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Animation Step 6: Execute the Animation Part 2

June 7, 2007

This post will look at the nuts and bolts of how 2D animation has been defined by the masters in order to give some orderly coherence to the process, and to train others in how to think about animation.

2D animators are forced to deal with a complete pose in a single frame.  On one hand this is a limitation, but on the other hand it forces a methodology. Every animated drawing has a category.

Keys
Extremes
Breakdowns
Passing Poses
Inbetweens

The general method of work is to start from the top and move down.

Keys
Keys provide the storytelling framework. They are the foundation for the rest of the animation.   If you pulled all the keys out of a stack of drawings you would know exactly what what happening and the emotional state of the character.  Keys should be filled with personality, emotion, drama and appeal.

The exercise of thumbnailing is primarily focused on this part of the animation.  As I related in a previous post, some animators enlarge their chosen thumbnails on a photocopier and tape them onto their animation paper as a base to begin their animation.  Most 2D animators I know thumbnail extensively, and they do not dare begin to animate until they have developed good poses.  It all goes downhill from here.  If your keys are not working for you, the animation process isn’t going to yield an improvement.

Our gesture drawing classes are designed specifically to exercise our ability to create good keys.

Extremes
An extreme is a special class of key, and is a subset.  Extremes were a concept developed to battle the stiffness of animation, because in our posing, even when we push the pose in isolation of other poses, it still tends to be stiff.  Some chap came up with the idea of taking all his keys, then pushing them even further to create an extreme version of his key.  Then he would number them and chart them into the scene.  The extremes did not replace the keys, the usually came after the key by anywhere from 3 to 8 frames.

The result is that the animation felt more fluid, and more natural with the extremes.  Extremes are notorious for being poses that people laugh at when they see them as stills because they are often awkward, off balance and defy gravity. But in motion they provide a sense of life to the animation.

Keys and extremes are where most of your effort should focus because they tell the story, they do the heavy lifting, they define the corners and weight bearing trusses.  Everything else beyond this is merely good carpenter work.

Up Next: Breakdowns, Passing Poses & Inbetweens

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