Tuesday, 20 May 2014

How do we judge a great piece of animation?

Guilty....of not knowing The Twelve Principles of Animation
What are the criteria to apply to judge a good piece of animation? How do we critique an animator's work? Below are some of the things that we look for at Bucks when giving feedback to our students on their work. We don't pretend that this is an exhaustive list, but we think it's a pretty good start. Well-read animators will notice that these criteria have a lot to do with the Twelve Principles of Animation set out by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnstone in their classic book - The Illusion of Life. Every student should own a copy, or at least check one out from the library.

The original Animation Bible
 1. Staging
Has the animator made good use of screen space? Is the shot well composed and clearly staged? Is it clear what is going on, and is the audience's eye led smoothly towards the important action?

Clear poses tell the audience what is going to happen. Source: The Illusion of Life
2. Poses
Are the character poses clear? Has the animator used nice clear silhouettes to make the action clear and unmistakeable?  Is there a good variety of poses?

3. Weight
Does the action feel like it has weight and balance, or does it feel light and floaty? Has the animator successfully created the illusion of weight?

4. Timing
Is the timing believable? Does it feel right, and is there a good variation between slow, careful movements and quicker, faster ones?

5. Anticipation

Has the animator used anticipation poses to create believable transitions from anticipation - action - to reaction? Good use of anticipation poses show the audience what the character is going to do.

6. Breakdowns
Has the animator broken down the key poses successfully to create good breakdowns and in-betweens, as well as good key poses and extremes?

7. Flexibility and Overlapping action
Has the animator managed to create a sense of flexibility, using drag, follow through and overlapping action? Does the animation feel stiff or robotic?

Everything is a bouncing ball - always consider your path of action. Source: Animator's Survival Kit

8. Path of action and/or arcs:
Is there good use of arcs and paths of action, or is the motion choppy and broken? Has the animator understood how to create a smooth path of action?


where is the character looking? Source: Illusion of Life
9. Eye Direction
Does the audience know what the character is looking at? Are the eyes wandering around the screen, or can we tell what the character is supposed to be seeing? Are the eyelines clear? 

Facial expressions by Jacob Jensen. Image: DreamWorks

10. Facial expressions
Are the facial expressions clear? Do we know what the character is thinking and feeling? Can we tell what is going on behind the character's eyes?

11. Acting
Does the acting work? Does the audience understand what the character is thinking and feeling? Does the performance create character and a believable scenarios? Animators are actors, and must give a believable performance.
Animators are actors...with a pencil, or a mouse
12. Story
What is the story that the animator is telling, and is this clear? Does it come through, and is it interesting and engaging? Are we drawn in to the story, wanting to know more?

13. Thumbnails and Planning

Has the animator done thumbnail sketches, and are they following them? Good thumbnails should plan out the action clearly, and should indicate (roughly at least) how long the action will take, and what the timing will be.


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