head don’t work so well, I often didn’t realise a mouth had appeared. Maybe that becomes less of a problem with longer viewing, but right now I feel it’s too disconnected/abnormal to be easily readable.
shaun16

Genndy Tartakovsky – Goodnight Mr Foot

I’m a fan of Genndy’s work so thought it would be interesting to break down something of his. I’m using Goodnight Mr Foot which is on Youtube (unfortunately with subtitles) which he both directed and animated with the help of Rough Draft in Korea. gnmf16

Smears and multiples
There are so many smears or frames where body parts multiply that I don’t think they need to be highlighted here. There are plenty of examples in the other points below.

Major pose changes The style of the animation is very snappy and I noticed a few ways he gets this feel. Often he will go from a starting pose -> anticipation -> pop straight to an extreme pose -> then settle over about 6 or 8 frames. gnmf01

Sometimes there are breakdowns between the starting pose and anticipation as seen above, sometimes there will be no anticipation and just a breakdown. (the first frame is actually a held pose from the previous action) gnmf09

This is a bit more rare, there is no anticipation or break down at all. But also notice here how the body is settling over 6 frames but the eye pupils remain in the same space on screen. They retain our focus easily by staying in the same spot. gnmf05

Notice here how the hand in the breakdown is placed exactly where the nose will land. I made a gif below to show it more clearly. I tend to think it keeps the snappy movement but reduces things popping around on screen, retains a similar silhouette and doesn’t confuse the viewer. gnmf06 gnmf07

If we look at the start and end pose they feel quite different, he’s looking in different directions and with different emotions. But if you pay attention to the turn, there’s little to no body movement at all. The lack of change in the body helps us focus on the face and in my opinion keeps a comedic aspect to the move. gnmf10

Spacing
Here he adds texture to his spacing a bit. The witch goes from anticipation, pops up into an extreme, settles a bit but then the body pops down again into another extreme. It’s all very quick but he establishes a rhythm through spacing and then pushes it for a snappy finish to the move. Watch the progression of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th frames below for example, then look at how different it is by the 6th.  After that the body settles over 8 frames.gnmf03

A similar thing happens here, there is a rhythm built in the spacing which then jumps and also suddenly introduces depth to the hand for two frames. gnmf08

Change in emotion
We see two changes in Mr Foot on the right. He goes from sleepy to alert to annoyed. Both changes have the character blink, anticipate slightly and then pop into the new pose. Again there’s only subtle changes to the body, his arms and head raise, but his big torso remains in the same pose. Keeping it fairly still helps keep our attention screen centre, where the desk clerk is moving and also where Mr Foot’s face is. gnmf02

Mouth shapes
Check out the range in mouth shapes when the character is talking in close up. From completely sticking the tongue out to speaking out of the side of her mouth. They are unique and completely exaggerated. gnmf14

I also like here how the character’s lips go from one side of her face to the other. They don’t just pop, the mouth shapes are formed so the lips progress across the face. gnmf13

Breaking rules
When studying animation principles it’s often said that when using squash and stretch the same volume should be retained. Genndy breaks those rules here for some visual fun. gnmf15

And also breaks body parts to exaggerate a motion. gnmf04

Character/personality walk cycles

I decided to collate some references for when thinking about what character/personality walk you want to do. Just sitting outside and observing people around you as I did recently will bring out a whole variety of walks. Films also have a never ending number of personality walks, compare how Wreck it Ralph walks for example to Vanellope and you’ll see two distinct characters.

If you use one references below I recommend using it just to get some ideas and then shoot your own footage, you’ll end up having a more unique base to build from.

I also like how in this clip around the 33 second mark Richard Williams recommends mimicking how a person walks, in order to really get a feel of the body mechanics at work:

A great blog with some animated walk cycles: http://walk-cycle-depot.blogspot.jp/

pantherWalk

 

From Preston Blair’s Cartoon Animation book:

Endless reference has a few good walk cycle reference clips on youtube. Check out their channel.

How to walk in high heels:

How to walk with a cane: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFMEmG6YKDI
caneWalk

Charlie Chaplin walking:

Seven Dwarfs (around 2:00 mark)

Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks

A few student reference videos with a variety of walks:

characterwalks
(It is in 15fps, definitely shoot your own material)

Animating a quadruped

For the next 4 weeks we’ll be animating a dog walk cycle. I spent today doing a bit of research and found some things I thought were worth sharing.

Eadwaerd Muybridge‘s Animals In Motion has been (legally) scanned and uploaded by Cornell University: http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/k/kmoddl/toc_muybridge1.html

04_horse

Animationmeat also has some (presumably) Glen Keane notes on animating & drawing quadrupeds: http://www.animationmeat.com/pdf/featureanimation/4leg.pdf

04_keane

Presentation slides by Dr Stuart Sumida.04_sumida

Animating Animals: Tips and Tricks to Animating Believable Animal Characters in a Live Action Feature by William Groebe

Richard Williams talks about animating a horse walk cycle

Animating a dog walk from Richard Williams’ Survival Kit (now also an iPad app)

Compare that with Preston Blair’s dog walk from his book Cartoon Animation

Some pencil studies for 101 Dalmations by Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnson, Milt Kahl and Marc Davis via Andreas Deja’s blog.

Dog skeleton running by Glassworks

Interactive dog skeleton in 3D view
04_skeleton

Tutorial: How to Key a Dog’s Walk by Josh Wedlake

101 Dalmatians walk cycle
dalmationsWalk
Research: Quadruped Locomotion – Musings About Running Dogs

An article on dog walks: 41% of museums don’t know how dogs actually walk