#1 09-02-2007 11:28 pm

aja
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Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

I was out riding my bike today, and thought of some unrequested advice (the best kind!) that I wanted to pass along to all the new animators out there.  smile  Here it goes:

Okay, so you want to enter this month's 11 Second Club competition.  You've downloaded the clip, you've chosen a free rig, you've read some tutorials and know what a graph editor is....  but how do you actually animate your shot? 

First off, don't worry so much about where you rank in the final voting round.  Yes this is a competition, and yeah it's great to win, but the point of this club is to provide structure, deadlines, and a supportive community for people wanting to practice character animation.  If you complete a whole shot during the month's competition and learn something from having done it, then you've already won about as much as you can win here.  smile 

That said, you should be striving to improve your animation skills, especially since you're working so hard on it, you want to get better and better with time.  But when you're new to animation, it can be really tough to tell what separates a good shot from a not-so-good shot.  Back in the days of the original 10 Second Club, I remember looking through the entries every month and not understanding at all why some would score well and others wouldn't, or why I liked some more than others.  It was really annoying, especially when I tried animating my own entry, and had no idea what I should do.   

But a couple of years later, after 18 months of AnimationMentor and 9 months of working in animation studios, I think I finally know what it is that makes an entry score higher in this competition: 

Appeal. 

An appealing animation is clear, well-crafted, and fun to watch, and the more appealing an entry is, the higher it ranks in the voting round.  When people say "good animation", they're talking about "appealing animation". 

Appeal is the Twelfth Principle of animation, according to Disney's Nine Old Men.  But it's not so much a principle, really, as it is the end goal.  If you nail the other eleven principles, you'll have yourself an appealing animation.  Which, of course, is infinitely more difficult than it sounds.  wink 

But let's try to break it down.  What makes an entry appealing?

  Appealing Staging (Principle #3).  Yes you're focusing on the character animation, but in this competition you also have to choose how the camera is placed, how multiple characters relate to each other, where the characters are supposed to be (a zoo?  a library?  an active volcano?), and how they move around in the shot, if they move at all.  There are more appealing ways to stage a character than "rooted to the spot in the center of the frame".  Consider doing a little research on cinematography.  Read an article that explains medium shots, over the shoulder shots, the 180 degree rule, and the rule of thirds.  Don't move the camera or add a cut unless it will enhance the appeal of the shot (in other words, don't move the camera just because you think it would be "cool").  You don't need to be an expert in camerawork to be a good animator, but you need to know enough about framing and cuts that they don't negatively impact your work. 

  Good Acting Choices.  This is really tough, especially if you're trying to teach yourself.  I was lucky enough to get to learn this stuff from my fantastic Pixar mentors, but basically the trick is to listen to the nuances in the voices, all the subtle little character traits coming through in the delivery, and choose actions for your characters that are sincere to those nuances, to what the character is thinking at that moment in time.  It's incredibly difficult, but think about it, don't just move the mouth to the audio track. 

  Physicality.  The mechanics of the motion have got to be solid and believable if your shot is going to be appealing.  You can have the best staging and acting in the world, and still get a poor rating if your character isn't moving in a believeable, appealing way.  The majority of the 12 principles of animation describe what you need to do to get the physical stuff right.  Good arcs, spacing, timing, slow-in/slow-out, follow through, squash&stretch, anticipation....   basically you need to get in there and really think about how each part of the body is moving throughout the entire shot.  Video reference can really help with this, because you can frame-by-frame through your video and see how your arms/legs/etc. actually move.  You still have to exaggerate, of course (principle #10!), but you can avoid a lot of the common jerking/floating mistakes if you study how bodies actually move. 

So yeah, in a nutshell, those are the things I think you need to focus on if you're going to get the most out of this club.  At the end of the day, though, try not to take any of this too seriously...  remember that we're learning to make cartoons, and that it's supposed to be fun!  smile 

Good luck to everyone, and happy animating! 


Aja

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#2 09-02-2007 11:28 pm

aja
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

And by the way, while we're on the topic of "appeal", a few thoughts about lighting and rendering...  it's true that good lighting and rendering can enhance the appeal of your shot.  BUT, poor lighting and rendering can severely hurt the appeal of your shot, in addition to taking a lot of time away from maximizing the appeal of the actual animation.  Therefore, if you aren't already an accomplished lighting/rendering artist, we strongly suggest that you not worry about lighting your entry for the competition, and instead use your time to work on the staging, acting, and physicality of the animation.  You can always work on rendering your shot after the competition ends, or even better ask a lighter friend to help you make it look as good as possible.  That is how it works in a studio, after all.  smile

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#3 09-03-2007 12:13 am

David
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

This is great manual, I have to agree. I would just add what my dad always use to say to me.  "In simplicity lies the beauty". I believe that simple animation right to the point can be much better than too complicated one. I always think what is essential for the animation and what is too much, overacting. I don't have to animate every slider, just because its there. Just use it sparingly, subtle.

