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5 Insider Animation Tips from the Animation Desk Team

As iAniMagic2016: My Ani-Character Contest is well underway, we want to share with you some tips to improve your character animation. Our specialists from the Kdan design and Animation Desk team offer 5 professional yet easily adaptable tips to help you succeed. These tips will not only help you with the contest, they also serve as good pointers for any animation creators.

Rather than concentrating on specific animation techniques and concepts like we have done so for #AD4EVER Back to Basic, we want to focus on animation habits – tips that are useful for animation making.


Observe, Observe & Observe

For your animation to capture the real essence of emotion, movement and above all, life, you need to do your research. By observing people, looking closely at how they express themselves, interact with others, and behave is key to lay out motions and the timing of them when you create animations .

Study closely the movement of face and you will find that real emotion is expressed with subtle facial movements. The key to facial animation is the motion, not just the poses. For instance, when a character is about to laugh, eyes squint and laugh lines around the eyes appear; when a character is about to cry, the lips quiver; when a character is feeling uncomfortable or at loss for words, the eyes dart around.

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Use Clips and Snapshots for Reference

Study and analyze different clips and footages of actors – they act as solid references to help you understand better what makes a character look believable.

As Andrew Gordon, a directing animator at Pixar Animation Studio says, “Gestures are the things that we do, without even knowing it, that make our characters look believable”. In order to give your characters the breath of life, you have to pay attention to the patterns, body languages and expressions that we do without even knowing it.

One of the main benefits of watching clips is that you can replay them slowly over and over again, allowing you to pick up all the minor yet critical details. But if you can’t get a hold of videos showing the exact expression you want to portray, film yourself acting it out.

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Get Into the Minds

The point above has demonstrated the importance of little gestures we all do. But when it comes to drawing animations, how do we know how to draw the gestures and show the different expressions? To make animated characters realistic, we have to dig even deeper and get into the mind of the character.

In real life, our actions are driven by our mood, personality and attitude. As Walt Disney put it, ” The mind is the pilot. We think of things before our body does it“. This seeming abstract information is exactly what we need to convey in our animations and there is a simple trick for that – the power of anticipation.

It is through subtle movements that builds anticipation in the minds of the audience. To achieve this, you need to lead with the eyes or the head of your character. Ideally you start with the eyes and then the head. Take your time on this and lock a few frames particular for the eyes and head before moving the focus to the body and the main action. The eyes are the soul of a person; the door to thoughts. Thus the action of the eyes would convey the character’s thoughts.

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Remember Your Focus

As you are planning and creating your animation, bear in mind the purpose and focus of each frame. If you want to show the change in facial expression as your character becomes angry, make sure anything distracting is hidden. For example, avoid any bright clothing, obvious and drastic changes to the set and anything attention seeking in the background. You want your audience to really focus on the change in the character’s facial expression.

Most of the time it is effective to exaggerate the poses and expressions to add more energy to your character. You can explore and decide how dramatic you want your character to behave. If you think about the cartoon Tom and Jerry, Tom’s eyes enlarge dramatically and his eyes literally pop out whenever he is surprised.

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Study Gravity

Gravity affects every one of your character’s movement. It is useful to study the impact of gravity and force as we move. For example, when the character is jumping up and down, the loose body parts are slightly stretched and pulled; when a taller and bigger character is walking, each step would be heavier and not as light compared to a thinner character. So do not forget to give weight to your animation.

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If you are struggling at portraying anything in particular, drop us a comment, we will help and guide you to create your desired animated effects!

You have until November 15 to submit your work and enter iAniMagic2016: My Ani-Character Contest and showcase your animation that you have worked so hard on!

Visit iAniMagic2016 contest page here

About the author

Charmaine Cheung

As a graduate in languages from the University of Bristol, England, Charmaine is currently working in Hong Kong, specialised in marketing and corporate communications. She has a strong international background, is fluent in English, Chinese and German, and has lived and work in the UK, Germany, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

She has been doing some projects and blogging for Kdan Mobile since 2015.

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