ANIMATION BASICS

Before you start animating, I am going to go over a couple of fundamentals.

FRAME RATE

The Frame Rate is equal to the number of still frames that are shown when playing an animation for one second. 99% of the time, I work with the frame rate of 24 frames per second since that is the standard for feature films. However, I've also worked at 12fps, 15fps, 18fps, 30fps and even 48fps! Frame rate will affect the final look of your animation. Shoot a few tests before you get going to see what looks best to you. Take a look at this spot for Children's Medical Center. The animation was shot on Ones but at 12fps.

 

For comparison, the music video for The Rifle's Spiral was shot on Ones at 15 fps. You can view it here.

SHOOTING ON ONES AND TWOS

You may have heard someone say they are shooting on Ones or Twos or both. What are they talking about? Ones refers to a single pose shot for one frame. Twos refers to a single pose shot for 2 frames. Watch the video below. It demonstrates the difference between Ones and Twos.

The first time the puppet slides by, he is on Ones. I shot one frame every 1/2" until he exited frame. The second time he slides by on Twos, he is traveling 1" every 2 frames. So it is the same exact speed but on Twos, it is missing those inbetween frames that help to smooth out the animation and each pose is held for 2 frames, causing a strobe effect that is plainly seen. The video clip above is an extreme example and Twos do have their place. I generally use them for smaller movements or if it suits the style of the project.  


EASE IN / EASE OUT

When a still object begins to move, it usually needs to ramp up to its full speed. Similarly, when an object comes to stop, it usually ramps down, or eases out, to a stop. There are exceptions of course, such as a bullet fired from a gun, an object hitting a wall, etc. In this next example, I will demonstrate what your animation would look like with and without eases. I am shooting at 24 fps and I will mix Ones and Twos. 

 

 

ANTICIPATION

If an object is about to move, it usually needs to anticipate that motion, meaning it needs to gather up some energy, usually by moving in the opposite direction first before moving forward into the main action. For example, if you are in a static standing pose and you want to jump up and forward, you would first lower into a squat and maybe even tuck your arms back before suddenly springing forward and outward. Try it. Without that anticipation, you couldn't jump very far. Watch the video clip below. It is basically the same animation as the previous example but I've added a little bit of anticipation before the puppet begins to slide and then I added a settling motion after the puppet stops.

 

Notice how using the principles of Ease In & Out plus Anticipation give a sense of weight to the character? Apply these principles to all actions when appropriate. A head turn, a jump, no matter how subtle or broad the movement is, most objects will subscribe to these guidelines.

TIP

For these test shots, I built a simple registration system to hold a metal ruler marked with my increments. First, outside of the camera frame, I put paper tape down to protect the set, then I hot glued Popsicle sticks onto the tape which created brackets that registered the ruler perfectly. For every frame, I would slide the ruler into place, line up the puppet for the next shot, slide the ruler out and take the frame...repeat until finished.

 

STYLE

Is your style of animation realistic? Does it need to fit in with live action? Or is it more zippy or cartoony, such as in a Warner Bros cartoon? Style is usually dictated by the director but often times by the budget. If you need to get a lot of animation out every day, the style may be quick, zippy moves with lots of holds. Animation will mostly be shot on Twos with fewer Eases. If the style calls for more subtle movement, with most frames shot on Ones, you are going to need more time to animate your shots. Whichever style you choose, be sure to keep it consistent. It is possible to mix styles in the same project, just make sure each character's style is consistent. No matter which style you choose, the fundamentals of animation should still apply.

 

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