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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.
When you are getting a character ready to animate, it may be necessary to break the character up into parts or segments. Here I have a bear character and it's actually built up of a lot of different segments. In fact, if you take a look at all the layers of this character, you can see that I have a separate layer for the snout or the mouth, the pupils of the eye and so on. So basically almost every different part of this character is a separate layer within Photoshop. To make this more clear, let me show you an exploded version of the character and you can see when all the different parts are spread out, how the character is actually put together.
So, for example, we have a separate layer for the snout of the character or the mouth and also notice how the arms are actually made into several different segments. Now this is actually a very important thing to pay attention to is to how these individual joints overlap. Let's go ahead and take a closer look at these and just see how these two joints kind of fit together. Notice how we have almost a semi- circular outline on both of these. Let's take a look at this on our assembled character.
In fact, I am going to go ahead and just turn off most of this character here and we are just going to go ahead and focus on the arm. So, let me go ahead and zoom in so we can see this very clearly. If I go ahead and change my layer options here you can see this is the point where the two overlap and if I turn on to the circle here you can see that it's almost exactly a perfect circle. Now this is great because when the joints rotate, they are going to rotate along that circle. I am going to go ahead and set this back here. Let's just go ahead and take this forearm and go ahead and rotate it.
Now if we make the center of that rotation the center of the circle, it makes for a very smooth rotation. If this wasn't a circle, you might get gaps or protrusions and that will cause you to create additional little pieces to patch it altogether. So, trying to keep it all circular makes it much easier animate and much more efficient. Let's go ahead and take a look at another character here and this is actually a much more realistic character but the principles still apply. In fact let's go ahead and take a look at her arm and you can see that her joints are circular outlines as well but what I really want to show you is how the shoulder works.
This is another very important joint. So I am going to go ahead and turn off this upper arm, so you can see what that shoulder looks like. You can see how it's almost in itself a semi-circle and when I turn on that upper arm, it all kind of matches together. If I go ahead and select this arm and rotate it again, I want to take the center of this rotation and place it around the center of that circle and you can see how when I rotate this, the arm pretty much works the way it should and that's because the underlying geometry pretty much matches how this is going to rotate.
Now, this also works for other body parts as well. Let's go ahead and take a look at this character, which is very simple. The outline between the shirt and the hips actually follows this same rule of keeping things circular. In fact let's go ahead and turn off that upper part of the body and we can just take this lower part here and if we rotate this and again, placing the center of rotation right around the center of this underlying circle here, you can see how rotating this keeps everything together.
So as you can see if you try and keep the underlying geometry based upon circles, all of these rotational joints will stick together. So keep that in mind as you break your characters apart into segments.
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