Animation Mistakes

  • The animation is too “clean”

Working in a realistic style (or, ideally, a slightly exaggerated “hyper-reality” in order to make your animation more exciting, dynamic, and memorable) means that you will need to have a higher level of detail and complexity in the movements.

This style of animation is an art in and of itself, and requires a slightly different mindset as you approach the work. You will still be using all of the principles of animation that you are used to, but in a more integrated and, often, a more “messy” way.

Adding some dirt to specific curves in just the right way, overlapping the actions while making sure they affect (and are affected by) each other, and being willing to have a slightly less perfect pose or arc at carefully chosen moments can make a huge difference in making your creature work feel real.

Keep in mind that this “messiness” needs to be very subtle. Readable silhouettes are just as important (if not more so) than ever and your arcs still need to feel organic, etc. Subtlety is key with creature work. In the Creature Animation classes, we work with the students to strive for “simplified complexity,” which I know sounds like words that shouldn’t go together, but mastering this concept is a huge part of bringing to life a realistic creature

2.Action, pause, action, pause, action

Creature rigs tend to be more complicated and detailed than the average animation rig. Whether it’s a cat or an ogre or a giant robot covered in moving parts or a dragon with complex wing controls, you can bet your bottom dollar that at first glance, the rig will probably look intimidating.

There’s a reason for this, and it’s because we need to achieve that high level of “simplified complexity” mentioned above, and you just can’t do that with limited controls.

Unfortunately, that means that we often see animation on demo reels that have some interesting animal behavior or creature ideas, but those movements tend to be too broken up.

Instead of a gorilla running into frame and picking up a ball and throwing it, we see a gorilla run into frame and come to a stop. Then pick up the ball and stop. Then lift the ball and stop. Then he throws the ball.

Worse, often even those actions themselves can be full of discrete body movements that feel disconnected. Arms moving that aren’t driven by the shoulders, shoulders that don’t react to arms pounding onto the ground, big chest movements that have no effect on the body.

3. speed doesn’t match the size.

Few things can kill a shot quicker than having something that is meant to be large zipping around the screen too fast. Often, animators are more used to animating humans, and we get into a routine of timings that we are used to. When you’re thrown into a situation where it’s time to animate a gorilla or a huge dragon, it can be difficult to wrap our brains around the timing and spacing that this character will need to be using in its movements.

This stands out especially in moments where a character is changing direction, starting an action, or coming to a stop. Often, I will see a large creature doing some cool action and then he comes to a stop that is far too abrupt to accommodate for his weight or to give time for his momentum to naturally dissipate. This kills the feeling of weight and ruins the illusion of size.

Remember – there is no single “correct timing that will work for all characters.” They are all unique. They have different sizes, emotions, shapes, and actions – all of which will radically affect the speed that they will move.(


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