Friday, March 30, 2007


People who work in animation know that there has to be consistency between designs and motion. If your character looks like Snow White, it has to move in a more realistic fashion than if your character looks like Dora the Explorer. If Snow White moves like Dora or if Dora moves like Snow White, the results are ludicrous.

I think that the quality of animation since the coming of cgi is getting more subtle. Having done both drawn and computer animation myself, I'm aware of the process of layering motion. In stop motion, you've got to conceptualize everything about your animation before you start as you're going straight ahead. In drawn animation, you have the ability to alter your timing after the fact, but it still takes effort to change details like hands or faces. With cgi, each moving item has it's own timeline and graph, so it's relatively easy to add motion on top of motion or change the timing of one aspect of a character while leaving the rest of the motion unchanged. What we see on screen, at least in features, is motion that's been refined to a high degree.

However, just as there has to be consistency between design and motion, there has to be consistency between acting and character. While the acting has become more complex, the characters have not. What we get in a lot of cgi acting is unjustified subtlety. The acting is too dense for what the character needs to communicate.

The solution is either to simplify the acting or to add complexity to the characters. Unfortunately, animation has a history of refining form while ignoring content, so I expect that the gap between acting and characters will continue to increase.


Benjamin said...

I think I know what you mean, but could you give any more specific examples?

Bobby Pontillas said...

wow thats..dead on and completely insightful.

Thanks for the post!

Nancy said...

HI Mark,

I realize that they can offest animation on secondary action, but there is no way that working with a graph can capture the immediacy of working directly on paper. The graph editor is, in the words of one of my students, 'like drawing an animal by typing it its DNA.'
I would also have to see some proofs that CGI is any more 'subtle' than drawn animation. True, it does long holds better, but you have more of a chance to look at a non-breathing, machine-made creature. The liveliness of the drawn line, and the slight differences between the characters when drawn by different animators, gives an organic and living quality to drawn cartoon animation. I suspect that it is this organic, handmade look that also makes me prefer stop motion animation to even the best CGI. One should never forget that one is watching art, not machine made products.
I'm doing a computer generated film now (not in maya) and am deliberately changing scale on characters and leaving them very rough looking to keep a living, handmade feel to the thing.
So far all that CGI categorically does better than hand drawn is animate, once the figures are built and rigged. But more does not mean 'better'. (of course this is me talking and does not represent the opinions of the management)

Nancy said...

Few goofs there...I think the only thing CGI does better than hand drawn is animate SLOW MOVING THINGS. But so much CGI is hyperactive and badly overacted, the advantage is lost.