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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.
Let's look at how internal versus external forces bring a character to life. Here I have a simple situation where I have a character on a hoverboard, or basically a platform that moves left and right. In fact, I've already animated this. So what I have here is just a simple animation that goes back and forth. 24 frames to the right, 24 frame to the left for a total of 48 frames. Now, because he is on this platform and he is in motion, he will be subjected to some force.
So let's go ahead and take care of the external forces first and then we'll worry about the internal forces. Now, as the character moves from right to left, he is going to want to drag back. It's very much like the pendulum that we saw. He is going to want to stay in place. So his body is going to behave almost like an upside-down pendulum. So let's go ahead and animate that motion first. I'm going to go ahead and turn off his legs, so that way we can concentrate a little bit more on his body.
So, I'm going to go ahead and grab his body and we're going to start animating this. So the first thing I want to do is just go ahead and keep him in place at frame 0 and then as he moves to the right, he is going to basically rotate back and his body is going to move back and down, just a little bit. Now again, this is just stimulating that pendulum motion. So he moves back and down, then he is going to straighten up by the time he hits the last frame of this and he is going to again be pushed the other direction.
So again, I am going to rotate him forward and drop him down and forward just a bit and then I'm going to go ahead and cycle this at the very end. So now I have this basic motion. So you can see how it's fairly realistic. In fact, I've gone ahead and just added in the legs and let's just go ahead and see how this looks. So now he looks kind of like a pendulum, very simple.
But there are some additional joints of this body that need animating. For example, his arms, if they are not under muscular control, they are again going to behave much like a pendulum. So as he moves forward, his arms are going to want to stay in place and so again we have that pendulum action and his hands are going to kind of rotate back and then they are going to settle in again and again they are going to rotate forward.
So now we have an action kind of like this. Again, we're getting this secondary action of the character. In fact, let me go ahead and show you what this looks like. So now we've got the character animating back and forth. Now, with this animation it looks very realistic but the character does not look the least bit alive. He looks like a rag doll being pushed around. That's because this is all external forces. There is nothing from inside the character making him move.
So let's go ahead and fix that. So as he comes forward, let's go ahead and make him a little cautious about where he is going. First thing I'm going to do is I'm going to turn off those legs again, because I don't want them to get in the way here and now I'm going to lean him forward, because he is actually being pushed back, but he is going to resist this. So somewhere around frame 12, I'm going take his body, I'm going to bend the knees a little bit by just bringing the body down and then rotate him forward, because he is really not wanting to go in that direction and then I'm going to take the hands and the arms and move them forward as well, almost like he is kind of putting his hands out to stop himself.
So I am going to put these hands out and put this arm out as well. So again, we are moving him against the force that he is being subjected to. So what I want to do is get a pose that is somewhat like this. So once I get this pose, you can see now he has a very strong sense of motion and as we animate this, you can see now just by adding in that one little pose, all of a sudden he really comes to life.
So we had a character who has being pushed around like a rag doll and then just by putting in some internal forces, he is automatically sprung to life and the whole animation together looks very realistic. So by creating a balance between the external and internal forces acting upon your character, you can really bring your character to life and create some very realistic animation.
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