Animation Done Right

Animation is an endless artform, from films and tv sitcoms to education and kids entertainment. Animation makes up a large portion of our viewing time, and in the marketing industry, it is fast becoming a popular method of advertising.

We are drawn to things that move, and with social media becoming one of the most used video viewing platforms, businesses around the world have seen the advantage in using it as a platform for marketing their brand and service, much of which is animated.

Animation comes in many styles and forms. Not all animations have to be Pixar quality to be appealing, but the visual must correctly portray the message. Would Southpark have had the same appeal as it does if it weren’t so unique?

Having said this, it is clear that the first, and often most important way to make an animation stand out from the rest, is of course to make it unique and to have your own animation style embedded into it. This is part of the reason why animation is such an awesome artform as it gives people the freedom to bring their imagination to life with motion in whatever form they see fit.

I’m not quite sure how to tell an audience how to apply their passions and interests to their animations, but what I can touch on, an aspect that will add value to all types of animation – physics   Real world physics Real world physics makes any animation look better, it’s that simple. Whether it’s a Dreamworks film or an episode of Rick and Morty, real world physics adds value and character to all forms of animation.

So what exactly do I mean by real world physics? I mean the way certain objects react to motion such as the slight compression that a bouncing ball does when it hits the ground, and the longitudinal stretch it does in return as it bounces back upward, or the way the body of the motorcar almost ‘leans’ forward over the wheels while under braking until the car comes to a full stop.

Noticing things like this in everyday life, and then making an effort to understand what causes it, makes it far easier to apply in animation, making you more aware of ‘that missing part’ of an animation that would make it look that much better.

Let’s take a car accelerating as an example. When the power hits the rear wheels, the wheels want to rotate and move forward as fast as their restraints will allow them, but the big heavy chassis and body of the car wants to stay behind. This is Newton’s first law: Inertia – An object at rest will remain at rest or an object in motion will remain in motion unless an outside force is acted on it.

The car is over a ton of mass that wants to remain at rest, but it now has a force acting on trying to make it move forward and naturally, the car will resist that force until a steady speed has been reached. The result of this is the rear suspension of the car compressing under the weight of the car to compensate for the inertia during the car’s acceleration. The same law affects a car when coming to a stop, as well as when a car turns left or right.

For instance, when a car is traveling at a constant speed, and suddenly turns right, the car will naturally want to continue on its straight path but it now has another force acting on it. The result of this will be the car ‘leaning’ to the left as it turns right, displaying its resistance to the changing direction.

Inertia applies to most aspects of natural life in motion. It’s one of the reasons why a walking person’s head moves left and right, and shoulders rise and fall. It’s why a dog’s ears flap up and down as it runs, and so when animating a fully realistic 3D model of a dog running with its owner for a big budget film, or a simple 2D dog trotting along in a 15 second YouTube advertisement, the viewer will always appreciate that extra detail of inertia acting on aspects of the animation, as this simply adds a more realistic motion to it.

Another positive aspect of understanding how inertia affects an object is how it can then be applied to things that we wouldn’t see in the real world. Animated text for example, we don’t often see  a word falling from the sky and landing next to us.

However, in an animation such as an explainer video, moving text is quite commonly used and having gained an understanding of how a ball reacts when hitting the ground by compressing slightly to absorb the force, we can apply that same action to text or any other object that animated into the screen and come to a sudden stop.

This gives a more natural reaction to an unnatural movement in an animation, making it more visually acceptable to the human eye.   Small things like this make the difference between a good animation and a great animation.

Try take note of how things act and react in everyday life, and when you do notice something, work to understand it so that you know where and how to apply it correctly to your animation to give it that extra quality and value.

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