2D Animation Principles
Illustration by John Hersey

2D Animation Principles

with Dermot O' Connor

Video: Understanding primary and secondary action

Now it's time to talk about primary and secondary action. Bounce, bounce, bounce, flop.
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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

Understanding primary and secondary action

Now it's time to talk about primary and secondary action. Primary action is the main movement in a scene. And it's often driven by the character, by a person or an actor. In this case, it's going to be this little metal ball that I've colored white on one side, black on the other. And I just attached a little cloth knot to the top of it. So the primary action in this case would be the ball falling, hitting the ground, and bouncing a couple of times. And the secondary action will be the cloth just following along for the ride.

So let's see what happens. I'm going to play it first. Bounce, bounce, bounce, flop. So about one, two, three bounces. And then the, the cloth, like I said, just follows along. And let's go through this a little more slowly. So, the thing to remember is that the cloth or whatever object is dragging behind really doesn't have a say in the matter. It's obeying the primary mover, which in this case is the ball. And from frame to frame, the cloth remembers where it was on the previous frame.

And I just place the cursor here, and move, and you'll see it's constantly pointing to where it once was. Unless, you know, there's a wind, or a hurricane blowing, that's somehow fluttering the cloth in a different direction. The faster the ball moves, the more straightened the cloth is and then the impact. And at this point the ball bounces, and we have a very nice opposing action, where the ball bounces up while the cloth moves down. And this kind of thing, opposing action, is a very nice effect to have. Because in nature, not all things move in the same direction at the same time.

We even see it on this frame, from here to here the ball is moving up, but the end of the cloth is moving down. Before finally, it all catches up for the final couple of bounces. And at this point, bam, the ball hits the ground. Now it stops. The cloth, however, keeps moving. And the cloth follows through. This is follow through when we hit the ground, and then the cloth comes to an end. It's pretty rough as you can see I sketched this on paper and scanned it in, but it's more than enough to give you a feel for a very nice example of primary and secondary action. So now let's take a look at what this looks like on a character.

And, short of cloth and fabrics, which you've already covered, hair would be another good example of secondary action, one that you'll encounter a lot. So this is the familiar scene we've already seen earlier, where the big man goes into a little squish, over shoots and settles. And to make this really obvious and extra difficult to animate, I decided to make the hair very soft and very prone to secondary action. So as we move down, the point to watch actually is right here.

As we move down, that point catches the air. And it wants to go in the other direction or not move at all. Until finally it has no choice and it catches up after about, say, six or seven frames, the hair begins to fall. And then gravity takes over. And even as the head moves up, now the end of the hair is trying to move down. Until it catches up again at the top. Now we have the head at the top of the action right here, and when the head begins to move down the hair still wants to move up.

So the hair has its own momentum, or at the very least, the tip of the hair has its own momentum independent of the head. And that gives us the nice floppy action. And another thing to watch out for is this line here is a nice c shape. You can see it highlit there, and as we move through the scene, it converts into a little s curve. And then a reversal happens here where we see a c curve. And yet another reversal to another s curve before it settles back into a c. So when you do hair and soft objects like this it's a very good idea to favor s curves and c curves and to have them move from one into another.

That'll give the flexibility that you see here and it'll stop the hair and clothing and other soft objects from looking stiff and wooden. So that's it, that's your primary and secondary action.

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