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#4 09-08-2007 1:08 am

aaroncmt
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

Good point Aja,

I think appeal is really important.  I guess appeal at the end of the day is what makes us give the entry a 3 out of 10 or a 7... or whatever... we either like it or we don't... I normally vote on an entry after watching it only once.  It has to grab me the first time... you only get one shot to have it read, and read well.

I'd also say that strong acting and personality goes a long way to getting a good score.  Good acting also doesn't always mean a lot of movement.  For a long time I was also confused why some entries got a greater score than others.  I noticed after a while that is was the strong acting and connection to there personality that made a lot of the difference.  A lot of the time the character was hardly moving as well... but somehow it made a connection that you couldn't put your finger on at the time, but you knew it felt reel and was like a real living breathing being... I guess 'The Illusion of LIfe' covers this extensively... I honestly believe that without strong acting and or personality, the entry will always get a low score... it's partly about communication, I guess.  If we don't connect with it in some way, then it's not going to matter how's it put together...

Anyways, I think all aspects of animation help... but the little nuances... the way the character touches things, the little looks they give all add up to great acting and give us glimpses to there personality... they're pressing buttons that we relate too... I guess I'm just going through an acting stage of my animating right now...

Good thread about appeal... I do think appeal gets overlooked.

Great stuff,

Aaron


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#5 09-08-2007 9:59 am

R7N
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

Thank Aja for this post!
It's great to read this, i'm just out to school, and i'm fell all alone when i began an animation!
Read advices like this help a lot in the process to follow to make great (appealing) animation!

Considering the little experience I have got, I think it's also important to prepare your animation on paper before to work on computer, like did JustAnimate for August!

Thank

Last edited by R7N (09-08-2007 10:04 am)

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#6 09-08-2007 4:01 pm

ydiaz
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

Hear hear! Nice iniciative there aja, I definately find a big lack of appeal and personality in almost all animation these days (with the exception of Pixar films and a few others). I find classic cartoons and features films absolutely filled with appealing characters, situations and actions that modern films simply don't have. Maybe it was the lack of money or resources that inspired the creators and made them squeeze all possibilities from the existing characters. Nowadays it seems you just need a 3D character and some (funny?) gags to put together a feature.

Hopefully the future called "11 second club generation" will bring some of it back tongue

In any case it's great pointing it out like you did for us members of the community.

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#7 09-08-2007 6:10 pm

gittens7
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

great post Aja, again  we appreciate you and all for putting this site together, I have Been thinking about attending AM, As i hear a lot of good things form my friends, as far as the amount of knowledge they are getting compared  to our old school, but sites like these also help, feedback is priceless

Last edited by gittens7 (09-08-2007 6:10 pm)

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#8 09-09-2007 6:58 am

HenningKO
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

Well, technically "Appeal" as articulated in The Illusion of Life just meant an attractive-looking character. However, this always bugged me, because this wasn't so much a principle of animation as of DESIGN. I like your theory of appeal as the emergent meta-property of the other 11 principles. And your flagrant iconoclasm (silly old men!).

Last edited by HenningKO (09-09-2007 7:03 am)

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#9 09-10-2007 12:51 am

geldslaw
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

totally agree with you all, I took part in the judging of the last competition and I did give the winner a high score. why? because from the word go,I didn't blink. The character was totally alive and I watched and listened to everything the character and said.

Where as with the animations that didn't win and there were some really good entries, it was a tight vote because there were many entries that were highly rated by me and many others but at the end of the day it is down to like and dislike.

All I can say is that the body should be in constant motion because gravity makes us move and were constantly resisting gravity. So as animators we need to impart momentum and weight to our characters to give them life.

that's my 2cents


takes the seed of an idea and a lot of sweat to make a field of dreams come true

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#10 09-25-2007 9:22 am

Jau
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

i guys!
Sorry, where is the rules of the competition? what size, how many cameras, what format of movie...?
Sorry, i am lost!

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#11 09-25-2007 11:00 am

MattJ
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

gittens7 wrote:

, but sites like these also help, feedback is priceless

Good Point here.  I think we also have to take the responsibility to judge and then leave those comments we felt.  We have to be critical and fair, but if we don't leave any feedback and just give them a "3" out of 10, then we are not truly helping.

The one thing I have gotten the most out of AM was the feedback.  Without that, it is hard to correct your flaws and work towards better animation.

Matt -


Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere - Ratatouille
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#12 09-27-2007 8:03 am

swadepgh
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Re: Animating for The 11 Second Club: A Primer

I completely agree. Feedback is the most valuable tool for improving animation.

Aja...thanks for the fantastic primer! smile

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