Animation for beginners.

I get a lot of good questions from people regarding animation. Some want to be animators and don’t know where to start, some ask whether to be a good animator one needs to know how to draw well. What software should they use? What hardware should they use?

Any of these questions yours? Well, I'll try to elaborate more on animation.

At this day and age, it is easier to get into this animation industry than ever before. "How?" you ask, easy!! Software developers have made available plenty of animation, 2D and 3D modeling software. Some of these cheap and even free, that most of the computers out there can handle. Despite all this software though, the art of animating is not easy to learn and pretty much harder for a beginner to master. IT TAKES TIME AND HOURS OF PRACTICE..NO SHORTCUT.

As a beginner all you need to do is start small and simple and slowly build your skill and unique style. You don’t even need to be a really good drawing artist to be good at animation. THE SOFTWARE IS BUT A TOOL, THE ANIMATOR'S SKILLS ARE WHAT MATTER.

Where can I Learn these skills?

Well, I've been thinking about creating an animation beginner course/mentor ship program. Would you be interested? If so please write to me on the chat popup or the contact page and I'll get back to you. It's important to leave a way for me to reach you, IE phone or email contact.

In the mean time, YouTube and google are an animator’s best friend. Learning basic character animation principles and types of animation, basic vocabulary and the 12 principles of animation.

I mentioned the 12 principles of animation. The main purpose of these principles is to produce an illusion of characters adhering to the basic laws of physics but also deal with more abstract issues, such as character appeal and emotional timing. Let me take you through them in a little more elaborate way.

  • Timing/rhythm/beats.

This is the number of drawings or frames for a given action, that translates to the speed of the action on film. It is critical for establishing a character’s mood, emotion and reaction.

Rhythm is how actions in a shot are spaced out over the length of the scene. Good animation has an inconsistent rhythm that makes it less predictable, unlike with music.

  • Spacing.

This is manipulating the speed and amount of changes between the frames. This gives animation the ability to convey the illusion of life.

How well this is done can be the difference between a good gag and a flat gag.

  • Squash and Stretch.

This is the most important principle. Why? It gives the sense of weight and flexibility to drawn objects. It can be applied to simple objects like a bouncing ball and to more complex constructions like the musculature of a human face.

  • Arc.

Most natural actions tend to follow an arched trajectory, and animation should adhere to this principle. Objects that move out of their natural arc appear erratic rather than fluid.

  • Anticipation.

This is used to prepare the audience for an action and also making the action more realistic. A dancer jumping off the floor has to bend their knees first, right? The technique is applicable to less physical actions like a character anticipating someone’s arrival and looks off-screen.

  • Follow through and Drag.

This is a general heading of two closely related techniques and helps render movement more realistically and give the impression that characters follow the law of physics.

Follow through basically means that loosely tied part of a body should continue moving even after the character has stopped and they continue moving beyond the point where the character stopped only to be pulled back. Like the movement of hands when a character is walking.

  • Overlapping Action.

Overlapping Action is the tendency for parts of a body to move at different rates.

  • Secondary Action.

Adding secondary action to the main action gives a scene more life and helps support the main action. It emphasizes rather than take attention away from the main action.

  • Exaggeration.

This effect is useful in animation. The level of exaggeration depends on whether one seeks realism or a particular style.

  • Consistency.

Basically this means maintaining a character’s characteristics in all profiles. This you will only achieve by drawing more to create better and more convincing characters.

  • Staging.

This is used to direct the audience’s attention, and make clear what is important in a scene whether a character, an action, mood or expression. This is obtained by angle positions of the camera, use of light and shadow or placing the character in the frame.

  • Straight ahead action and Pose to Pose.

these are different approaches to the actual drawing process. Straight Ahead means drawing a scene frame by frame from start to end. It creates a more fluid dynamic illusion movement and is better for producing realistic action sequences. It is hard to maintain proportions, and creating exact, convincing poses along the way.

Pose to Pose works better for dramatic/emotional scenes where the composition and relation to surroundings are important. Use of computers facilitates this and can fill in missing sequences in between poses automatically.

  • Ease in and Ease Out.

This goes for characters moving between two extreme poses. Movement of a human body and other objects need time to accelerate and slow down effectively. This makes animation look more realistic.

  • Solid Drawing.

Basically means taking into account forms in 3 dimensional space, or giving them weight and volume. You as an animator need to understand the basics of 3 dimensional shapes, weight, balance and shadow.

I know it sounds so complex but if you are really serious about animation, you will notice all these principles since they are all integrated.

What's the best software to use?

"Best" is relative... Consider this: - Three skilled artists are given a draw an apple. on printing paper.One is handed an AIM ballpoint pen, another a BIC ballpoint pen and the other A HB Pencil. Do you think the drawing pen or pencil has that much significance in executing the task?

Similarly, Software A,B C, D all are meant to deliver a task, an animation...It's the ANIMATOR's skill that determines the quality of animation produced.

That said, You have a variety of animation software out there as I had earlier pointed out. Since you are new at this, I would recommend Moho or Toon Boom Harmony.

Toon Boom Harmony is a commonly used software. You can say it’s the industry standard, whatever that means to you. Most professional studios and animators use it. It is awesome for lip syncing, rigging and it uses cameras to create that sense of depth that you might be looking for. However there are others like opentoonz, TVPaint,both for purist, frame-by-frame animators, Adobe Animate CC (formerly Flash) and CellAction. You can learn it quickly and start playing around with its functions. Whether you are using it for making animation for YouTube or 2D frame-by-frame animation for commercial use, make this your friend. Personally, I found Blender, an open source 3D software,fascinating. They have recently improved their 2D drawing tools, the Grease Pencil and allows an animator to make 2D animation in a real 3D space...FASCINATING!!

What hardware should I get?

Do not crack your brain wondering how and where this software is going to run. When using this, you do not need to have a fire breathing monster machine. Even a simple MODERN computer will hack this.

Brands here are a personal preference, but you should at least have a decent graphics card, 8gb of ram, fast HDD, say 7500 or 10k RPM..SSD if you can.

A graphic tablet is a must have. Why? This will give you a good and easy sketching platform. Imagine doing sketches using a computer mouse. That’s tedious and it will frustrate you even the more if you do not have a steady hand. Also, extensive use of a mouse can lead to contracting the carpal tunnel syndrome - a numbness and tingling in the hand and arm caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist. It gets so painful that you can’t even lift a glass of water with the affected hand. Get yourself a drawing tablet.

It really doesn't take much to get started. So don't blame the software or hardware for preventing you from animating well.

With these basics, you my friend are good to go. Explore and expand your limits. Remember it needs time and patience.

Images extracted from the Illusion of Life by

All principles visualised here:

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