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The ingredients of a good animation

In this post I’ve listed the physical tools that an animator might need to produce animations. But all those tools are nothing if you don’t apply them with the proper ingredients.

A good story

You have something to tell, something interesting, that keep the attention to the spectator. This is the most difficult part of an animation, find an interesting story.

A story can be developed  in the three classical acts: Setup, Confrontation, Resolution. This formula works in the most of the cases, but you can be imaginative and (depending on the thing that the story is about) use different techniques. You can start presenting the final situation and then rewind the time and try to explain what happened.

One of the most important ingredients of the story is the rhythm. The rhythm consists in concatenate small stories inside the story. The global story has a development line but each scene has the same structure of a story: setup, confrontation, resolution. In this way the spectator attention is kept from one scene to other, making him wondering what would happen next?

A good character

The story and the character are sometimes linked one to the other. In some cases simply a good story works (for example in a stick animation) and the character don’t add significant value to the story, but ususally the character is a good part of the story.

Construct a good character is give him personality. A character has two main ingredients that defines its personality:

  • Physics: he can be thin or fat, short or tall, muscled or weak, male or female, etc. Physics condition lot of the character relationship with its enviroment.
  • Psychology: A character can be happy, sad, proud, inquisitive, indifferent, aggressive, shy, extrovert, etc. The psychology of the character defines how does it interact with the environment and the situations that, you the narrator, put him on. The psychology of the character can be a permanent situation or a temporal reaction to past or future event. The spectator should have this information in mind to judge the psychology of the character.

Usually good characters tend to make easy the creation of a good story. Have a character with personality makes very easy to put him in an interesting situation to see the reaction oft he character to the new environment or deal.

A good drawings

Most of the people confuse good drawings with good animation. That’s not true. You can create a very bad aniamtion with very good drawings but without a good story or character. And viceversa, you can have a good animation with bad drawings if the story and the character are good. So this is not a must. You can be a bad drawer and become a good animator. Oh! So I must concentrate just on the story and the character! No. An animation has more ingredients. How to draw good is a long issue so I’ll leave it for now.

The secret ingredients

An animation is basically a sequence of different images at a given time that gives the illusion of movement. But the illusion of movement is not a mechanical question. To go from point A to point B you can think on a straight line. But real life is not that way. There are curves. I mean, give the illusion of movement in a believable way the animator must take account some of the classic ingredients:

  • Timing: Not all the actions occurs at the same speed. Even the speed changes from the beginning, the middle and the end of the action.
  • Weight: Objects have weight. A good animation should reflect it. The weight feeling is accomplished by the combination of the drawing and the timing.
  • Anticipation/Reaction: By using a good anticipation,  the spectator should predict what’s going to happen later. The reaction is a natural way of express the believability of the actions.
  • Overlapping: Actions doesn’t occur one each time. They always happen overlapping with other actions.
  • Posing: By carefully selecting the key poses, the spectator can feel the storyline without need to have visual feedback of the in betweens. Human brain can make up the middle images if the poses are good enough to describe a good action.
  • Exaggeration: Usually exaggerate the matters of things helps on the rest of ingredients. Exaggerate the ingredients allows make them more noticeable for to the spectator.

So even if your drawings are bad but the story/character is good and you do good usage of those secrets ingredients, the animation will be a hit.