Straight Ahead Animation,
Today we took a look at the ‘straight ahead’ method of animation. Rather than having a strict plan or a storyboard like you would normally require if doing a pose to pose sequence, straight ahead can produce spontaneous results that are more fluid looking and unique.
The simplest way to describe the process is to start at frame 1 and just animate forward. Using the ‘Moom’ character rig, the aim for my in-class project was to animate a simple jump from a box.
The first step is create a pleasing start pose and setting up the camera in a way that would aid in the story telling. It is helpful to tear off a camera panel to view as reference while animating, it is important to keep track of what the audience will see and how they will see it. You can then make decisions about things like the shape of the character in silhouette, strong gestures, arcs and line of action.
Then progress forward animating every 5 frames or so, making up the action as we go. You can ignore timing and spacing and just focus on strong gestural poses and action. You don’t need to use every control on the rig at this early stage – keep it fresh and fast.
Then when you have gotten to the end of a logical sequence, a place where it seems a natural termination point, you can go back and adjust the timing and spacing. There will be actions that you want to feel snappier so you will usually want to select all keyframes from a certain point and drag them backwards in the timeline. Conversely, there will be moments where a pause is required to allow the audience to breathe and create anticipation. Then you might decide to do another pass using some different rig controls that you didn’t touch on the first pass, adding some more subtle movements. It is important to add slight movements when the character is stationary. Characters should never be fully still. Making trivial secondary movements like breathing, eye movements and blinks or maybe scratching an ear. These do not contribute directly to the story but can add believability and slow the pace.
I enjoyed this method. After the strict uniformity of a walk cycle and always having to double-check symmetry and copy-pasting frames, there is an element of fun to just going for it.
I AM a bit of a control freak too at times though so I am sure in time I will come up with a method for combining the structure and uniformity of pose to pose with the freedom and flow of straight-ahead.
Anyway, here is what I ended up with –