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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 and follow-through is another very important animation principle. Now, what this means is that not everything moves at once. In other words, things take a while to get moving, which is slow in and slow out, but also when you have systems of objects, in other words a character with many joints, that not all of those joints will move at the same time. You may get part of your character moving before another part of your character.
Now, this is really just based on Newton's laws of motions again, which is objects at rest tend to stay at rest and when they tend to stay at rest it creates what's called drag which means things will drag behind other objects. And on the opposite side, objects that are moving will tend to stay moving so they won't follow through. So let's see how this works. Here I have a simple ball on a string and I'm going to create a force at the top of the string that's pulling it to the right and then on the opposite side I'm going to create a force in the other direction pulling it back to the left.
So let's go ahead and animate this. And as you can see when I'm pulling the string at the top it really doesn't look like it's a ball on a string. It looks more like a solid mass and that's because I'm not animating my drag and my follow-through on that ball. Now, when I pull on this ball here with this force, this part of the system is going to want to move first. This heavy weight of the ball is going to want to stay in place.
So this is going to drag behind. So, as this force pulls the string forward, the ball itself is going to hang back. So, what I could do is I can go to about halfway through this cycle which is here is about frame 10. I've cycled it 20 frames forward, 20 frames back and then I'm just going to go ahead and rotate this ball back to simulate drag. So, now when this ball moves completely forward, you can see how it's wanting to stay in place, and I'm already getting a sense of weight and a sense of drag.
Now, on the opposite side, we can basically move it in the other direction to get a sense of follow-through. So now what I have is I have something like this. So, now the ball is basically dragging and then following through. You can see how this gives a much better sense of natural motion and a better sense of weight. Now, we can take this one more step further where we have systems of joints. Now, these are very similar to the joints on an arm. We have two balls on two strings.
So, if we animate this, you can see how the first ball looks like it's on a pivot because it's dragging and following through. But the second one isn't and so it again looks stiff or we can just change this again by creating more drag and follow through. Now, remember the object wants to stay at rest. So, when we take this second ball and this one goes forward, this is obviously wanting to stay down and wants to stay here. So, all we have to do is just animate this down.
Now, as this moves forward it's wanting to stay in place and then it's going to again drag in the other direction here. Again, on the opposite side it's going to want to continue its motion, an object in motion wants to stay in motion and so on. So, we basically get something that looks like this. And again, I'm just animating drag and follow through for the second object. Now, if we have a system like this it's actually very similar to a common character animation problem and that is the joints in an arm.
The joints in an arm if they're not under muscular control will actually do the exact same drag and follow through that we just animated. So let's take a look at this. As you can see this is giving a very natural motion to the arm and it's just the exact same problem that we had before, except there is one little glitch in this animation. Let me go ahead and scrub forward and see where it is. Now, here it looks great but now when it starts moving in the opposite direction, you can see right here the elbow is moving way too far back.
The arm just simply doesn't bend like this. So we do have to take it to account the mechanical limits of the arm and so I've animated this in this one and you can see how now we have a much more natural motion. So as it moves back I can just keep it lock straight and that's more of a natural motion for that arm. And simply by doing this we have a very natural motion and again, this is all just based on the laws of physics. A body at rest wants to stay at rest, which creates drag, and a body in motion wants to stay in motion, which creates follow-through.
So as you animate your characters, remember to pay attention to drag and follow-through in the joints of your characters.
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