2D Animation Principles
Illustration by John Hersey

2D Animation Principles

with Dermot O' Connor

Video: Leading action

Another principle to keep in mind when you're animating Then the elbow catches up and then the wrist.
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  1. 1m 42s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 18m 9s
    1. Understanding appeal and design
      4m 3s
    2. Comparing body types
      6m 27s
    3. Understanding silhouette
      1m 52s
    4. Creating gesture drawings
      2m 50s
    5. Tying down the drawing
      2m 57s
  3. 18m 10s
    1. Comparing storyboard styles
      5m 8s
    2. Understanding shot composition
      4m 36s
    3. Demonstrating lighting
      4m 8s
    4. Understanding the 180-degree line
      4m 18s
  4. 13m 8s
    1. Understanding X-sheets (dope sheets)
      3m 25s
    2. Comparing frame rates
      4m 39s
    3. Creating sweatbox notes and preparation
      5m 4s
  5. 18m 42s
    1. Understanding arcs
      7m 38s
    2. Squash, stretch, and volume
      4m 59s
    3. Comparing timing and spacing
      6m 5s
  6. 10m 4s
    1. Using anticipation, overshoot, and settle
      4m 2s
    2. Breaking and loosening joints
      2m 43s
    3. Leading action
      3m 19s
  7. 19m 51s
    1. Understanding primary and secondary action
      4m 14s
    2. Using overlap and follow-through
      6m 0s
    3. Applying lines of action, reversals, and S-curves
      4m 34s
    4. Moving holds and idles
      5m 3s
  8. 15m 52s
    1. Understanding walk and run cycles
      5m 24s
    2. Creating eccentric walks
      6m 50s
    3. Animal locomotion
      3m 38s
  9. 14m 31s
    1. Finding dialogue accents
      2m 42s
    2. Creating dialogue through body movement
      2m 46s
    3. Creating stock mouth shapes
      5m 4s
    4. Using complementary shapes
      3m 59s
  10. 13m 8s
    1. Creating thumbnails
      4m 31s
    2. Comparing straight-ahead and pose-to-pose animation
      4m 37s
    3. Adding breakdowns for looseness
      4m 0s
  11. 2m 9s
    1. Next steps
      2m 9s

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Watch the Online Video Course 2D Animation Principles
2h 25m Beginner Apr 11, 2014

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Bring a cast of characters to life. By following the basics principles of animation, you can build characters that interact naturally with their environments, convey realistic emotion, and talk and walk convincingly. In this course, Dermot O' Connor shows how to design a solid character and stage and storyboard your animation before you begin. He'll examine principles like anticipation and squash and stretch, which provide characters with a sense of weight and flexibility, and show you how to animate walk cycles and dialogue. Finally, learn how to thumbnail scenes from start to finish, so you can sketch out the action before you commit to fully rendering it.

These lessons are designed with Flash in mind, but work just as well with any other 2D animation program.

Topics include:
  • Creating gesture drawings
  • Comparing storyboard styles
  • Squash, stretch, and volume
  • Comparing timing and spacing
  • Using anticipation, overshoot, settle, overlap, and follow-through
  • Creating eccentric walks
  • Building stock mouth shapes for dialogue
  • Creating thumbnails
3D + Animation
Flash Professional
Dermot O' Connor

Leading action

Another principle to keep in mind when you're animating a scene is the idea of the leading action. The fact that the entire body doesn't just go moving in a given direction, usually one part of the body will lead, and the rest will follow, and that could be any part of the body, either the head can lead, the chest, the feet, and they can be quite far-fetched and cartoony, this is one of the strengths of animation; you can really push this. So, what I've done here is I've made one scene. Again, a very simple action. Just a figure standing in place, a very basic rig, and we're going to animate him reaching up.

But the figure on the left will lead with his wrist. The figure to the middle will lead with his elbow, and the figure on the right will lead with his shoulder. And let's see how different these look. So, I'm going to show them just by themselves, at first. And there you can see the wrist leading, it's the first part of the body to really start moving. And it pulls, it's like it's on a string, and it pulls the rest of the body along. Now, I'm not worrying about the fine points of animation on the elbow here. The whole point about this is show you how the physics of this is going to operate on the character and the performance.

Let's look at the middle figure now, and this guy is going to lead with the elbow, and this is a far more natural and believable action. You'll see his torso shifting back to compensate, and then the elbow leads before the wrist catches up. Obviously, he can't pick up whatever he's reaching for with his elbow, so at some point the wrist has to catch up. And in the final example we will lead with the difficulty with the shoulder to prove that you can actually lead with the shoulder first. Then the elbow catches up and then the wrist.

So, you can stack these leading actions, one can lead into the other, can lead into the other. So, it isn't a case where you have to pick one part of the body to lead. And a good example would be, walking across the room with your hand outstretched for the door handle. Your wrist is leading the entire walk until you hit the door handle. Now, let's look at all of these three. Same basic action but different paths of leading to that final point. Now, that's a pretty banal scene to be given, so let's do something a little more interesting. And in this case, I built some walk cycles and let's look at this chap and he's walking with his chest leading, so, rather than do a basic walk cycle he's kind of strutting a little bit.

The advantage of this also is it has a lot more personality than a basic walk. Let's see what happens if we lead with the groin. With his this one, too, I thought, let's put his hands in his pockets; it seems to make more sense. Maybe imagine him with a cigarette in his mouth, and he's probably up to no good And this is a real go-getter, he's a, or he's angry, his very purposeful stride. So, as you can see him, and this is leading with, feels like he's leading with his chin on this one. And let's look at them all together, I've also positioned them, so you can actually see them walk in tandem, so you can prepare them.

So, as you can see, the choice of leading action and how you lead with a given part of the body, whether you stay in this, as we have done here. For example, we're leading with one body part throughout the entire cycle, or whether you switch parts of the body but lead, this is going to have a phenomenal effect on how your scenes look and how they play. So, do think about it and think about what's the most important part of the scene and how you're going to get where you're going.

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