Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Spontaneous Life : Timing tip

Life is very much about spontaneity, unpredictability, and surprises. The higher the life form is the more unpredictable and spontaneous it will become. Can you predict about a tree? Yes, you can predict a lot about its position (it cannot run away and surprise you in any way!), natural behavior (its ability to produce fruits, flowers, smell, etc.), and overall look (its color, size, etc.). You can easily say that the tree will continue to stay at its place for years and years and not much will change for it. It’s a lower life form having a lower degree of freedom and thus, quite predictable. What about a monkey! Can you predict much about it? Well, not to that extent. You can just generally predict about its position, natural behavior (reproduction, food habits, etc.), and overall look but specific details are unpredictable. They are all quite variable with time, mood, emotions, etc. A monkey is a higher life form having a higher degree of freedom and thus, quite spontaneous and unpredictable. We humans are still higher in the ladder and even more unpredictable than those monkeys!

In short….. Spontaneity and unpredictability are the properties of life. And where there is life, these properties must be present in one way or another.

As an animator, your job is to create an illusion of life, so you’ll have to spend most of your time creating that ultimate flavor of life by bringing spontaneity and unpredictability in your work (do not take unpredictability as something negative. It’s sometimes good for your animation and adds life to it.). So you’ll spend a lot of your time creating texture and contrast in your timing (holds, offsets/delays), poses (silhouettes, line of action, flow lines), spacing, net displacement (vertical and horizontal), and character behavior/emotions, etc. All this will help you to bring that flavor of life and make your animation stand out. Otherwise, everything will tend to look mechanical and robotic, and there will be no spontaneity of life.

For example, consider this simple hopping ball-character (with a tail doing secondary). If you scrub through the animation you’ll soon come to see that I’ve played quite a bit with its timing, spacing, and its displacements. Get a metronome (you may use THIS one!)and play it at 92 BPM and watch this animation. What do you see? Yes, the hops are timed at around 92 BPM but the poses are not hitting on even timing. This adds more contrast so that the motion doesn’t look rehearsed or mechanical. I may also break some rules at this stage and just start playing with my shot. This is very important and helps you add life and believability to your animation, and everything appears to be more organic rather than being stiff and mechanical.

Contrast in timing is very important to natural-looking motion. Even jazz composers break up the rhythms they have created to make their music more interesting (I was a percussionist/drummer in my junior high and high school orchestra so I know this very well!). You need to do the same to your animation and adjust the timing of the motion to have greater impact. The timing of your poses should have a natural feel, a rhythm, texture, and flow, much like great music. The beats and the rests in the music between the verse and the chorus to hold interest, and so should your animation.
Look at the above image. The second hop is a lot quicker than the first one. Notice, the last hop is going higher than the rest. This makes it look more interesting and adds life.

So, PLAY with your timing and move your frames around until the timing feels natural. This goes for any kind of animation (CG, 2d, or stop-motion). Nail your poses and then finesse the timing. The finesse step is the most difficult part of animation and also the most important!

Hope this helps some of you. Best………….



Swarazo said...

I'm very much convinced with your idea .Taking points of topic but If I'm not wrong I feel that there must be more anticipation on third bounce cause it bounces more high and the contact pose before the ball hits the ground cause according to animator's survival kit it brings more impact.I just said what I felt.Tell me if I'm wrong.And Thanks for sharing this post I got to learn some really good stuff about timing from you.:)

DJ said...

good post dude..

also, spontaneity is not just in movement, but in the choices a character makes too. And also, not having spontaneity sometimes adds to the character!!

not every time and not every characte r will behave haphazardly. There should be consistency. Similarly, in movement too, too much variation will make it all into "noise" rather than "goal oriented" and "self organized" behavior of living organisms. One has to be careful about where to put it and what to put it.

TEXTURE, and RYTHM are the right words. They suggest non-repetitive, non-redundant, but meaningful variations.

Just wanted to point out that one has to be judicious about what changes one makes to the movement or the acting of a character.



Amrit Derhgawen said...

swarazo: Thanks! :) .... I think this is just what I wanted to show, so its looking just fine.

dj: Thanks for adding your points. One thing you should keep in mind is that spontaneity is not random or haphazard behavior. Spontaneity has a great innate beauty, whereas, randomness is devoid of it. A character has to be living and living means having spontaneity.
Spontaneity is not synonymous with randomness or "noise". And it doesn't mean too many crazy movements. Although I agree that judiciousness is a very important quality for an animator.

Anonymous said...

Great tutorial Amrit, I agree timing is so important in making animations look spontaneous. I like how you speed up the ball dropping towards the ground, it really gives the ball appeal and illusion of life. Keep posting.

Anonymous said...

Hey there, thanks for visiting. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this tutorial. In fact, I'm the fellah who inquired about your demo a few posts back. You asked me to be specific, and I was refering to the workflow tutorial you mentioned in this post:

I know you're busy, but I thought I'd ask to see if you ever completed that tutorial.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for visiting. :) Yes I do remember you. You were asking me something about a demo (tute)?
I hear ya! Yep, I have to complete that tute and I'm trying to find some time for it. Its not at the top of my priority list but don't worry, I'll get it done very soon. :)



very true!

Anonymous said...

thats some real sweet advise... nice one !