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All animators must learn to walk before they can run. In 2D Character Animation, industry expert George Maestri teaches the basic principles every animator must know to build a foundation for more complex work. These principles are relevant regardless of software used or animation style. George explains how good animation depends on a firm knowledge of the laws of motion, which inform the principles of animation. He teaches the basics of creating characters, squash and stretch, pose-to-pose animation, walking and running, track reading, and dialogue animation. He also shows how to use After Effects and Flash to apply the tools learned in the course. Exercise files accompany this course.
Overlap, follow-through and drag play a big part in almost every type of character animation you are going to do. Even something as simple as moving a character's arm will have a lot of overlap, follow-through and drag. Let me show you what I mean. Here I have a simple character and I have animated her arm raising up and down over the course of about 20 frames. Now as you can see, the arm is moving, but all I have done is I have rotated the arm at the shoulder. I really haven't included the other joints of the arm.
And when I do this, it looks very mechanical. It doesn't look natural at all. Let me play it one more time. You can see how the arm looks really stiff. In order to give this more fluidity, we need to start animating the joints of the arm and incorporating some overlap, follow-through and drag. So, let's go ahead and focus on her forearm. Now as it raises up, this arm is actually going to be fairly stiff because remember the elbow does not bend back too far at all.
So, if I bend the elbow back like this, it would be very unnatural. So, what I am going to do is I am going to keep the arm stiff until she gets up to the top of her shoulder rotation, which is at frame 10. Now as she lowers the arm, this forearm is going to want to stay in place. So, it is going to drag behind. So, I am going to keep that dragging about a few frames, so I am going to go here to about frame 13, and so now you can see the arm breaks because we are having some drag here and we can even drag it behind even a little bit further and then as she relaxes her arm, this will actually drag behind.
So, this isn't going to settle until a few frames after her shoulder stops. So, her shoulder stops at frame 20. I am going to go two frames forward to that and then just settle in her forearm. So, now I'd get something like this and this is actually a much more fluid motion. But this is only one of two joints in the arm. We've got the elbow but we are still neglecting the wrist. So, let's go ahead and animate the wrist as well.
So, all I need to do is as her arm comes up, we are going to actually create drag, because this wrist actually will bend down, and we can actually drag this behind. So, I am actually going to drop her wrist down. So, now as she moves up, you can see already we are getting a much better motion. So, as it bends up, we can do this and then as it comes down, again it's going to drag behind. So, it's actually going to kind of flip up like that.
So, now we have this motion and we can even accentuate that a little bit more. Now, notice how we are getting a nice kind of an arc just in this arm itself. If you actually drew the arm as an arc you are almost getting it like a blade of grass blowing in the wind or something like that and again this just shows how arcs play a role in animation and this is also what's called a line of action and the line of action plays a big part as well. So now, as this wrist settles in, again we want to settle it in just a little bit later than when the arm settles in.
And I am actually going to push that back to about frame 23 or 24 and now [00:03:32.4 4] we have something that looks a little bit like this. Now you can see that gives a much better sense of motion. But we still have to consider the character's weight and balance, because when the arm is straight out like this, we have a very heavy weight out here trying to pull the character to her right. So, in order to compensate for that, she kind of needs to lean to her left in order to balance out.
So, when you put the system out of balance, the whole system needs to readjust to stay in balance. So, I am actually going to take her torso or her shirt and I am going to animate that to give her a better sense of balance. So, as she comes up and has her maximum extension at frame 10, I am actually going to rotate her a little bit to the side here and that's just to give her a sense of balance. So, now I am getting her entire body into the animation and it's looking a lot more natural.
And again as she comes back down, I am going to settle her body back into a more normal position. Now, as the body comes up like this, we also have another pendulum here. We have the other arm and the other arm if it's relaxed is actually going to act like a pendulum. So, let me go ahead and animate that as well. So, we are going to take the left arm and I am going to animate a little bit of rotation here as well. So, as it comes down, this is actually going to rotate out, just again, just to stay fairly vertical.
So, now we have got, she is going out and then coming back again. So, now the animation is complete. We have not only added follow-through and drag to create realistic arm motion. We have also shifted her weight a bit to create a realistic sense of balance. So, let me play this one more time. So, as you animate your characters, pay attention to drag, follow-through. Try and get a wave action in your arms and also pay attention to your character's balance.
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